Sometimes when a film set itself incredibly bold targets, such as attempting to be the definitive example of its genre in the history of cinema, and manages to not only match but comfortably surpass them, then it seems churlish to nitpick. Sometimes you just have to step back and applaud. And occasionally wince.

The spectacular and unprecedented success of The Raid: Redemption in 2011 led to many hailing it as the best martial arts film ever made. While it certainly deserves to be discussed in those terms based on its fight sequences alone, there were a few naysayers however who bemoaned its simplistic plot and thinly-sketched characters. And so the same creative team have gone back to the well for one more, in an attempt to raise the bar yet again and address some of the criticisms the first film faced. In all respects, they’ve completely succeeded.

Instead of the bare-bones minimalist story of its predecessor, here we have a reasonably complex criminal underworld plot, with a large cast of characters and strong themes of loyalty and honour. Instead of the rent-a-cop cliches of the first film, here there’s an effort made to distinguish every major character in their own unique way, with different motivations and backstories and varying levels of sympathy. There’s a powerful, pervasive atmosphere of danger and threat, and the Indonesian urban sprawl is beautifully evoked.

As commendable as all this is however, it’s merely window-dressing to the fight sequences, each of which (and there are many) are nothing short of perfect. There is a frankly stunning display of technique by the actors on show here, particularly lead Iko Uwais and supporting turn (also returning from the first film) Yayan Ruhian – both of whom also doubled up as the film’s fight choreographers. These two performers are comparable to Chaplin or Keaton in terms of their mastery of what they do – that’s not even remotely an exaggeration, they really are that good.

Tremendous credit must also go to Welsh director Gareth Evans, who finds an extraordinary amount of inventive, original ways to shoot the various completely unique action scenes. There’s an opening one-on-fifty scrap inside a tiny room, a mass brawl in mud-soaked courtyard, an extended fight in a car involving seat belts, and two sequences towards the end (one of them in a corridor, another in a kitchen) that probably rank as the two best martial arts sequences ever committed to film.

Violence isn’t for everybody. And anyone who’s not into it will find this difficult to watch. But if you can appreciate what has become a massive subsidiary of action cinema, this is probably the best example of it you will ever see.

THE RAID 2
Greatest martial arts film of all time? Erm... yeah. Probably.10
Addressing most criticisms of story and character9
The two-on-one corridor fight towards the end 10
The "art" bit of "martial arts" is justified10
One of the most violent things I've ever seen8
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
Bechdel Test Failures
  • None of the female characters talk to each other
9Overall Score

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