Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Raid 2(2014)

I hadn’t felt this sudden change in my life for a long time. My whole body had just shifted, and altered in a way I hadn’t felt to this extent. Everything I had previously known about action and martial art films had been changed. The process in which films could be made was seen in a completely different light. A new benchmark had now officially been set in my mind after I saw The Raid 2, a benchmark which is going to be very hard to match or even beat. I saw all the trailers leading up to The Raid 2 and thought to myself “This is going to be all kinds of violent I cannot believe what I am seeing in the trailers”, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to encounter.
Rama played by Iko Uwais, is back and this time he is going undercover to bring down a corrupt Indonesian crime syndicate all the while maintaining his silence but letting his martial art skills do all the talking. The narrative is very easy to follow, and while all the characters in The Raid 2 are all connected one way or another, it flows perfectly. If you have only seen it the once and find that the there are too many sub plots within in the film, I recommend seeing it again and this time focusing more on the plot instead of the action. Every scene, character and every sub plot NEEDS to be in there, everything has to connect. This is a lot different to the previous film because while the first was also outstanding, and did have a strong plot, there really wasn’t much room for character development because everyone was getting killed off at a rapid pace and the narrative could only go so far in an apartment building. Whereas The Raid 2 gets to branch out in terms of setting, plot and emotion.
 As an audience member you really get to understand the frustration, anger and at times sadness that Rama has to bottle up inside himself to get the job done just so he can protect his family. This storyline has been done dozens of times but they have never made history like The Raid 2, and nor are they likely to. “Why”? you may ask? The emotion and depth that each character feels within themselves doesn’t just come out of their mouth with dialogue, it is in their body language, the tone of their voice, the intensity within their eyes; all their life experiences that make them who they are. When watching this film, you could look at every character and analyse them to great extent and just take an educated guess of what each of them are gone through. You may be reading this and think that is total bullshit because The Raid 2 would have to be longer than it’s 150 minute running time; but it doesn’t have to be. This is what great story telling is about, this is what a lot of action films lack, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. But The Raid 2 is on a different level and I think to really appreciate it’s impact you really need to let this film infiltrate your mind and you need to be heavily interested in the action genre.

The main star of the film Iko Uwais is flawless. He has made a big leap since the first film and it made the viewing experience all the more enjoyable when the camera was letting us into his mind and soul. After going through what he thought was hell in the first film, he has now a new level of maturity and experience under his belt which helps him in the long run with taking down the crime syndicate. You can see in his eyes that at times he is very conflicted with how to feel about everything in his ‘new life’ because while he wants to hate these guys, you can see he at times may genuinely enjoy their company. He feels the struggle of emotions, of what is right and wrong, but he will then remember WHY he is doing this and then it becomes clear he has to get back on the task at hand and bring them down.
The Raid 2 also managed to bring back Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first installment, but this time he is playing the brutal yet heartfelt character of Prakoso.  Prakoso is essentially a hit man who only kills to pay child support to his straight laced ex-wife. What I loved about Prakoso is the duality of his role. At one point he is this fast, vicious killer, who will attack on sight, and then at the flick of a switch he is a man with a caring nature and his only wish is to see his son. It was refreshing to see Ruhian take on this role in the way he did, because it was unlike his previous role as Mad Dog. Mad Dog was just an evil son-of-a-bitch, and seemed to lack emotional depth if it didn't include anger and hate.
I'm just going to interject something personal here because my reaction to this film was so visceral. With each passing moment, I was clenching the cinema seat and just staring intently at the screen, and I just couldn't look away. And just when I thought I had seen everything, I experienced the fight sequences…they were unreal. As an action and martial art fanatic I had always tried to imagine the next level, something I had never seen, and then The Raid 2 happened. Each fight sequence held my attention, it kept me enthralled, I was in awe and it made me so happy; I was squealing inside and out. The end fight sequence was just something I had never imagined. I felt as though I was giving my heart and mind to the character of Rama hoping he would get through the next few minutes in one piece. Both of these tremendous fighters had bodies which flowed like water, each move was more than just a move, it was a purpose, it was emotion, it was their lives. I didn’t see this as just violence that was there for entertainment, I saw it as something so much more vital and important that needed to be expressed. 
While The Raid 2 had a lot more exposure than the original, it is still a film franchise which is partially unknown to a lot of people, even to fans of the genre. They are several factors to that, one them being that these films are low budget compared to a lot of other martial art and action films; the bigger the budget does not always mean the better the film. The upside of these being of a lesser budget means that the cast, crew and film makers had to come together and really focus on making this have an impact on the genre as well as cinema as a whole. They are raw films that don't have that 'Hollywood Gloss' slapped all over it and it's stripped bare of anything that could take away any authenticity to the film; that is what I respect about Gareth Evans and The Raid. 
The Raid 2 is definitely rewriting pages in the action and martial arts history book, and is going to be remembered as a timeless piece of a cinema which paved the way for the next generation of film makers, actors and martial artists to come. It is also going to change lives and alter the way an audience looks at a film. It left me speechless, excited, happy and most of all complete. 

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