The Raid 2 (Blu-ray Review)

I’m sorry, but when it comes to some of the greatest action and martial arts movies of all time, my mind instantly drifts to one particular film in recent memory, The Raid: Redemption.  You can say what you want about the weak story and the unrealistic punishment one man can take, but hot damn fudge on the end of Harry Potter’s wand was the fighting ever wild, crowd pleasing and over-the-top, intense when it needed to be.  If you didn’t feel some of those blows from your viewing chair, then I’m sorry to inform you of the following diagnosis.  You have no central nervous system.  You are paralyzed.  You might be dead.  In my opinion, if The Raid: Redemption had one downfall, it would be that it shared similar DNA in its story with that of Dredd, which was released that same year.  So when I learned of news that The Raid was actually part of a planned trilogy, I looked forward to seeing how The Raid 2 would try to emulate the success of the first one, but differentiate itself at the same time.  I think you can say Gareth and team succeeded with pleasing me there, but let’s take closer look at things.  After you…

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So during the events of The Raid: Redemption, Rama (Iko Uwais) fought his way out of the impossible taking down a building basically filled with drug dealers, gangsters and madmen.  In the events since then, as we pick up here in The Raid 2, Rama thought he could return to his family and have what everyone wants out of life and they just don’t know it, a normal one.  However, that’s simply not the case here as Rama’s life is anything but ordinary now.  He’s pissed the wrong people off and they have taken notice of him and his brother, ultimately putting both himself and family in harm’s way.  His only choice to protect his family and do what’s right is to go undercover working for the anti-corruption taskforce led by the one person he can trust, Bunawar (Cok Simbara), and even spend time behind bars to bring down an evil, manipulating and powerful crime lord, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo).  He does this by befriending the criminal’s son, Uco (Arifin Putra).  Everyone else falls down around Rama like dominoes as he shakes down the rival families and thugs on his vendetta for revenge and light to expose police force corruption.  Of course, he has to gingerly push those dominoes.  And that’s all I’ll say on the subject.  As they say famously in Mortal Kombat.  “Fight!”

And “fight” is exactly what they do in The Raid 2, thankfully a lot of it in large quantities and grandiose sets.  This time around the story’s so much deeper, expansive and layered.  It’s not overly complex, but with the exception of the fighting, this one has a completely different feel and taste compared to that of the first film.  And that’s not a bad thing!  That’s actually quite good considering the feature is rather impressive in its own right.  The filmmakers did not fall into the trap so many get stuck into trying to repeat the success of the first like the familiarity of plots in The Hangover Part II or 22 Jump Street for example, but instead go for a bigger and bolder approach that ultimately shoots straight for the jugular and pays off in my belief.  What’s your thoughts on that?

So in addition to the names I already dropped up above Julie Estelle, Alex Abbad, Oka Antara, Cecep A. Rahman, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo and Kazuki Kitamur round out the cast in this Indonesian martial arts adventure, or should I be daring and say the word opus here?  I throw around the word opus only because this outing almost seems  like a grand musical composition that writer/director Gareth Huw Evans constructed here.  Everything is just bigger and broader here where as the first film was constrained to one lonely building this one has us bouncing all over the place, but with purpose of course.  There’s just so much going on.  The only thing that brings me down just a slight bit even after a second helping is the longer run time.  It’s a long film clocking in at 150 minutes, but then again that’s the average length of a Star Wars outing too so maybe I’m just being over pessimistic here because I truly do have  a good romping time with this one.  How could you not with all the various locations, characters and impeccably orchestrated fight scenes?  Gareth manages to somehow inject a sense of new into the action genre garnered through the stylized, surreptitious stunt sequences and expansive story that brings rivals crashing down together.

Let’s not be so blunt in our conversation anymore.  It all boils down to one thing here…money.  The reason this sequel is so much bigger and broader is the fact that Gareth and team had a lot more money this time around thanks in part to the success of the first film, which if you know the history like I now do, you would know that the first film wouldn’t have even existed if it wasn’t for the inability to film this “sequel” we are talking about today due to lack of funds.  Yes, this sequel was actually supposed to be the first film, but they just didn’t have the bones to boot.  So Gareth, being the genius that he is, switched gears and created a different story with a smaller budget, which we lovingly know as The Raid: Redemption, and connected these two films during the early script writing of the former.  Now that’s thinking on your toes!  After all the blood shed in this one, I can’t wait to see what Gareth and team has up his sleeves for us next.  I am salivating at the thought.

So if you’re walking into this one hoping for more of the first film, I think the critics and I all think alike in the respect that you’ll find it here and so much more.  From the wildly orchestrated fights that span multiple locations such as kitchens, nightclubs and warehouses to the robust plot, richer dialogue and vast cinematic shots and stylistic flare, just about everything’s improved upon over the first one.  And like the first one, it’s an exhilarating good time to be had with some rather impressive and I’ll say…iconic…fight scenes to cherish for all time.  I will definitely be making a highlight reel with this one like I did the last.  The only sad part is that rumor has it that Gareth may take a couple year break before making the third film, which is supposed to overlap the final two hours of The Raid 2, I’m guessing much like the latest 300 film did.  However, those are only rumors.  Don’t believe everything you read kiddies unless you’re talking about what I’m going to drop on you below with everything you’ll find in this action packed Blu-ray package.

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The first thing you’ll notice when you sit down with this Blu-ray already inserted into your Blu-ray player and waded through the seemingly endless number of trailers is how damn good the picture looks once you finally get the option to hit play.

  • Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Clarity/Detail:  The clarity in this one completely blew me away give the gritty nature of the onscreen events.  Everything was sharp and pristine from the individual blades of grass in the fields and loose granules of soil to the fine wrinkles in the actors’ faces and the rain drops falling all around.
  • Depth: The sharpness and crispness of the image, especially that of the characters, gave it that three-dimensional pop we all know and love on the Blu-ray format.  The depth of field was amazing here, even in the most darkest of scenes.  Needless to say I was very impressed!
  • Black Levels: I have nothing to nitpick about here either as all the blacks were rich, deep and inky throughout.
  • Color Reproduction: Besides the razor sharp definition, the colors were the other thing that really wowed me in this presentation.  Gareth and team change them from scene to scene so one minute it may be dark, dungy and murky and ht next glowing neon green.  I love it!  You also get all the vibrant crimson red blood you ever want too.
  • Flesh Tones: Despite all the fluctuation in colors from scene to scene I was never dissatisfied at all with the hue of the skin tones.  Everything looked pretty natural throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: I think it goes without saying in the score up above nothing really bothered or distracted me in anyway here.

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Just like in the video category above, I was simply blown away by how good things sounded here.  I was pleasantly surprised and down below I’ll fill you in on why.

  • Audio Format(s): Indonesian/Bahasa 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Latin) 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish (Latin)
  • Dynamics:  Just like the onscreen visuals and events going on this one is all over the place in the audio arena.  From the rhythmic drums (and various other melodic scores employed throughout this feature) to the tinging of the rain falling on the awnings in the prison yard fight, you feel and hear everything in this track and that’s why I love it so.
  • Low Frequency Extension: So you want to talk subwoofer, do you?  Well every punch thrown and landed results in one hell of a thud from the police clubbing with their sticks to the cars crashing against the pavement.  Everything sounds so authentic and full thanks to the LFE’s kicking presentation here.
  • Surround Sound Presentation:  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the presentation engulfed me as a viewer from the trains passing subtly by on the rails behind me to more intimate moments where the rain fell all around me as the onscreen characters were sitting in the front seat of a car carrying on a conversation.
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  Given the fact that this is a foreign film and not of my language this section is pretty hard to grade.  So let’s see.  If it’s played in Indonesian your brain automatically tells your eyes to read the onscreen subtitles and don’t worry about how loud the dialog is, not that you can understand it anyway (just nice to see the lips match whatever language is spoken).  And if you listen to it in your native tongue, English being mine, you’re blown away by how loud and clear the dialog is.  So your results may vary in this section depending upon what audio language selection you choose here.

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I know it doesn’t look like there’s a lot below quantity-wise to justify the score I have given this section up above here, but it’s the quality of the supplements that count in my opinion because they are so rich.  Like the movie itself, the bonus materials will blow you away as you discover this new expansive world first hand through the eyes of the cast, crew and most importantly, Gareth Evans.  These 90-plus minutes of supplements below literally gave me a new found appreciation of the film, and believe it or not, as a result I liked it even that much more now.  The only thing I want to add before diving into dissecting all the extras below is the fact that you do get a redemption code good for an UltraViolet HD version of the film for your favorite portable devices.

  • Director Commentary – This one is exactly what the name implies it is, an audio feature commentary with Gareth Evans.  After listening to this guy for the past two days while covering this Blu-ray release I have a new found respect for him and his filmmaking expertise.  Check it out!
  • Gang War Deleted Scene (HD, 4:37) – A minute an a half was spent just watching these two gangs march closer to each other and then the bloody carnage ensues around the 1:45 mark.  I’m never a sucker for deleted scenes, but I would say this is worth checking out if you’re a lover of both guns and blood.  No one gets out of this one alive as what looks like a lonely black cat strolls through in the background.  LOL.
  • The Next Chapter: Shooting A Sequel (HD, 10:47) – We first kind of get a cool looking Tarantino-like retrospective intro showcasing each of the major players in the film.  Gareth Evans talks about the beginning of the film and what’s it all about as he introduces the stories and characters and how they all come together in all the story lines.  The crew also talks about how there’s plot behind each individual fight scene.  They use the prison riot in the mud as an example and dissect it in more detail here.  Of course the actors all chime in and we get to see some behind-the-scenes moments too.  There are supposedly a total of 19 fight scenes we learn about here through some of the choreography moments and hell yeah even cars get beat up here in chases.  Speaking on that subject, it was real cool to see the camera techniques employed to capture those stylized car chase scenes.
  • Ready For A Fight: On Location (HD, 12:59) – This one takes advantage of the fact that there are so many scenes and landscapes to look at in more detail here we witness the behind-the-scenes making of the sets and environments where the fights take place, even in the men’s restroom.  Gareth also talks about how much he loves the Cue system and the ability to play back the just shot footage immediately and uses it as a moral booster for the cast and crew to see their achievements first hand.  It’s interesting to learn how Gareth wanted each scene to have a different color to them.
  • The Cinefamily Q&A with Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais & Joe Trapanese (HD, 44:09) – This one’s a lengthy one if you can’t tell.  It looks like all three guys just walked out on stage after the audience just finished viewing The Raid 2.  For any of you who are wondering, Joe Trapanese is the film composer.  I’m going to let you all take this one in as I could go on and on documenting everything here.  Learn all you can here aspiring filmmakers.  Good stuff!  It’s just funny to know that Iko was once a delivery man.  There’s hope for me yet!
  • Violent Ballet: Behind the Choreography (HD, 19:03) – I know this has nothing to do with the subject matter here, but it was interesting to hear Gareth admit how they failed miserably trying to find funding for two years on this project before deciding to do The Raid first then.  I just take great interest in knowing this as it hits home for my Hollywood filmmaking efforts too.  This one takes a look at the martial arts form known as silat in this film.  Gareth also talks about how he’s happy that this is not a rehash of the first film and his goal was to expand the universe.  I’m still interested in seeing where he takes a third film.  Wow!  I’m done.  I can’t say enough amazing things about this extra so you’re just going to have to watch it yourself.  Just so you know, the kitchen fight is Gareth’s favorite thing.

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The funny thing is The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2 is exactly the kind of R-rated action movies that The Expendables series should have been.  They are hard-core action done right and Gareth and team doesn’t even have to bother with the star power to sell this sequel.  After the first one, the name alone just carried this second feature as it steamrolled and branched out way past the limited engagement of the first one in theaters.  Of course there’s talk about the Hollywood bastardization of this one coming soon to capitalize off all this success this foreign flick has had, but forget all that crap for a moment.  Do you really think a US film is going to be able to stand tooth and nail with these past two Raid features?  Hell no!  They will probably take a bullsh1t route and release it PG-13 to fill as many seats as they can and further more piss off the fans of this Indonesian action series.  I don’t care what anyone else says, but in my opinion if you want action, then you’ve come to the right place with The Raid 2 and its part-one older brother.  You haven’t seen anything yet in the action movie world until you’ve seen The Raid 2.  And best of all…this releases on my dog’s 13th birthday, July 8th.  Happy Birthday Isis!  So get in line today by hitting up the pre-order link either here or below to have this one waiting on your front doorstep for you on July 8th at Amazon’s everyday lowest price.  Thanks for reading and enjoy this one!  For fans of the first film, The Raid 2 is a no-brainer blind buy.


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