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The Raid 2 Berandal 01 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth Evans

The Raid 2: Berandal (aka The Raid: Thug): following on directly from events in The Raid… after his brother is murdered the rookie SWAT member goes undercover in order to flush out the city’s dirty cops. It feels like director Gareth Evans is “doing a Tarantino here, drawing from a lot of established Asian movie elements: the story is essentially Infernal Affairs; the themes feel like those of a fairly standard Japanese – notably Takashi Miikegangster flick (internal power struggles, territorial battles, OTT Violence, honour, betrayal, black humour); and the visuals feel like you’re watching a modern Korean movie – e.g. Park Chan Wook – as it’s loaded with rich imagery and patterns (like the art deco ballroom and bar, sterile kitchen, snow fight) and some cartoonishly menacing enemies (‘Hammer Girl’, and the ridiculous side-combed, cane-wielding baddie) – there’s also a shitload of nods to A Bittersweet Life, from the Car/Warehouse fight to the impeccably dressed mobsters. The action scenes remain unbelievably entertaining, expertly choreographed and jaw-droppingly inventive – although shaky cam is used a lot more in this one. You never get tired watching Iko Uwais play human pinball with dozens of henchmen, exploiting the various locations, and through most of the big fights you can’t help but grab your equivalent body part that has just been mangled on-screen and shout “fuuuuck!”, every 20 seconds. Once again, there’s a good peppering of ultra-black humour to provide a little relief from the action. At 150 minutes there’s a lot that could have been cut out and not missed – from developing minor characters through to shots of nails, water, snow – although it is rigidly punctuated with big set-pieces so you never get the chance to nod off. The Raid was a powerful, gritty, relentless and raw 90-minute virtually dialoge-free history-making fight-fest that raised the bar for all action movies – and although I can understand why Evans didn’t want to just do the same again, in ‘beefing up’ The Raid 2 he has leaned a little too heavily on other director’s works, taking the edges off – and diluting – the 90-minute, 10/10 movie that’s contained in here. Niggles aside, the film is still packed with genre-defining action, cutting edge fight-choreography, and more hard-18-rated violence than you could shake a poorly-aimed shotgun at.

Score: 8/10

The Raid 2 Berandal 02 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth EvansA546_C016_06060BThe Raid 2 Berandal 04 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth EvansThe Raid 2 Berandal 05 Iko Uwais, Oka Antara, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Gareth Evans

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Merantau Warrior: a young rural martial artist must head to Jakarta as part of his coming-of-age ritual, but when his plans fall through he soon gets caught up in some grotty business. The story takes its time to warm up, but from the first frame the it looks great, with guerrilla location use of the vivid & vibrant countryside, and the city’s graffiti, buildings, clothes etc. The film really comes to life when the fighting starts – it remains intricate, innovative and entertaining through all of the set-pieces; and nothing beats a good-old showdown in an industrial shipping container yard! Iko Uwais shines brightest when kicking and punching his way through every extra in the country, but he can also hold a scene; If there’s any justice he will be the next action mega-star in the vein of Tony Jaa / Donnie Yen. An added benefit is that Silat is such a visual fighting style, and with no-nonsense, non-shaky camerawork it’s a treat to watch. Other than the slow-start, gratuitous cheesy love angle and a sloppy undercurrent of Western people taking liberties, Merantau Warrior lands every punch. Between this and The Raid – that Gareth Evans is now 2 for 2 in my book, and with the obvious improvement between the movies, I’m super-pumped for the final installment of this trilogy.

Score: 7.5/10