The first Raid had such a basic plot it could have worked as a Super Nintendo game: a cop enters a high rise building controlled by thugs and has to fight his way to the top where the boss is. This sequel has about three plots. It’s part the Departed, because the cop from the first movie has to go undercover in the mob to help root out corrupt cops. It’s part the Godfather, because the calm and collected mob boss has to deal with his impetuous son who wants to take over the reins even if that means starting a war with their rivals. And it’s also part the Raid because there’s a lot of kicking people’s face into walls, floors and I think even a ceiling or two. That’s a lot of plots and tones to stack on top of each other.
Because The Raid lived and died by it’s action sequences the only real criterion for judging whether it’s sequel can live up to the original’s legacy is to look at the fight scenes. There are fewer of them, but a lot of them do deliver jaw-dropping moments where the stunts look hellaciously real. Other times, however, the fights look pretty CGI-ed, with limbs being turned to unnatural angles in ways that look unnatural, and all the blood splatters have that weird sheen that digital blood always has. Another one of my big frustrations was the inconsistency of what wrestlers call selling in some of the fights, where a character would have been hurt in a specific body part (like say a leg) which would work perfectly well for kicking sometimes but which would drag sometimes when he had to run.
But if this film is not as good as the first one it’s still better than almost any American action movie I’ve seen in years in terms of hand to hand fights. Gareth Evans, the film’s director, really knows how to shoot action. There’s clarity to his presentation in a way that American movies have pretty much lost and he paces the fights well, keeping things moving without making them so frenetic that they start to seem cartoony. His eye for locations is also keen, setting the fights in interesting settings which give the calm before the storm an air of intrigue and beauty.
The only verdict I can really give is this: if you already know what the Raid was, you’re probably going to see this regardless of what I say, but know that you should downgrade your expectations a little bit. And if you didn’t know what the Raid is you probably aren’t super into seeing people get disemboweled with hammers and if that’s the case maybe you should continue to be ignorant about the many hammerings that this movie provides.