July 22, 2014

Podcast Episode 23: THE RAID 2: BERANDAL Is The GODFATHER II Of Action Movies


The Raid: Redemption is an incredibly tight little action flick, delivering a streamlined and compact story about a squad of cops forced to fight their way out of a tenement slum after a bust gone bad.  It's punctuated by loads of intense, brutal action sequences that propel the film forward at breakneck speed and will have you screaming at your television in horror and delight.  Its economy and intelligence make it easily one of the best action movies of the past ten years, and the idea of a sequel seems instantly foolish.

And then The Raid 2: Berandal happened.

Holy.  Fucking.  Shit.

The Raid 2 isn't an great action movie.  It's just a straight up incredible film.  End of line.  The fact that it also contains some of the most astounding action scenes I've ever witnessed almost feels like icing on the cake as opposed to the meat of the dish.  Director Gareth Evans (not to be confused with Godzilla director Gareth Edwards) performs numerous feats of what Bart refers to as "camera magic" here, managing to shoot from seemingly impossible positions and giving the audience a sense of immersion during combat without depending solely on the use of quick cuts and shaky cam.  And when he's not shooting action, the shot composition is still captivating, giving way to scope and beauty that feels all too rare in today's cinema regardless of genre.

Everything in The Raid 2 is cranked up to eleven.  As opposed to a simple premise in a single location spanning an afternoon, we've got an intricate crimeland drama that bounces all over Jakarta and unfolds over years.  Rama, our hero and the only element tying the two films together, undergoes a dark and serious evolution, transforming from idealistic rookie cop to tortured and weary undercover operative.  You could argue that the fights in The Raid start to feel repetitive after a while.  (You'd be wrong, but you can argue it.)  The Raid 2 offers a wide variety of violence.  There are executions, betrayals, subway attacks, prison riots and a full-on brawl in a single toilet stall.  You like car chases?  Oh mama, does The Raid 2 have a car chase for you.  You've got a wild-haired hitman who takes on a night club full of attackers.  You've got a goon who kills guys with a baseball bat and a ball.  You've got a hot deaf lady whose weapon of choice is a pair of hammers.  And through it all you've got star Iko Uwais performing inhuman feats of strength and agility.  Most importantly, all this insane action works in service of a smart and expertly told organized crime story that ranks right up there with all your American favorites of the genre.  It's The Godfather meets The Departed, but overflowing with more blood and brutality than both of those films combined.

Bart and I saw a double feature of both Raid films over the weekend and we chat about each film in Episode 23 of the podcast while also expressing cautious optimism over a proposed set of Universal Monster remakes under the banner of a shared universe.  We also speculate on what we can expect to hear from Marvel at San Diego Comic Con as they begin to roll out Phase 3 and introduce a whole new set of increasingly weird heroes.


If all the stars align, next week's podcast will cover both Luc Besson's female-centric actioner Lucy as well as Brett Ratner's hopefully hilarious Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson with a lion for a hat.