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The Raid 2 (2014)
Movie Reviews

The Raid 2 (2014)

Like its predecessor, this cross between martial arts and torture porn is an utterly repugnant exercise in everything we should be striving to purge from our psyches.

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2012’s The Raid: Redemption, an unendurable excursion into the lowest depths of action-movie filmmaking, has fared very well with critics, and its reputation has only continued to grow, its Rotten Tomatoes score currently set at 85%. Now we have The Raid 2, and although equally as unwatchable as its predecessor, it had already earned an 84% approval rating before its official U.S. and Indonesian release dates. When I look at these percentages, I’m forced to shake my head in disbelief and tell myself, “No, this simply will not do.”

What does it say when a sizeable portion of we who are assigned to critique and defend the art of filmmaking find something redeeming in the irredeemable, and therefore lead discerning moviegoers astray, giving them an excuse to waste their time and money? When did we lose our way?

A merging of two of the most pointless genres ever conceived of, martial arts and torture porn, The Raid 2 is an utterly repugnant exercise in everything we should be striving to purge from our psyches. Like its predecessor, it’s a relentless, monotonous barrage of brutal violence and explicit gore, neither having any narrative significance apart from fanboy pandering. Unlike its 101-minute-long predecessor, it clocks in at 148 minutes. The extra forty-seven minutes are devoted to two types of scenes, both grueling. One type is obvious: Fight sequences, which are so protracted and unnecessarily bloody that they really belong in a horror movie. The other type features quiet moments of characters who are either brooding, scheming, or saying something perversely witty. The latter type most certainly accounts for the misperception that The Raid 2 has better plotting and character development than the first Raid.

The plot, as it were, sees the hero of the previous film, Rama (Iko Uwais), being coaxed by his superiors into going undercover as a gangster, infiltrating a ruthless crime syndicate, and weeding out crooked cops. This involves his wife (Fikha Effendi) and newborn son having to go into hiding for what Rama promises to be only a couple of months. But as part of his charade under the pseudonym Yuda, he gets sentenced to prison for two years. Upon his release, he makes a secretive cell phone call to his wife, and although he profusely apologizes for not being in her life, never once does he acknowledge the fact that he was away far longer than he promised he would be. It’s just as well, because his wife never once broaches the subject. This is presumably the first time the two have spoken in quite a while, so I can’t begin to fathom why this isn’t brought up.

During his time in prison, Rama gained the respect of Uco (Arifin Putra), the simpering, power-hungry son of one of the most powerful crime families in Jakarta. Upon their release, Rama is welcomed by Uco’s father, crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo), as an enforcer, or a right hand man, or something. As Rama rises in the ranks, the greedy Uco becomes increasingly impatient with his father, who hesitates to have Uco take his place. Hoping to get his father to change his mind, Uco secretly collaborates with a rival gang and orchestrates a turf war. By “turf war,” I mean scene after scene of heartless brutality and gruesome bloodshed. Although the intention was to entertain the audience, there’s hardly anything entertaining about watching people mutilate each other whilst showing off martial arts choreography.

In the course of this film, we will see people being beat with bats, heads being smashed into pulp against the pavement, bodies being sliced and diced with hammers and sickle-shaped blades, brains getting splattered onto walls and floors via shotguns, limbs getting broken, and torsos getting run through with machetes. In an early prison sequence, a riot breaks out in the central courtyard, and in the midst of prisoners rolling around in the mud, I distinctly remember one shot of a man tearing another man’s jaw away from his skull. There’s even a car chase sequence, which involves not just cars doing impossible stunt maneuvers on busy surface streets but also the people inside the cars doing whatever they can to beat the living crap out of each other. A motorcyclist is also a part of this sequence, and the point will come when guns are drawn and people get shot.

Watching all this, one question popped into my head: How is it possible that average people, who are by and large intelligent and have the capacity to reason, love, nurture, and empathize, can actually consider this entertaining? I’m aware that everything we see is only simulated, but the fact that mere simulations of people suffering and dying the most horrible deaths can draw big crowds and make them cheer and applaud is a reality I find disturbing and depressing. In the proper context, violence can have narrative significance. But in the context of films like The Raid 2, it’s merely a gimmick, a way to give audiences a sick thrill. In regards to its Rotten Tomatoes score, I don’t know what segment of the population that 84% consists of, but whoever they are, they inhabit a world I want absolutely no part of.

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03/28/2014

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R

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Sony Pictures Classics

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi