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Gareth Evans is not a lazy man. A lesser University Of Glamorgan graduate-turned-creator of blistering, Jakarta-set action cinema would have taken stock of the success of The Raid, aka Die Very, Very Hard, then made the same shit happen to the same guy twice (probably at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport). Instead, Evans escalates his ambition. The Raid 2 is not Raid Harder. And while it has its flaws, it’s still a monumental experience to sit through, and one that proves beyond doubt that this is a director with talent to burn.
The sequel, subtitled Berandal in the States and based on a story that Evans conceived before the first film, is set over years, rather than a single day. It devotes hefty chunks of screen time to the various factions of the Indonesian underworld. And the pared-down, rip-roaring quest narrative of the original — Rama (Iko Uwais) and fellow cops must escape a tower of terror before they get machete-killed — is replaced by a spider-web of murky, shifting allegiances. Plus, as the 148-minute run-time suggests, there’s plenty of dialogue before the die-alogue kicks in. The Godfather is the obvious model. Though if Evans had made that, Don Corleone would have killed 52 men using only oranges and his cat.

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You want hardcore? Here it is: after his extraordinary martial-arts picture The Raid set in gangland Jakarta, Gareth Evans gives us another slice of spleen-splittingly, pelvis-dislodgingly, inner-ear-damagingly hardcore action. He lets rip with everything but subtlety. Evans opens a family-sized can of whupass in your face, having shaken it up well in advance. The sequel may not have the first Raid’s absolute novelty, and the plot is a bit superfluous. But the sheer mayhem-stamina of this followup is really staggering. I found myself every five minutes yelping “Owww!” like James Brown at the beginning of Get Up Offa That Thing. The mass brawl in the rainy, muddy prison yard is amazing, like something by Kurosawa.

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As before, Evans hoovers up influence from Park Chan-wookTakeshi Kitano and Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, directors of the original Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs. We are back in Indonesia, and Iko Uwais returns as Rama, the cop who goes deep undercover, getting sent to jail so that he can cosy up to the imprisoned son of a Jakarta crime baron, and then join his crew – to infiltrate the whole setup. While in the joint, Rama works out by punching a human-shaped outline chalked on the cell wall, doing so with typewriter rapidity and wrecking-ball force. It’s wince-making and mesmeric. The Raid is arguably a bit on the long side, but Evans doesn’t believe in letting any time go by without uncorking a gobsmacking action sequence, any one of which would be the centrepiece of a lesser movie. Whoa!

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