I thought The Raid: Redemption was fun. I thought it could get better.
The undercover cop shtick is well known to me, especially since Hong Kong films love that genre. So the plot didn’t really strike me as exceptional. I watched Infernal Affairs, and no undercover cop film will ever trump that. Heck, The Departed copied it and promptly won an Oscar for Best Picture.
But aside from the opening montage that left me with mixed feelings, it was a pretty decent plot. There wasn’t too much clunky exposition, just good, natural dialogue that moved the story forward. It keeps the story easy to follow (without a lot of stupid details unimportant to plot), manages a little suspense and mystery, and maintains the focus on the action.
I didn’t like the way they cut the initial montage of Rama getting his job as an undercover agent though. i liked the style, but I didn’t like the way they cut it. Also, snow when Prakoso was getting killed? That was very odd. I mean, the contrast of snow and blood looks brilliant on camera (something Tarantino used to great effect in Kill Bill), but it’s friggin’ Indonesia.
Of course, the 2 hour plus runtime could’ve been minimised a lot without inventing a backstory for Prakoso, who I thought was Mad Dog from the first film until I checked Wikipedia. Thankfully Mad Dog stayed dead; the scene where he died was one of those where you’d expect to see him again. It was just the use of the same actor.
But again, I don’t think Prakoso’s backstory was anything important, and it sure as hell didn’t contribute that much to the story. He was a plot device to get things rolling, and he could have stayed as the mysterious assassin rather than the sad man who’s trying his best to see his son and feed his family. Not that I think it’s a bad story; just unnecessary. There’s also the dumping body scene, which didn’t seem necessary.
And to be honest, some of the fighting could have used some cutting too. The prison courtyard fight ran much longer than I expected it to, and the attack on Rama by corrupt cops felt like it came from nowhere and didn’t have much of a place in the film other than to delay Rama from getting to Bangun’s office.
Otherwise, the action was top-notch, and everything I expected it to be. The fights were intense and just amazing to watch, and the long shots for all the fights look brilliant. It could have done with less shaky cam, but I guess you can’t run away from some. I also loved how Hammer Girl kicked massive ass with some unorthodox weapons, and it looked like proper fighting techniques rather than the crap that was Gazelle in The Kingsman. That she died violently with Rama not sparing a thought for her gender is also refreshing.
But the far more polished nature of the fighting took away some of the enjoyment I got from the first film. Granted, The Raid: Redemption suited a grittier style than The Raid 2 with its far more expansive plot, but Rama becomes a stereotypical protagonist that basically barrels through anything in his path. All the lackeys just fall apart against him, and his injuries only slightly hamper him, especially in his final fight. The baseball thing was also required a bit of suspension of disbelief.
Still, the sheer epicness of the fights, the inclusion of a brilliant car chase scene that didn’t end in exploding cars made up for all the shortfalls. The camera work for the long shots in fight scenes was wondrous to see too; I’ve seen the behind-the-scenes clips of how they did the shot during the car chase by having a cameraman disguised as the car seat, as well as the manned moving prison walls to give space for cameras to film the toilet fight. I also loved the flipping shots that go from upside down to right-side up as they follow certain perspectives.
The use of music (or no music) is also pretty good. The films has a good sense of what and when to put on the music, and the track selection is often spot-on. And just like Bourne, some of the fight scenes eschewed music and just let the fighting take over. You don’t need music to pump up the audience if the action itself is sufficient. I also liked the way they ended the film with slow music to mask the conversation between Ryuhei and Rama, allowing Rama to end the film with a line that refers both to the likely offer/threat from Ryuhei and his job as an undercover cop.
I forgot to mention this in my post about the first film, but I also really admired their effects for the blood and gore. Much of it looks like practical effects, which is wonderful to see. Sure, the film is much gorier than I expected, but it was really good work from the effects department. If only Hollywood would stop using horribly obvious digital squibs…
So yet another thrilling ride from (almost) start to finish. And what’s that? Another sequel? Sign me the hell up!