One of the most intense, action packed, gory and yet enjoyable films in recent years has to be The Raid. The Indonesian film, made for a paltry $US1.1 million, puts most Hollywood action films to shame. Fresh, violent, unrelenting are all terms to describe that original film, and now the director and star are back in this highly anticipated sequel.
Following the success of the first film (which made $US14 million at the box office) it would have been easy for the filmmakers to resort to a near carbon copy - just raid another building. Alas the films creator and director Welshman Gareth Evans has elected to take a different path with this film which pits Rama against warring gangs.
The Raid 2 picks up only two hours after the events of the first film with Rama (Iko Uwais) again being the focus of the story (we should point out that while it's not essential to have seen The Raid first, it would be beneficial to understand Rama's history). After fighting his way out of the building rookie cop Rama thought he was done, however his handiwork in taking down the gangsters in that building has only attracted attention of much more powerful people. With his wife and son in danger Rama must infiltrate the criminal organizations to discover the corrupt police and politicians.
Naturally there are going to be some who aren't as enamored with this film as I am - in fact I'm sure there will be just as many who hate this film as love it. Those who detest violence would do well to turn away as it makes most Tarantino films look tame. Being an Indonesian film wouldn't be an issue other then there is no English dub on this Blu-Ray which may turn others off. Finally, some may find the very "choreographed" fights not realistic enough - but it's not dissimilar to any other martial arts film.
The Raid 2 is a sequel that not only matches the original, but improves upon it in almost every regard. A much deeper and more dramatic story, more frequent and brutal fights, and much more variety and interesting sets and set pieces makes this a film well worth checking out. Indeed, this is probably one of the best action films we have seen in years.
The Raid 2 comes to Blu-Ray with a AVC MPEG-4 encoded video in the film’s original 2.25:1 aspect ratio. There are moments where the video quality suffers slightly, and moments where it's apparently the source material is the cause, but for a film with a production budget of only $US4.5 million this really is a phenomenal looking film.
Much of the improvement can also be attributed to the various locations. No longer taking place in a primarily dull building interior like the original, this sequel sees a range of locations from brightly lit buildings and rooms, to action on the streets, a muddy outdoor prison yard and even a train. This constant change in location keeps the film looking fresh and fortunately the transfer, for the most part, is up to the task.
From an artistic level the film hits all the right notes with some great up tempo music when the action heats up, plenty of bass during the club scenes, and clear dialogue and sound effects even during the frantic action sequences. Naturally the film has a very lively soundfield with surround sound channels frequently used.
Audio Commentary with Director Gareth Evans: Hidden away under the setup menu, and not under the extras, is this brilliant commentary from the director and he has plenty of detail to share about the production of this film. For fans, or those wanting to shoot a film, this is a fantastic listen.
The Next Chapter: Shooting A Sequel (10:46/HD): This first featurette focuses on making the sequel to the film and details how the sequel links to the first film which had a very limited scope when it comes to the storyline.
Gang War Deleted Scene (4:37/HD): With the film already running around two and a half hours we can see why some scenes had to be cut, but this one is a pretty cool, bloody, gory action sequence that could have remained to show more of the gang conflict.
Cinefamily Q&A with Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais & Joe Trapanese (44:09/HD): This is a great fan Q&A following a screening of the film with the director, star and composer from the film. It's a must watch for fans of the film.
A Violent Ballet: Behind the Choreography (19:02/HD): This featurette focuses on the many fights through the film including the actors who played the roles, the training required before the scenes were shot, and the final filming.
Review By: Dave Warner