MOVIES LIKE The Raid hardly exist anymore. Director Gareth Evans and star/fighting machine Iko Uwais' 2011 film is, more or less, the platonic ideal of an action movie: a beautifully relentless, sadistically taut, 100-minute-long adrenaline rush with a minimum of plot and a maximum of action.
The Raid 2 is the opposite of that.
Evans and Uwais' eagerly anticipated sequel clocks in at a bloated and dreary two-and-a-half hours, and for some inexplicable reason digs deep into plot, charging Uwais with infiltrating an organized crime family in Jakarta. On one hand, I suppose, Evans and Uwais' ambition to make a Johnny To-style crime epic is admirable; on the other, it's basically impossible to admire anything when it's done this poorly. Evans' cartoony, half-drawn characters never matter; there are infinitely better uses of one's time than watching them quarrel and pose, endlessly and repeatedly.
But an even greater disappointment sets in when Evans and Uwais occasionally remember they're making an action movie: As if intent on outdoing the rhythmic, hard-edged action of The Raid, Evans makes all of the fighting in The Raid 2 harder, bloodier, and straight-up meaner. Whether intentional or not, the result is a movie so gory and sordid that even its action sequences leave a rotten aftertaste.
To be fair, Evans is walking a thin line: The Raid, punctuated by moments of visceral brutality, was hardly a gentle film. But Jesus, The Raid 2 makes it look like Dora the Explorer. In the first film, Evans' camera and edits were as fast and graceful as Uwais' sadistic gymnastics; here, Evans' camera moves as if it's mired in drying blood (which, hey, maybe it was). There's a squicky greasiness in the way The Raid 2 lingers on the mangled, splattered aftermath of Uwais' formerly human punching bags; like the film's plot and running time and existence, it's a stretch to think of it as anything but superfluous.