The Raid 2: Berenthal
I was always in it for the punching. As much as Gareth Edwards would like it to be otherwise at times, the main draw of the first Raid was always 'oh god look how crazy that martial arts was' as opposed to 'oh god look how crazy that story of corruption and betrayal was'. It is true that Gareth needed to get us to empathise about these characters and why they were punching each other but the story very much took a back seat. In the Raid 2 Gareth has decided that the story has earned a place riding shotgun with the action and occasionally gets to switch gears for the fighting. Surely all this storyline can only help us care about the fighting?
Well yes and no. The story follows our hero from the first film (not necessary to watch first but you should watch it because it's awesome) who I'm not going to try and remember the name of. He's just done a thing and now he has to do a thing (spoiler free synopsis there) and gets caught up in police corruption, gang warfare and fights against people with hammers and baseball bats.
The story actually plays quite well, although it doesn't have the deft story telling prowess of other Asian crime flicks like Infernal Affairs or Oldboy. This comes from the fact that this is a film where the drive comes from the Pencack Silat (the martial arts style) as opposed to the story, one drives the other slightly more. There's double crosses and a rough guide but at some points it tries to do a bit much and all gets a bit confusing as it's tough to know who's fighting who and why.
Don't get me wrong though this is a bloody enjoyable film. The acting is actually pretty on point and the choreography is still incredible, whilst the story is pretty good even if the 2 and a half hour run time can feel like a slog. The place where the film shines tends to be its characterisations, even if at some points I didn't know who was who until pretty late on in the movie. There was one guy lurking around and speaking very vaguely and he turned out to be the main bad guy. This wasn't a plot twist or anything we were just meant to be aware of it but I was obviously having too much fun with lead guy pushing a mans face into a boiling pan.
Also there's two bad guys called, in the credits no less, baseball bat boy and hammer girl. As you might be able to tell these characters aren't given rich backstories...or names... but they are fun whilst they last as are most of the other main bad people.
The main flaw with The Raid 2 is its' propensity to try too much, have its kung fu cake and eat it, but that doesn't take away from the fact that its a blooming good film and a lot of fun. 8 out of 10.