The Raid 2 ★★★★

2011's The Raid was lean, mean, lightning-paced, and carried absolutely zero baggage, it was a supercharged combination of visual flair and insane ultraviolence. So the decision to develop the story in this eagerly-awaited sequel to a far more expansive narrative based around an undercover infiltration of the underworld, and the duplicity and dealings of gangland politics and rivalry, was always going to deliver a different, far broader kind of film. As a result The Raid 2, weighing in at a lardy two and half hours, does feel slightly bloated and baggy for its first hour, sacrificing adrenalised action for character development, endless exposition and labyrinthine plot threads. However, once it hits its stride, thankfully this has all the savage intensity, blitzkrieg pace and bone-crunching brutality of the first film.....and then some!
It has to be said though, that at times the action setpieces do feel slightly episodic, almost detached from the main thrust of the storyline, randomly interspersed to satiate fans of the original movie expecting more of the same mayhem as before. But once momentum gathers, so too does the almost relentless barrage of jaw-dropping carnage. An early prison-based bloodbath in a mudbath, is a pointer as to what's to come, breathlessly directed by Gareth Evans whose dizzying camerawork puts us right in the very midst of the slaughter, delivering kinetic chaos and startling choreography - a later fight filmed inside a moving car is just deranged in its technique, whilst the climactic kitchen-based smackdown frankly sets a new benchmark for vicious, violent, martial arts fight scenes. Oh, and then there's Hammer Girl, an emotionless terminatrix, who with just a couple of scenes to her name, instantly attains Boba Fett levels of iconic ice cool - expect T-shirts, posters and memes for years to come.
Admirably ambitious in scope and staggeringly violent, The Raid 2 is stunningly composed and constructed, even if arguably it could've done with losing twenty minutes to tighten things up and keep it in prime fighting shape, but by any definition, this more than delivers as a sequel, even if for me the first film just slightly edges it because it was just so compact and tightly structured, although I can't wait to rewatch this again to re-assess that verdict. Hammer-time!!!

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