Saturday, March 15, 2014
Raid 2 (2014)
This is my second go round at reviewing this.
The first time I tried to write up The Raid 2 it became this very very long dismantling of the film where I took it to task for every plot hole, every misstep, every run on scene. I absolutely and completely took the film to task for not living up to the first film. And when I was done I looked at it and decided that the film didn’t need to be dismantled quite that completely, so I took a break and a deep breath and started again.
The Raid 2 was THE film I wanted to see in 2014. I was an early adopter of the first film which I still consider, despite the flaws in the set up, one of the best action films ever made. I beat the drum for it so much that the thought of a second film filled me with absolute glee. Now I’ve seen the second film and I wish that they had left well enough alone.
The plot of the film has something to do with Rama going undercover to root out the source of police corruption, but in fact the film really focuses on the strife in a crime family as a son wants to take over from his father and makes deals with the devil (a bad guy who hides his identity with glasses). There’s lots of violence and a gang war where Rama has to fight to stay alive-all the while not encountering any corrupt cops until the very end.
Let me be honest- this film makes no sense. Not in the real world, not in its own world, not in any universe anywhere. This is a film where there are plot holes the size of Idaho and the logic changes as needed. It’s a film where things happen because it will bring on the next great action scene. Plot threads come and go depending on the moment, where murder and violence are justifiable for anything (Rama goes into prison for crippling an innocent guy), where time frames are malleable (this starts not long after the first film and Rama’s brother is dragged out and shot by bad guys for being ambitious- but things had just happened) and things happen that make no damn sense (-- didn’t notice the bug the size of Buick in his wallet for several days?) I frequently wanted to scream at the screen.
The pacing of the film is wildly off. Yes the film has roughly eight action sequences (depending how you count them) but until the second half of the film they are few and far between. The bathroom fight, which is the first, comes I think about 15 minutes in (though it's foreshadowed), there’s more time until the fight in the prison yard, and then the fights come at random intervals after that. In between there is lots of talk, mostly by every character other than Rama who is on the outside of most of it. Actually Rama gets lost frequently and only seems to be brought in when it’s time to break heads.
I’d love to say cut the over long film down, its an ungodly two and a half hours, but the film makes no sense now so chopping it further would just result in total incoherence.
The early fights disappointed and many of the others suffered from a sameness which is the result of almost every other one being largely one guy on an army. It grew tiring since it was pretty much just lots of guys in big spaces crashing into each other. I suppose that it would have been better if all of the people could fight but seeing this on a huge screen it was clear that a good number of the guys can’t fight on screen (Seriously watch some of the guys that attack Rama in the bathroom stall, they are looking more to where they are going to fall rather than how they are going to throw a punch). Even in the car chase the flashy overhead looks into the car look staged instead of vicious fights for life that the rest of the sequence is. They also suffer because everyone is staged on huge rooms or seemingly over wide hallways as if the stunt guys wanted to show off instead of be real.(All the fights are staged to look cool – and they do- but they aren’t gripping just flashy)
I blame the weakness of the fights to the constant and over use of shakicam. In every fight sequence the camera moves. Why must we have the camera vibrating as if in an earthquake? I could see some but every god damned fight?
Yes the last half hour of the film is great-from the car chase to almost the end (I hate the Rama walking out sequence) because the film gets rid of the nonsense plot and puts Rama in real danger for the first time. Here at last is a real reason for violence and for Rama to act.
If you’re looking for a reason why the film doesn’t work look no further than director Gareth Evans. There is no arguing about his ability to direct action sequences. He is one of the best action directors working in the world today. And while I will argue that within the context of the story the action sequences are not what they should be, taken on their own they are a small gems of violent ballet.
On the other hand Evans can’t tell a story worth a damn.
No really Evans is a shit story teller. His Merantu is poorly handled soap opera enlivened by periodic violence. It’s a really really bad movie (Its is I've suffered through it enough times I won't be convinced otherwise). Also the set up for The Raid is crap. Until just before the the first shot is fired it’s a mess. Even the plot of the crime lord running the building is stupid-which works because we don't have enough information to poke holes in the logic. On the other hand the action and the desperate nature of the battle makes it work. The Raid 2 will make your head hurt with its illogic, cartoon characters (yes Hammergirl is cool, but she’s a cartoon) and stupid moves. I talked about it above, so I’m not going into it again, other than to say, please someone stop Evans from ever writing his own script ever again- he can’t do it. He can direct but he can’t come up with a plot to save his life.
I’ve heard this film called one of the greatest action films ever.
No way in hell.
There is no way that the film, as a whole can stand up to the first film or to Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins or any others on a long list I could come up with. If you want to argue bits and pieces, I’ll listen, but as a whole no way. (I like to think of this as similar to Jay Chou's Viral Factor which had incredible action that was wrapped in a WTF story)
Is this a great film? No. Anyone saying so should probably get off the ledge and stop drinking the Kool-Aid. It’s an okay film with some great bits in it. Of course if plot doesn’t matter to you expect to have your socks knocked off, but if you want a plot, that actually makes sense, and characters that are more than just action figures that are moved around, you’ll be disappointed- I was, big time.
(The Raid 2 opens in theaters March 28th in limited release and then goes wide. I would have held off reviewing the film except there are a series of preview screenings occurring, including one at the Museum of the Moving Image that is happening as this posts)
The complete Museum of the Moving Image Q&A can be found here