The Raid 2 (2014)
It's Not Over Yet
I saw the first Raid a couple years back - and it was enjoyable. Pretty good action, enough of a plot to hold it together, subtitles - it was a rousing good time, as though someone combined SWAT with the newer Judge Dredd. Having seen some hype going around for a second Raid, I figured it would be in my best interest to check it out. Can this sequel live up to the hype, or did it just pull a Leroy Jenkins?
In this installment of the Raid, we are given a rather convoluted start. The plot here itself isn't necessarily hard to follow, but the first section of it jumps haphazardly to and fro in the timeline of events with such hard cuts that people may very well not understand what the heck is going on as it's presented. That being said, our line consists of the main "hero" cop having brought a dirty cop and some evidence to the leader of a small squad of bad-cop seeking cops that are trying to weed out the corruption and restore the city to it's former greatness. After putting down the cop in front of our hero cop, he starts to second guess their methods - until his brother is killed and he finds out that by helping them out he will also be helping to bring justice to the killer.
So to go about this, our hero beats up and puts a politician's kid in a wheelchair - which is bad, but it is a politician that the son of a local crime syndicate hates, so it should set up a rather easy bonding experience while the hero is in prison with the said crime lord's son. A "welcome to prison" brawl happens, in which we get to see that our hero is strong in the ways of martial arts (but not stronger than 15 guys at once). Some time passes, some rather big events go down, and the hero helps out the crime son when the situation is dire, allowing him to get introduced to the 'family' (as any crime story would have it go). After finally being released, the plot can sally forth.
From here, our hero does his best to stay in the good with the crime syndicate as a member, with the final goal of discovering and revealing the corrupt cops associating with them. This process is complicated through various events, the largest of which is the introduction of the hot-headed son wanting to take over the family business. Tie this in with a third party who wants a slice of the pie on the syndicate's rival Japanese syndicate's turf, and things start to spiral fast, leading up to a thrilling conclusion. I should mention here, before I'm called a liar, that I use fast in the context of how quick it all unravels, and not the speed that the plot proceeds in the movie - which in fact is very slow. Things finally start picking up about a half hour to the end, after having a good 2 hours before that.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the first Raid so much was that for it's average less than two hour runtime, it was jam packed with action, and never felt as though the pacing was floundering. Sadly, I did not feel the same about this one. At times, the plot goes galavanting off the introduce and make us (at times) try and feel something for a character, just write them out through death or not caring moments later. Although it's not terrible for doing so, it really adds up in the slow creep of the middle of the movie, and you'll feel it when there isn't really any kind of mystery or twist to make it payoff later.
When action does pick up, it's usually as well shot as it is violent. Whose who can be a bit of hard thing to tell at times - particularly during the mud-covered prison battle - but there are a lot of hits that make you think "that had to hurt" while watching. It's shot in a manner where most of the time the motion is coming from the actors/stunt folks more than the camera wagging about like a dog tail, so even during a car chase scene (where the movie finally starts to pick up and get exciting again) theres plenty of energy without making you feel ill from the arbitrary camera motions. If you get a bit queasy around violence, I can tell you now that there will probably be an issue with the movie as a whole, and by the time the final battle starts to roll a vampire would probably be crying over all the excess on walls and floors.
Having watched the dubbed version, I can't attest to the voices of the original actors, but as far as the dubbing went I've seen far worse. Could it have been done better? Probably - but it was done well enough that I didn't feel the forced need to turn on the original audio and subtitles instead. Background music is just that, but the sound balancing is rather well done and there was no moments of having to turn it up and turn it down to avoid being deafened after trying to listen to dialogue. Sound effects here are pretty well handled here as well, with one of my highlight picks being the battles of the baseball bat assassin and his steel baseball bat whacking anything and making that metal pole hit sound.
Overall, I'd recommend the original The Raid over this one. Although 2 has it's finer points in action scenes, the overall time spent (2 and a half hours) can feel almost nerve-grating at times. The plot is given to us, and is rather simple, and yet we still find ourselves having it fleshed out (in non surprising ways) for 2 hours before we get delivered to us the action that I believe most of us who came to this movie would want. It's by far not a bad movie, but it really feels like it takes too long to get from start to finish. Opponents of violence will not wish to watch this one either, as it's quite messy during some of the battles (and can be pretty graphic in some of the gun fights as well). If you have the time to kill and don't mind waiting to see some cool fights, you could check it out, but I would still tell you that more bang for the buck can be found in the first film.