The Raid 2 (Gareth Evans, 2014). In writing about The Raid: Redemption (The Raid 2 is its sequel), I said that “Gareth Evans deserves credit for just ignoring everything except action”. I appreciated the general lack of character development, which admittedly limited the film’s ability to excel across boundaries, but which also resulted in a streamlined production that was all “good stuff”. The Raid 2 is 48 minutes longer than the first film, and sure enough, Evans uses some of that extra time to delve a bit more into his characters. He also moves from the claustrophobic setting of the first film to a more expansive, even epic take of gangland intrigue. It’s not all that interesting, and I found it incomprehensible a lot of the time, so the first half of the movie doesn’t thrill the way its predecessor did. There are a couple of very good set pieces that keep our attention, but I admit to being a bit disappointed. But the last 45 minutes to an hour made up for lost time. The latter part of The Raid 2 surpassed even The Raid: Redemption, once again leaving me breathless, mouth agape, at the astounding action. Just listing the scenes brings back intense memories. Star Iko Uwais, who is also the fight choreographer, is a bit bland when doing straight drama, but once he gets into fight mode, you can’t take your eyes off of him. Yayan Ruhian, who was the co-choreographer for the fight scenes, gets one extended sequence of his own that is impressive. And no one who sees this movie will ever forget Julie Estelle as “Hammer Girl”. The Raid 2 is both worse and better than the original, worse because of the extra, unnecessary scenes, better because Evans, Uwais, and company somehow manage to top the spectacular Redemption. (Once again I’ll note that if you don’t like on-screen violence, avoid this movie at all costs.)
Executioners (Siu-Tung Ching and Johnnie To, 1993).
Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013).