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A still from ‘The Raid 2’. The movie is set among warring gangs in Indonesia
A still from ‘The Raid 2’. The movie is set among warring gangs in Indonesia

Film Review | The Raid 2

A million ways to die in Indonesia

The sequel to Gareth Evans’ 2011 sleeper hit The Raid: Redemption carries a “Smoking Kills" title whenever a character lights up, but that’s a ridiculous joke in a movie in which death arrives via hands and feet, guns, glass, knives, forks and various steel implements, baseball bats, hammers and cars, and in less time than it takes to light a cigarette.

Set among warring gangs in Indonesia, The Raid 2 seeks the dubious honour of being the most violent film ever made, and on the strength of nearly two and a half minutes of unremitting savagery, it seems to have earned the medal and left the second and third positions vacant. Evans goes far beyond other entries in the Asian extreme genre, a catch-call term that refers to the transgressive action and horror flicks emanating chiefly from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, and out-bleeds seasoned practitioners like Takashi Miike, Park Chan-wook and Takeshi Kitano (all three film-makers are paid tribute to in various ways).

If pornography leaves no element of the sexual experience hidden, Evans’ study of violence seeks to bust a lasting movie taboo, of dignity in death. Heads are snapped, throats dissected, faces blown off, and whole bodies crushed. Ultra-violence doesn’t begin to describe it.

The carnage, bloody and occasionally gory, starts early. Policeman Rama (Iko Uwais), who was one of the members of the government military team that destroyed a criminal gang shacked up in an apartment block in the first part, has gone undercover as Yuda to collect evidence against the police commissioner, who is on the take from the rival Bangun and Goto gangs. Lodged in the same prison as Uco (Arifin Putra), Bangun’s son and heir, Yuda earns Uco’s loyalty after a superbly choreographed prison-yard fight involving displays of Indonesian martial arts called pencak silat, survival instincts and lots of mud.

The prison sequence sets the tone for what is to come—tense, intensely physical and increasingly elaborate action sequences that make the Infernal Affairs like plot irrelevant. Evans imagines a hell on earth with chic, minimalist décor, almost no police presence and no evidence of a medical establishment. Uwais, an Indonesian martial arts expert who has worked on the action for both films, displays a near miraculous ability to bounce back after numerous beatings. Wounds heal, a character intones early in the film, but there must be something truly special in the Indonesian DNA for Uwais and his co-actors to take the level of pummelling on display and continue to stand their ground.

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A still from ‘The Raid 2’

Evans’ hell has no place for satirists, though many imagine they will eventually land up there. He pays the game of “Is He Dead Yet?" with the seriousness of an anthropologist who has stumbled upon a rare tribe. A Welsh film-maker who has settled in Indonesia, Evans seems to have surpassed his own goal of putting Indonesian martial arts artistry on screen. More comfortable with action than words (the dubbed English version, done in India, is another source of unintentional mirth), he focuses his energies on delivering the daddy of all action spectacles. Would anybody else dare to come close to his achievements—or would anybody else bother? Once is quite enough.

The Raid 2 released in theatres today.

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