In 2011, Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Evans gave Hollywood action movies a swift kick between the legs with his dazzling assault on the senses, The Raid.
The film invited Indonesia’s celebrated fight choreographers and stunt performers to create some of the most jaw-dropping skirmishes ever committed to celluloid. The result was a 90-minute orgy of balletic martial arts moves, fractured limbs and gratuitous blood-letting.
This explosive sequel unfolds in the immediate aftermath of the first film.
Fans of Evans’s hyperkinetic direction – cameras whirling around the cast at dizzying speed as they perform death-defying acrobatics – will be whooping with glee at the miasma of on-screen destruction and devastation.
A protracted fight-sequence, performed inside a car during a high-speed chase, is extraordinary.
However, while the first film hung all of its brilliantly executed stunts on a gossamer-thin narrative, the sequel goes to the other extreme and punctuates its hack and slash with a convoluted tale of corruption that bloats the running time to an uncomfortable two-and-a-half hours.
When we left rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), he had barely survived the ascent of a 15-storey Jakarta tower block and apprehended a traitor in the ranks.
Before he can catch his breath, Rama is interrogated by Bunawar (Cok Simbara), head of an anti-corruption task force, which is dedicated to weeding out all the bad apples in the force.
Bunawar’s plan is to send Rama deep undercover in prison to befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of local kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusodewu). If Rama can get close to Uco, he can infiltrate Bangun’s criminal network and bring it down from the inside.
The Raid 2 bludgeons us into exhausted submission with its action sequences.
You quickly lose count of the number of crushed craniums as Uwais cuts a swathe through crowds of heavily armed henchmen and meets his match in a lethal assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).
The violence and sadism are unrelenting and the body count is astronomical.
Regrettably, the twists and turns of the somewhat impenetrable plot are even more dizzying than Evans’s camerawork. The writer-director’s ambition is admirable but his attempts to flesh out this brutal universe induce brain-ache.