Movie Review #846: Better than ‘The Raid: Redemption’, but it’s still not a good movie.
By Alexander Diminiano
|Action, Crime, Thriller|
|Rated R (contains graphic violence, strong language, sexual content)|
When I reviewed “The Raid: Redemption” in 2012, I absolutely smothered it, and I do not by the least bit regret doing so. It’s difficult to expand a complete synopsis of that movie beyond two sentences. (1) In less than ten minutes, and perhaps closer to five, we watch a police officer exercise, bit farewell to his wife, and loading onto a bus with the rest of his police squad. (2) The squad storms into a thirty-foot building, where they are immediately noticed on security cameras, and for the next 90 minutes, they fight to the death with whoever’s in there for seemingly no reason.
My main complaint with “The Raid” was that it lacked drama. So the first hour of “The Raid 2” was like a gift from god, per my understanding. There’s character development all over the place here. The movie allots time for the dramatic development of its hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), who is arrested early in the film by a fellow cop. We saw this character kiss his wife goodbye in the first film, and we saw him exercise and kill people, but we never understood like we do now that he actually loves and cares for his family so much, nor that he isn’t so eager as we thought he was to take a human being’s life. Knowing this gives the film a worthy emotional output.
But while my problem with “The Raid: Redemption” was excessive action and deficient drama, my problem with “The Raid 2” is excessive drama and not enough action. Director Gareth Evans puts Rama in a light that wants to echo Henry Hill, but the story boils him too far for us to even consider pairing him with “Goodfellas”. After about ninety minutes through the film, I began to gradually zone out, as the additions of useless and repetitive storytelling made the film increasingly uninteresting. The big action sequence (which lasts thirty continuous minutes) marks the end of this two-and-a-half-hour picture. It’s the moment I’d been waiting for, but at that point, I had pretty much checked out already.
And it was the moment I’d been waiting for because there is a severe lack of action in the rest of the movie. Before that long action sequence, there’s maybe 15 minutes of martial arts in a movie that falls in its entirety under the Asian martial arts genre. Note the extreme contrast, also, between the fast pace of action scenes and the strolling pace taken by those that develop more drama in the film. It leaves us wanting so much more than what we’ve just seen, after every single brawl.
There is style in Gareth Evans’s direction of “The Raid 2”. Sound and music are a peak, but the camerawork and editing go hand-in-hand really nicely here. The camera takes long, unconventional tracking shots, where it seems that cinematographers Matt Flannery and Dimas Imam Subhono are doing cardio workouts simply by following the action so frenetically. It works to build really great anticipation here, as well. Leading up to an early action sequence, we watch a group of attackers approach, then cut in on the sight of Rama unscrewing the handle from a broom so he can use it to defend himself. But will he unscrew it in time, since he’s trying to do this without being noticed by all the people around him? There were more moments like this, later on in the film, but I just didn’t care for them. In the first “Raid”, style didn’t matter because there wasn’t enough substance. Now “The Raid 2” has proven that style can also fall under the trap of too much substance.