The Raid 2, film review: Ridiculous attack on senses rocks with relish

The violence is often stomach-churning – the body count is immense

It is adolescent male wish- fulfilment fantasy of the most retrograde kind but, as action cinema, the Jakarta-set thriller The Raid 2 is riveting fare.

The Welsh-born director Gareth Evans choreographs the fight sequences – which comprise a large part of the film’s immense 150-minute running time – with such flair that their repetitive nature is rarely a problem. Nor is the erratic plotting. One of the most bewildering aspects of the film is the insistence of the protagonists on using martial arts, hammers, baseball bats, axes, shards of glass and spades to settle their deadly feuds when they have machine guns to hand. The widescreen cinematography, artful slow motion, sound editing and pounding music combine to give the film an epic quality that belies its hugely derivative storyline.

The plot follows Rama (Iko Uwais) as he goes undercover to flush out corrupt cops  colluding with the Mob. His initiation is a spell in a squalid Indonesian jail. Here, he first demonstrates his Bruce Lee-like fighting ability, winning the trust of a fellow inmate, Uco, the son of Mafia don Bangun, in the process.

The early scenes suggest a Goodfellas-style drama but Evans’ approach is far more stylised than anything found in a Scorsese movie. The violence here is often stomach-churning – heads are pounded against concrete, necks are wrung, limbs are scrunched up and broken, faces are fried on grills and ovens. The body count is immense. Evans isn’t going for balletic grace in the vein of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. His approach is far more visceral.

The mobsters look and behave as they do in Takeshi Kitano gangster films. The glove-wearing, wine-quaffing Bejo (Alex Abbad) is among the most repulsive, although he has fierce competition. Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) is the quirkiest – a demure psychopath who looks as if she is on leave from Kill Bill. The Raid 2 is bound to attract British cinemagoers who wouldn’t generally go near an Indonesian film with subtitles. It isn’t subtle. It is frequently absurd. What can’t be gainsaid is the tremendous relish and energy with which Evans tackles his outlandish material.

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