A second helping of Indonesian ass-kicking

Back in 2011, the Indonesian martial arts extravaganza The Raid was a surprise hit with North American audiences, as many were drawn to its unique setting and no-nonsense approach to action. For the sequel, Welsh director Gareth Evans has the arduous task of trying to top the original film’s spectacle, while also presenting audiences with a fresh new vision that is not a blatant carbon copy of what has come before. Thankfully, he largely succeeds on both accounts.

The most striking thing about The Raid 2 — besides the sheer brutality of its action — is the fact that it is such a radical departure from the first film. Here, instead of showcasing a video game-like slog through a single building full of bad guys, Evans’ latest offers more of a gritty crime thriller that involves the hero from the first film (Iko Uwais) going undercover to infiltrate the ranks of an infamous Jakarta crime family. While not all of these dramatic scenes work, this tonal shift at least shows that Evans is willing to take chances and move beyond the gimmicky premise of the first film.

Of course, the main draw of this sequel is the promise of more bloody, well-choreographed action sequences, and Evans delivers on this aspect in every way imaginable. Not only does the violence on display approach a level of excess and creativity seldom seen in most Hollywood action cinema, the film is also shot in such a way that makes you physically feel every punch, kick, and curb stomp. Suffice it to say, the best way to experience this film is in the company of a large audience, just to get the opportunity to listen to people audibly recoil every time a bone-breaking blow is landed.

Ultimately, even though Evans falters on delivering some of the dramatic elements of the film, The Raid 2 should definitely satisfy anyone looking for a second helping of Indonesian-flavoured ass-kicking.