A very slight improvement on its disappointing predecessor, The Raid 2 picks up shortly after the events of the original film and follows supercop Rama (Iko Uwais) as he attempts to infiltrate a notorious crime family. Filmmaker Gareth Evans employs an almost excessively deliberate pace designed, one would assume, to draw the viewer into the movie’s epic atmosphere, with the slow build, though effective at building this larger-than-life world, generally preventing one from embracing the central character’s ongoing exploits and endeavors. The hands-off vibe is compounded by a first half that’s rife with competent yet far-from-thrilling action sequences, as Evans predictably infuses such moments with a frenetic, needlessly jittery feel that results in an absence of excitement and thrills – with this especially true of a coherent yet underwhelming prison-yard brawl (ie it’s an interlude that fares as poorly as most of the action in 2011’s The Raid). It doesn’t help, certainly, that Evans’ screenplay offers scene after scene of the dull dealings between crime families, and there’s little doubt, too, that the proliferation of generic fights only perpetuates the film’s rough-cut feel. (At exactly 150 minutes, The Raid 2 is clearly a full hour longer than necessary.) The late-in-the-game introduction of Julie Estelle’s hammer-wielding Alicia provides the proceedings with a jolt of much-needed energy, and Evans, past that point, offers up a surprisingly engrossing climactic stretch that contains a handful of impressively captivating sequences (including an exciting car chase and a mesmerizing final fight) – which does, in the end, confirm The Raid 2‘s place as a passable sequel that could (and should) have been so much better.
**1/2 out of ****