Movie Review: “The Raid II: Berendal”

raid2“The Raid 2: Berendal” is the most violent movie ever made. The exploding heads, slit, gurgling throats and claw-hammer crunches and tears are so excessive as to make the works of Pekinpah, Tarantino and torture porn king Eli Roth seem almost quaint in retrospect.
Excessively complicated and excessive in length, it stands in stark contrast to writer-director Gareth Evans’ original film, a tight, visceral martial arts thrill ride that had one good cop (Iko Uwais) battling his way out of a mob-controlled apartment complex filled with villains. Rama (Uwais) was the last man standing, as corrupt police officials refused to send back-up and mobsters sent wave upon wave of cutthroats, kickboxers and gunmen to finish him off.
“Raid 2” still has Rama, but is more interested in viscera than the visceral, more wrapped up in confusing subplots than streamlined simplicity. It’s more about the blood and injuries sustained by hammers, machetes, box cutters and shotguns than about Rama or his latest quest. And that’s a serious shortcoming.
Our hero is sent deep undercover, into prison, where he does two years time, cozying up to and protecting Uco, the pretty boy son of a mob boss (Arifin Putra). Once out, he’s accepted into Uco’s dad’s gang. The idea is he’ll help ferret out corrupt cops who protect Bangun and his gang, the Japanese Goto gang, and the “half-Arab” wild card, the glove-wearing, cane-carrying opportunist Bejo (Alex Abbad).
Simple enough. But gleaning that from the panoply of characters played by unfamiliar actors while reading subtitles (it’s in Indonesian) takes some work. And that’s not really where Evans’ strength lies.
“Raid 2” is best regarded as a series of epic set pieces, fights that could be labeled and promoted the way prize fights often are.
There’s the Slaughter in the Snow. Then, the Punchout in the Prison Yard, where convicts kick, chop and stab as they’re writhing in the mud of a torrential rain.
The Butchery in the Bar introduces the skills of an older shaggy and unkempt hitman (Yayan Ruhian) who must take on all comers once he’s outlived his usefulness. Ruhian is the fight choreographer for this picture, and the best things in it are to his credit.
Murder on the Metro involves the petite, hammer-wielding “Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle), a ballerina when it comes to hammer-blows.
And so on.
The brawls are always crowded, but always broken down to individual combat. None of the villains seem clever enough to figure out, “Let’s RUSH him.” Rare is the engagement where guns play a big part. Those usually turn up in the car chases — a couple of dazzling ones — where Rama dodges assassins with shotguns and the like.
Evans cuts the fights into visually striking blurs of sound and fury. And there are so many fights that he had a lot of practice editing them into coherent, heart-pounding engagements.
But there are too many. And everything between the brawls is dull exposition, older gangsters trying to keep the peace, cops straining to stay a step or two behind the mob and bungling their loose reins on their man inside the mob, and younger gangsters plotting to turn this Indonesian world upside down.
Anthony Burgess’ phrase, “the old ULTRA-violence,” from “A Clockwork Orange” comes to mind at about the tenth gory stabbing, grisly slashing or gruesome bludgeoning that Evans serves up here. This is eye-averting stuff for all but the most hardened and emotionally disconnected. It is explicit video-game style violence, with Rama enduring beatings and hammer blows and deep cuts and yet somehow, fresh enough to tackle the next Clash in the Kitchen or Taekwondo in the Taxi (a particularly inventive and memorable fight).
“The Raid” was a great action film in which the violence, excessive though it was, served as obstacles in the hero’s simple quest. In “Raid 2” the violence is the movie, its excess used to cover for an inept story, thinly-drawn characters and dead spots. Cut this by 45 minutes and it would be no less confusing, but at least it would be a movie with all “cool scenes,” gory as they are.

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MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language
Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Alex Abbad,Yayan Ruhian     Yayan Ruhian,  Julie Estelle
Credits: Written and directed by Gareth Evans. A Sony Pictures Classics release.
Running time: 2:28

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9 Responses to Movie Review: “The Raid II: Berendal”

  1. Interesting take on one of my most anticipated films of 2014. I’ve read several (not many, but several) reviewers complain about similar things regarding the film’s plot and characters (e.g. too many characters and plot lines to keep track of, too complicated a narrative, etc). However, I’ve also read many more reviews laud R2 for expanding its scope and complexity beyond that of its simple, streamlined predecessor. Many critics claim that the expanded scope and breadth of the gangster narrative is epic and grand, not bloated and convoluted. I guess I’ll just have to see for myself come Friday…

    • It’s not a “Raid” at all. It’s a cable TV miniseries, and a make work project for every blood and guts effects supervisor in Asia.

      • Roger says:

        “It’s not a “Raid” at all. It’s a cable TV miniseries…”

        Considering the quality of some “cable TV miniseries'” these days, that’s a pretty weak insult. Considering the fact that your the Lifetime Network of movie critics, I’m not surprised you two didn’t get along so well.

      • Considering “you’re” attending a for profit degree mill called “Metropolitan State University of Denver,” it’s not shocking that you don’t know the difference between “your” and “You’re,” and missed the nuance that calling something a cable series is speaking to its overstuffed cast, long-form (too long for a single movie) plot and graphic violence, I’d suggest you find a better college before name-calling your betters.

      • Whoa. Another violence-fetishist heard from. “You’re.” As in “You’re an idiot because you don’t agree with my troglodyte video game movie tastes.”

  2. kunderemp says:

    A little bit of warning,
    my comments will have spoiler. Roger had watched the movie but the other reader may not.

    The first time I watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, I was confused with the story. Yes, it was beautiful but the subplots was confusing. Until the third viewing I realized, CTHD was more about Jen Yu Jialong (Zhang Ziyi). The Hidden Dragon refer to her and Li Mu Bai’s story was just a subplot to introduce the character. Took a perspective from Jen story, suddenly the complicated subplot disappeared and all subplot were tightened up.

    Berandal, while in most publication it was said the word means ‘thug’, actually means a naughty boy, a brat, or a rascal. So it refer to Uco. The original story was about someone who was trapped in gang war.

    Rama story, the deep undercover cop story, was actually a subplot, to witness Uco story.

    Now, I beg to disagree. Evans actually did write a good script for this and it seemed it was lost when it reach to foreign audience. I gave an example.

    “Semua bisa diatur” (everything can be arranged [to meet our needs]), that’s a familiar Indonesia sentence for us here, yet pronounce sarcastically by a Japanese character and it was the only Indonesian sentence he said while the other dialog was in Japanese.

    How do you think, Uco, an Indonesian should react to that?
    He reacted as a normally a young Indonesian do, got angry and expressed a strong disagreement.

    “Bapak minta maaf sama mereka dengan bahasa mereka, di tanah kita..” (Father, how could you apologize to them with their language in our land?).

    Put in in Uco story perspective, Prakoso (Yayan Ruhian) subplot were important. Most foreign audience didn’t realize that Prakoso was actually more than an assasin. He was a butler or servant archetype or as we called it here, ‘seorang abdi’ (a servant). Everytime he refer to Uco, he always used the honorary title ‘Mas’ which equals to ‘your highness’. So Uco in his eyes was a ‘Den Bagus’ (family prince).

    So what happened when in the fight, Prakoso realized who sent those thugs to kill him? He only stared to Uco, couldn’t believe that his Prince was the one who betrayed him. From that moment, we knew that if Uco, the Prince, could killed his loyal servant for his ambition, he would kill his father if necessary. And yes, he did.

    Now, regarding Prakoso again, as a servant, he should only took order. He should only killed when his King, Bangun, said so. The first Prakoso fight scene shown him with a machete yet he didn’t use it except for the target. He wouldn’t use the previous machete for somebody else, not even those who tried to kill him, including ‘The Assasin’ (Cecep A Rahman).

    In fact, the really first scene of Prakoso, we saw him bow to Bangun and served a tea. So yes, Prakoso was actually a servant, not just an assasin.

    Bejo was not a half-Arab as you think. Yes he was an Arab descendant but we have those Arab descendant here just as American or Australian have Greek, or German, or Irish, or British descent. In fact, the name ‘Bejo’ refer to a Javanese, or native Indonesian. The name itself means ‘luck’. In Indonesian story, the name ‘Bejo’ usually to denote someone who came from lowly class.

    So basically, he was born as a lowly class and he got luck climbing into high-class. His character was more like Iago of Shakespeare’s Othello. He climbed up using others misfortunes. Did you realize why Uco killed Bejo in the last scene? Because Uco realize Bejo was the one who sent thugs to kill him in the prison. Yet when the plan failed, Bejo changed plan and approached Uco instead.

    “Jongos!”
    That’s how Reza (Roy Marten), the main corrupt cop, called Uco in the last scene. I don’t know how XYZ subtitle the word since I watched the un-subtitled one. Basically, in feodal Javanese family system, ‘Jongos’ is the lowest ‘abdi’ (servant). ‘Jongos’ was usually the servant who were not bright enough so they only gave rough jobs.

    So in the last scene,
    after Uco got rid of his father and he became the head family,
    Reza, the corrupt cop still didn’t respect him. Even worse, he refer Uco as ‘Jongos’ a sign that he considered Uco as nothing more than lowly servant and Bejo as the new King. That was why, Reza mostly talked to Bejo.

    How should Uco react when he found that he was manipulated by Bejo from the beginning, he was betrayed by his bodyguard, and even the outsider (the corrupt cop) still disrespect him? Yep, he gone mad.

    • Good stuff. But assuming that I’m “not getting it” because I’m not willing to watch this muddle POS three times is the quintessence of folly. A movie has to stand on its own, of course. So there were no footnotes. And it made little sense on first viewing. The first film was more primal, more elementary and easier to follow.

  3. watcher says:

    i am not seen it yet i love action movie a lot the first one is epic i don’t know why you just give two star and when i see the poster for UK a lot credible entity give 5 star and in sundance festival they got standing ovation for this movie i hope this is not because you dont like a bloody movie or wan’t to find an sensation thing

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