The Raid 2

Thursday 24th April 2014

Last night I went to a late showing of The Raid 2. It had to be the late show because it was the only show at my local cinema. And it had to be last night because I’m tight and Orange still give me half price on Wednesdays.  I rarely go to the cinema these days because I hate ignorant people who have no consideration for others, and such people seem to congregate in cinemas where they hold lengthy discussions over the phone about stuff no one cares about while chomping down their popcorn with all the subtlety of a monster truck crushing a row of cars. So the late showing generally suits me because less people go to it. However, on this occasion I was pretty tired and struggled to stay awake for the whole film... that’s no reflection on the quality of the film; I’m absolutely certain that The Raid 2 is the most incredible thing I’ve ever slept through. I know this because I went to the cinema with a mate whose judgment in such matters I trust implicitly and he told me so afterwards.

The upshot of all this is that I will inevitably have to go and see The Raid 2 again, with a different mate (or even the same one as he loved it so much) or I’ll have to buy it on DVD as soon as it’s released. Either of these actions will unfortunately negate the savings I made on my Orange Wednesday half price ticket. You might say this is my own fault: I went to the late screening after failing to get adequate sleep the previous night; I despise other human beings to the point where I would rather go to work with only four hours sleep than sit next to a stranger in a dark room; and I refuse to pay five quid for an unnecessarily huge Coke which would have kept me awake with the double edged sword of caffeine overdose and the desperate need to piss... But I refuse to accept that. In fact I lay the blame squarely on everyone else. Yes, everyone.

Ok, maybe not everyone. Just most people. To be more specific, I blame it on people who didn’t want to see The Raid 2. Because, although I already stated that the late screening is my preferred choice because I’m antisocial, I didn’t actually have the opportunity to make that choice. In this case I had to go to the late screening because other people are afraid of subtitles. I should clarify here, The Raid 2 is an Indonesian film, so even though it’s vastly superior to most action films to come out of America, a lot of people still won’t see it because it’s not in English. So I ask you, why should I have to suffer sleep deprivation just because a large portion of the population doubt their ability to read at a reasonable speed? “But the subtitles always move too fast” they say. Really? Do they? I manage to read them. And I don’t think I’ve been blessed with supernatural reading speed. It took me two months to read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. And that was a tiny book, really more of a novella in fact. What’s more, the language was only one step above Dr Seuss’ classic The Cat in the Hat. Even if you factor in the inherent shitness of the book and my reluctance to subject my brain to any more of it than I physically had to, that’s still quite slow. I refuse to accept that subtitles move too fast for the average adult to read. If you have found yourself experiencing this problem I suggest you get your eyes tested. Then your brain.

“But it’s hard to read and watch the film at the same time,” you say. Is it? Is it really that challenging? Now, maybe I’d understand this one if the subtitles were somehow separate from the rest of the film. For example, if the cinema displayed them on a teleprompter above the fire exit. Maybe that would be a challenge; you’d have to keep swivelling around in your chair to read the words and then swing back round to try and figure out who said what you just read. That would probably leave you with quite a stiff neck. And it would suck. But they don’t do that, do they? They also don’t print the dialogue on the bottom of your popcorn bucket. Or on the ceiling. They almost never hire a French mime artist to act out the subtitles in the aisle either. Not in any cinema I’ve ever been to. No, they always seem to display the subtitles right there on the screen. Almost as if they do it for your convenience... so you only have to look in one direction. And before you say “Yeah but you have to focus on the words and then move your eyes up to see the action,” please just think about what you’re saying and choose to shut the hell up instead.  I can’t count the number of cyclists I’ve seen negotiating busy roads while reading a book. Yeah, cycling along at full pelt while reading a book. And aside from the alarmingly high death rate of cyclists in London they seem to do just fine. So don’t tell me you’re incapable of reading words and watching action ON THE SAME SCREEN, while sitting in a chair with no other distractions around you. There’s no bus turning left in front of you, no pedestrians idly sauntering into your path, you don’t even have to stop at traffic lights. The only distraction I’ll allow you to claim is the numb arse you get from the uncomfortable seats. You’re just sitting in a chair. Struggling to read...

But because of all these people who doubt their own ability to do two things at once, one of which is literally pointing their eyes in a clearly specified direction, I have to watch The Raid 2 in the middle of the night. And this annoys me because according to my girlfriend I am now too old to stay awake against my body’s will during any kind of sedentary entertainment.  So thanks for that people. Not only did I miss half the film, I also feel like a decrepit old man.

You can try to console me by saying “Well maybe the film was just boring, it wasn’t stimulating your brain enough to keep you awake,” but that would be futile. The Raid 2 is probably the most frenetic film I’ve ever seen (most of). And as I don’t think I’ve ever used the word frenetic before in my life, it must be pretty damn frenetic. The major difference I observed between this and the first film is that there are a lot more dialogue scenes in the sequel. The story is a lot deeper; it has twists and turns, betrayals and intrigue. There are rival gangster families having big discussions over ownership of turf. There are emotional scenes in which Rama, the hero, tries to come to terms with the two years of his life he’s lost undercover in prison. All of these scenes are scripted and acted with genuine tension and compliment the many action scenes perfectly. Or so I’m told. I slept through a lot of the talky scenes. The most I can say is that the extra dialogue and fleshed-out story were a welcome addition as they allowed me to catch a few winks and wake up in time for the next fight.

What I will say is that the fights are glorious. I didn’t think The Raid really left Gareth Evans anywhere to go; every scene was as intense, violent and intricate as it could possibly be. But somehow Evans dug a little deeper still for the sequel and really got the best out of his actors. I defy anyone to not be impressed by the speed and accuracy of Iko Uwais. Whether fighting knee-deep in mud in the prison yard, in the backseat of a moving car or in the spacious lobby of a fancy restaurant Uwais brings the pain. I haven’t seen so many innovative ways to kill people since I watched Bad Guy (see my Top Ten Korean Films for more on Bad Guy). There’s also a nice surprise when one character who definitely appeared to be dead at the end of the first film makes a reappearance here for the most epic street fight you’ll ever see. It involves a machete. There’s a man who likes to dismantle people artistically with a baseball bat. And the woman who wields dual hammers... it was like watching that hammer scene from Oldboy, but longer, with twice as many hammers, and with boobs. If you’re looking for action, look no further, The Raid 2 has more action squeezed into 150 minutes than most prostitutes get in their entire careers. And I slept through half of it... Imagine what this review would be like if I’d seen the whole thing.

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