Following immediately after the events of THE RAID, Rama (Iko Uwais) is forced to reinvent himself as an undercover cop in order to provide protection for his wife and child. Working for the anti-corruption taskforce led by the one person he can trust, Bunawar, he is given a mission to engage himself as an enforcer for a local mob boss, Bangun. Finding a way in through Bangun's son Uco, Rama must hunt for information linking Bangun with police force corruption. All the while, he harbors a dangerous and personal vendetta for revenge and justice that threatens to consume him - and bring both this mission and the organized crime syndicates crashing down.
Although I didn't attend the Sundance Film Festival this year as a credentialed member of the press, when the chance came up to see the world premiere of 'The Raid 2' (then titled 'The Raid: Berandal'), as any sane person would do, I took it. I gladly paid the $20 ticket price and caught the late night world premiere in the frozen mountains above Salt Lake City. The treacherous drive was totally worth it. If you enjoyed any part of the first hyper-violent Indonesian action flick, you're going to love 'The Raid 2.'
Before the American release of 'The Raid,' the sub-title 'Redemption' was tacked onto the name. While introducing the sequel at Sundance, director Gareth Evans joked that 'The Raid 2' (which then carried the Indonesian sub-title "Berandal") would carry the English sub-title 'More Redemption' because "there wasn't much redemption in the first film." It seems that he never came up with a good English sub-title for 'The Raid 2' because it doesn't carry a sub-title at all. Do you think he and Sony Pictures Classics regret adding 'Redemption' to the first movie?
Back in 2012, many comparisons were made between the first 'Raid' and the 'Dredd' reboot. Both involve being stuck in a kingpin-owned skyscraper while trying to arrest the crime lord. Personally, I enjoyed both films, so the argument over which one allegedly ripped off the other doesn't matter to me. If you're expecting more of the same, think again. 'The Raid 2' is more like 'The Departed' (which is a little funny because that's a remake of a Chinese movie) and doesn't resemble 'Dredd' in the slightest. With a complex plot, a fully loaded group of important characters and a story containing dichotomies very similar to those in 'The Departed,' 'The Raid 2' is quite a different film from 'Redemption.'
In the post-premiere Q&A, Evans explained that he wrote a movie called 'Berandal' prior to 'The Raid.' He'd shopped it around for a while, but because of its expensive scale and a then-missing ingredient, he couldn't get funding for it, so he moved on. While shooting 'The Raid,' he noticed what was missing from his unsellable screenplay – characters and motivation. So, he adapted 'Berandal' to fit the story and characters of 'The Raid' and – voila! – it works seamlessly.
The movie opens shortly after the end of the first film. Our heroic Officer Rama is recruited into a covert division of the police force and tasked with getting close to another of the city's various crime lords. This time, he's not only looking to bring down criminals, but to reveal further police corruption tied to what caused everything to go wrong in the first movie. With a runtime of two-and-a-half hours and no confining story restrictions (such as being stuck in the middle of a 15-story building), the scope of 'The Raid 2' is huge and has a much grander feel.
Despite the bigger scale, 'The Raid 2' carries the exact same tone and style as 'The Raid,' and the action is still fantastic. Visually, the movies look nothing alike and the stories couldn't be farther apart, but the feel of the film is still the same. Get ready for more cringe-inducing excessive violence. Now outside of a building, the action and story are unconfined, involving more than just hand-to-hand combat. This makes 'Berandal' a lot more than just a martial arts movie. The action bleeds out into the entire city in many different styles.
At the premiere, Evans also explained that he expected the MPAA to be up-in-arms about the graphic violence in 'The Raid 2,' but to rest assured knowing that the Blu-ray would contain the exact cut the he debuted at Sundance. If you've seen the Blu-ray specs, you've noticed that, unlike the Blu-ray of the first 'Raid,' there's no unrated director's cut on the 'Raid 2' Blu-ray. I've read plenty of comments online from upset 'Raid'-lovers who want that cut. Having seen both cuts, I can tell you that there's no noticeable difference between the two. Evans himself has been quoted as saying that the MPAA only asked him to remove mere frames from the film in order to avoid the dreaded NC-17. If the non-existence of an unrated cut is your hold-up on the Blu-ray, don't let it be. If the director supports this cut, then so should we fans. At least he's not giving us a studio-decided extended cut that features the exact same runtime as the theatrical cut.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony has placed 'The Raid 2' on a fantastic Region A BD-50. The disc is housed in a standard blue Vortex keepcase alongside a paper containing a code for an Ultraviolet copy of the ultraviolent movie. Sony has slapped a heavy load of trailers on the front of the disc – all of which can be skipped over by hitting the "main menu" button on your remote control. After the skippable Sony vanity reel, the trailers that follow are for 'Appleseed Alpha,' 'The Calling,' 'Afflicted,' 'House of Cards: The Complete Second Season,' 'The Raid: Redemption' and 'A Fighting Man.'
If you remember from my review of 'The Raid: Redemption' Blu-ray, that disc carried many flaws that were not flaws of the disc, but inherent to the original movie itself. They were there when I saw it on a festival screen at Sundance. But that's not the case with 'The Raid 2.' This picture had a budget. And from the looks of the film, a considerably larger budget.
'The Raid 2' carries an absolutely flawless 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. While the enclosed setting of 'Redemption' was perfect for a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, with 'The Raid 2' taking on a much larger scale, Evans switched over to a more-than-fitting 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
There's a night-and-day difference between the qualities of the two pictures. 'The Raid 2' is bright, crisp and clear in every sense. Details are abundant. Shot digitally in well-lit settings, it's texturally gorgeous. High shutter speeds were used to show off the ultra-fast and impressive fighting. When appropriate, Evans gives us sweet slow motion. Just one of these scenes offers more fine details than the first 'Raid' did in total.
After a great introductory scene that cinematically lets us know that we're about to get a sequel that's nothing like the first movie, 'The Raid 2' kicks off with the same black, gray and dingy palette of the first film. But as we transition with Rama into a world much bigger, dangerous and evil than building from the first movie, it gradually changes. 'The Raid 2' expands into the appealing bright, vibrant and colorful world of politically powerful organized crime. Several scenes are set in glowing neon club-like locations, yet not one of them ever falls victim to detail-chewing oversaturation. Black levels and fleshtones are spot-on.
The only times that the video quality lacks is when there's the use of mediocre CG. Luckily, only one of those shots comes to mind and it's no fault of the Blu-ray itself. Rama and a friend drive into a wasted neighborhood filled with debris and vacant decaying apartment buildings. It's obvious that nothing but their car and the pavement they drive on is real; everything else is CG. Ugly CG. But I'll take this one back CG set over bands, aliasing, crushing galore and noise any day.
The first 'Raid' carried a fantastic audio track and 'The Raid 2' does the same. Three options are presented, not including Evans' commentary track (which I'll get to in the Special Features section): Indonesian/Bahasa 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English (dubbed) 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. I didn't listen to the lossy Spanish track, but I gave the English dub track a few minutes of air-time – long enough to realize that everything but the flat vocal mixing sounds great. My recommendation, of course, is the awesome lossless version of the original Indonesian/Bahasa track. The English subtitles are automatically set to come on.
Just like 'The Raid,' there are tons of details to be heard in 'The Raid 2.' The movie opens with a wide crane shot over a middle-of-nowhere farmland filled with tall grassy fields as far as the eye can see. From all channels, you'll hear the breeze blowing through the grass and bugs flying and chirping away. From the very beginning to bloody end, the audio actively engages all of the speakers. Just before the amazing outdoor prison courtyard battle, the loud heavy rainfall can be heard pounding on difference surfaces – the sheet metal overhang, the muddy middle ground and into overflowing buckets below. Just as before, punches (for a lack of a better phrase) pack a punch. There's a great amount of bass in the effects. The activity, depth, dynamics and imaging are always consistent.
The vocal track is perfectly mixed with effects and music. Not that I could understand an ounce of dialog, but I never felt the urge to turn the volume up in order to hear their voices.
The first 'Raid' featured audio tracks with different scores. Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda wasn't able to return for 'The Raid 2,' but Shinoda's partner on that score returned for the sequel. Just like the first score, that of 'The Raid 2' is fantastic. It's well-mixed and spread throughout the theater. It never gets mundane or repetitious. Just like the effects, there's also a great amount of rumbly bass.
I know what you're thinking: 'A fan of 'The Raid' movies just gave 'The Raid 2' perfect video and audio scores. Yeah, right. I highly doubt it's worthy of those ratings.' Even if you're not a fan of the series, there's no denying the Blu-ray's awesome technical qualities. They're spectacular. And unlike the majority of the crap Hollywood movies that get perfect quality releases, 'The Raid 2' is actually deserving of the superior Blu-ray. Despite being a sequel, it's completely different from the first movie. Instead of rehashing a familiar thing, it's its own highly complex film. The included special features are more than I expected. Even though they repeat some of the same information (without repeating the same interviews and behind-the-scenes footage), there's still a lean amount of bonus content. I'm fully aware that 'The Raid 2' isn't for everyone, but if you like action, martial arts, crime and gangster flicks, then there's no reason why you won't love it. Highly recommended.