When I walked out into the sunlight from this surreal symphony of bloodshed, I was a wee bit richer in my understanding of what filmmaking can be. Gareth Evans and his team of assassins suit up to dish out a hyper-violent, frantic piece of cinema that surpasses the original with a calculated urge to make the audience squeal. Cinematographers Dimas Imam Subhono and Matt Flannery find beauty in the unlikeliest of places and paint their camera lenses red. I watched an esophagus being slashed out by blade from the neck of a person and the frame still managed to look beautiful. The Raid 2, to put it very simply, is the Holy Grail of action films. That is, until the time Gareth Evans decides to grace our screen again.
All you need to know about the plot is that Rama (Iko Uwais) is now an undercover police officer looking to recover evidence of bad dealings of a gang with corrupt cops. The film’s resolution to side-step on conventional action choreography becomes very clear with the prison riot scene itself. Narrative details be damned: here is a film that makes you afraid of walking on the road with your throat exposed. It is not the amount of blood shown that bothered me, it’s the way they chose to rip that blood out of the characters. People are diced, slashed, butchered, crushed and maimed in ways that makes the previous film look like a benign prologue. The rippling pulse of energy that goes into the aptly staged sequences is simultaneously thrilling and eerie. Unlike the mournfully stupid Fast and Furious or The Expendables films where a blast killing ten people does not bother us, every person killed in this film has a scarring impact because the gravity of his/her suffering is allowed to linger on.
Executing one thrilling set piece after another in rapid-fire, pulse-pounding vitality; Evans and his crew manage to stun us into submission. There are countless moments that deserve mention but the three most horrific of all are: the Hammer Girl scene in the train, the car chase scene and the fight in the kitchen. The aforementioned sequences will test your limitations as you get torn between the urge to look away from the mayhem, but at the same time gaze at the unmitigated gorgeousness of its craft. Evans is a terrific artist; he covers up the not-so-convincing drama (partly due to the horrible English dubbing) with a clarity of spectacle that is mounted on an epic scale of ball-busting grandeur. Full points to the lighting crew that supplements the cinematographers. You will appreciate the completeness of their contribution when you see the brains of a person being blown-off with a shotgun. This scene is damaging to the senses of an unassuming viewer; it could lead a neurologist to differentiate between the parietal or occipital lobes of the character killed.
Also, if at any point in this post you catch a hint of hyperbole in this post, you are allowed to stop reading it and go examine the film for yourself. Then you would probably marvel at your own answer and try getting the lacerating images out of your head, but without any luck.
Brutality is the new sensuality.