The Jakarta Post
The Raid 2: Berandal not only has a more complex story compared to its predecessor but it also has more intricate fight choreography and is even more bone-smashing and blood-spurting.
But it is mostly bone-smashing and blood-spurting.
Oh, and skull-cracking too.
Following the surprisingly superb silat showdown of The Raid: Redemption in 2011, movie lovers have been aching for the sequel. The wait is now over and those who have patiently waited will be graciously rewarded as they sit at the edge of their seats and cringe all the way through The Raid 2: Berandal.
When Redemption was over, Welsh director and screenwriter Gareth Evans promised that its sequel would be longer and have a bigger storyline with more drama as well as better fighting and action scenes.
Fight choreographer duo Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian were also brought back to ensure brutally beautiful free-for-all brawls.
Ario Sagantoro, one of the series producers, said that while Redemption was a rollercoaster ride that kept pushing the audience, giving them no room to breathe, Berandal was more about a larger story with stronger characters.
Berandal follows Redemption's main protagonist, Rama (Iko), mere hours after fighting his way out of the gangsters' 30-story building that left a stack of police and criminals bodies in the halls, including the body of narcotics kingpin Tama (Ray Sahetapy).
Undercover police unit chief Bunawar (Cok Simbara), however, warned Rama that what he had helped conquer was just a little fish in the bigger mafia scene of the fictional Jakarta, which is ruled by two big mafia families.
Bunawar told Rama that from that moment on, the mafia would seek the death of Rama and his family if he did not disappear. Bunawar then convinced Rama to join his division and infiltrate the mob family.
Rama was given a new identity as violent offender Yuda and was sent to prison to befriend and gain the trust of incarcerated Uco (Arifin Putra), the son and heir of Bangun's (Tio Pakusadewo) family. The operation, which was supposed to last a few months extended into two years, but Yuda achieved his goal.
By the time Rama was released from prison, he was quickly inducted into Bangun's family and became Uco's right-hand man.
Back in the family business, Uco grows tired of being in his father's shadow and wants to build his own empire. Uco also despises the rival family, lead by Goto and his son Keiichi, to the dismay of Bangun, who wants to continue the peace treaty between the two families.
Uco's ambitions are then sniffed out by Bejo (Alex Abbad), a criminal who wants to ascend to the higher level and construct a new mafia. Bejo lures Uco to betray his family and concocts a plan to start a war between Bangun and Goto.
Uco sends attackers to hunt down Koso (Yayan), Bangun's trusted assassin and eye on the city streets, to put the blame on Goto, while Bejo sends killers The Assasin (Cecep Arief Rahman), Hammergirl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) to murder Goto's top echelon.
On the sidelines of Uco's traitorous plan, Rama becomes increasingly tired of the undercover operation, which has kept away from his family.
Yuda wants to quit the operation, but Bunawar convinces him to continue to get more evidence to prove that police chief Reza (Roy Marten) was corrupt and involved in the mafia.
Uco and Bejo's plan fails to create a war. In frustration, Uco ends up killing Bangun with a pistol to his head.
Seeing the mafia organizations crumbling ' and with it, his entire operation ' Rama decides to take matters into his own fists.
Berandal runs its course at 150 minutes, almost an hour longer than its prequel. It starts slow with fragments of scenes that apparently were planned to be puzzle pieces coming together throughout the middle of the movie and prelude the hyper-violent climax.
Like in Redemption, hand-to-hand combat and mob brawls are seen throughout the movie. Iko's fight scenes are as breathtaking as ever, both graceful and explosive.
Action scenes in Jakarta will also amaze Jakartans in the audience.
Astonishing fight moves, however, make viewers forget about the convoluted plot and numerous characters. It is hard to follow what is actually happening with the story amid the flying kicks and brick-breaking punches.
There were some confusing scenes, but questioning them loses its importance once the final showdown begins. Berandal may start slow and staggery, but it ends with a gut-wrenching and exhilarating climax.
Berandal is a mind-blowing action movie ' both in the metaphorical and literal sense ' but it is strictly for adults.
The Raid 2: Berandal
(150 minutes, Merantau Films)
Director: Gareth Evans
Screenwriter: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Cecep Arif Rahman, Veri Tri Yulisman, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian, Cok Simbara, Roy Marten, Pong Harjatmo, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo.
Producers: Ario Sagantoro, Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian