A bloody and incredible action movie that serves up the same inspired fight scenes as the first did, though this time a more involved plot runs through and adds a higher level of story than that of ‘The Raid’.
Gareth Evans, the director of these movies has done it again, creating an even more violent killing spree. This second film follows shortly after the first, with Rama the rookie cop now needing to go into the ranks of a crime syndicate to protect his wife and child. There is more story this time around with rival gangs adding to the mix as Rama tries to keep to the case of uncovering corruption in his own police unit.
Evans has directed an even grander scale of fighting, madness and enjoyable action adrenaline. He’s also created a proper star in Iko Uwais who plays Rama. Uwais is brutal but likeable and his plight to keep his loved ones safe ticks the box for sufficient emotional attachment. He really holds his own and his mastery of the martial arts is sublime, even if it takes the audience accepting it’s a movie to believe he could keep getting up after being battered down time and time again. Gareth Evans really does ramp it up for the sequel and where it could have been more of the same, he threads a more twisty turny story this time around which differs from the light, if hardly there plot of the first movie. This time it seems he’s trying to prove he can still make a hard-hitting action picture but with story too. He captures epic fight scenes in prisons, nightclub kitchens, a porn DVD factory, a car chase and a subway train. The shots are actually beautiful too with the opening frame staying still on a field as a car comes into view. The mud wrestling battle is insane but looks suitably good considering how mucky it becomes. There’s lovely stillness and standard filmmaking for the interspersing conversations that contribute to the story, making the shaky and barmy dance like nature of the camera for the fight scenes even more energetic.
The choreography for all the fights are just genius. The introduction of new characters works in giving them some screen time to show off their dangerous abilities before facing off against Rama later on. A baseball, bat and hammers will throw up a whole new way of fighting style and becomes what will possibly be a trademark look for this film. The car chasing scene is just damn incredible and maybe one of the best car chases I’ve seen on film, even down to the way the camera rushes alongside the first car, sweeps through the following car, goes inside past the driver, out the other side and carries on – pure unedited brilliance. The hammer attack in the train is brutal and both sides of the tool are used to deadly effect. I have to say though that the duel between Rama and a foe in the pure white of a kitchen is downright phenomenal. The hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms stood up watching this fight unfold as trays, blades and glass help add to the violent nature of this one on one battle. The kitchen becomes a wrecked and bloody mess as they keep squaring up to one another. The fight just looks utterly magnificent, once again the camera work helps add to the dance piece. One time the camera seems to faint to the left hitting a table before jolting back up again with the character – a perfect symbol to mirror the actors and it adds to the tense action.
Music is an important device throughout and the heavy drum sounds that hit through the soundtrack obviously help create a moodier sense of threat and action. Then there’s the editing which Evans was also involved with, which is slick and precise making the fight scenes look as perfect as can be, maybe more could have been done cutting wise with the story arc which leads to the only weakness I can find with this film.
The extra layer of a more complex plot did seem a little too much at times, with a plot structure that’s been done a lot before. The whole undercover cop thing and then the twists of who to trust were interesting enough, though it did make the movie feel a tad too long. The plot could have still stayed intact with a little snip of scenes here and there. Though on the flip side, the lulls of these scenes made the return of fight scenes even more breathtaking as they lifted the bar again before settling it down, letting you wait until the next time the bar would be lifted to even higher maddening levels.
A proper violent work of cinema with beautiful choreography that shows off martial arts to a new wave of audiences. Brutal, brilliant, barmy and bold. A masterpiece that’s found in a sequel is rare but I believe Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais have joined forces to nearly hit that nail on the head.