Director Peter Berg has never felt the need to hide his right-leaning political posturing in his movies, smuggling an “America First” agenda into the rampant machismo that characterizes films like Lone Survivor and Patriot’s Day. In that capacity, it makes perfect sense why Mark Wahlberg, former underwear model and total A-list douchenozzle, has become his muse and spirit animal – the man is a walking, talking knucklehead who in the public sphere embodies the ideals of shoot first and ask questions later, often making blustery claims about love of country and God above all else, spinning himself into this or that controversy for not being able to keep his trap shut. Read More
“The Raid 2: Berandal”
Directed by Gareth Evans
Starring Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Yayan Ruhian, Donny Alamsyah, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusodewo, Arifin Putra
Action, Crime, Thriller
To try to boil down what is so sublimely excellent about The Raid 2: Berandal is a futile exercise in tilting at windmills. It’s like boxing a griffin, outthinking a Sicilian, or KY-Jelly wrestling an anaconda. Instead of trying to describe the irrepressible satisfaction this balls-to-the-walls, smarter-than-your-dad actioner elicits, instead conjure up what it felt like to lose your virginity, if you lost your virginity in a ten-on-one man brawl in a pit of mud.
Director Gareth Evans is so incredibly tuned into what his audience wants that without hesitation, he’s responded to any and all of the problems of the first film, making this a sequel that’s far more resplendent in scope and, amazingly enough, emotionally involving throughout. While the first film felt like the best game of Mortal Kombat we’ve ever played, Berandal (which translates to ‘Thugs’) gets the video gaming, non-superpowered Neo on crack elements mixed up with the glory and grandiose of The Godfather. If The Raid: Redemption taught us that the martial arts techniques we learned from Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are outdated, The Raid: Berendal makes them look fossilized. Berandal may not be the nonstop battle sequence that Redemption is but when affairs do heat up, they boil over faster than a knuckle sandwich to the shnoz.
Action junkies trying to recapture their high need not fret though. The close-quarters, hand-to-hand combat that prompted the wow factor outpouring from installment numero uno has been racketed up past 11, breaking the dial as it cycles beyond conventional bounds. Taking things to the next level in the best of ways, star and fight coordinator Iko Uwais‘ masterful choreography is a helicopter; whirling and seemingly chaotic, but something that can only be achieved with the measured precision of a scientist. For the flurry of fists that appear to attack at random, each blow is executed with careful exactitude. It’s a ballet of fury, a symphony of violence. It’s righteous.
Baseball bats, hammers, seatbelts, anything can be used as a weapon in The Raid‘s world to incredible, bone-rending effect. There’s no limits, no boundaries and no frills to what Gareth will use and where he will go. The blood flows liberally, in poetic gobs and visceral streams. Viscus is Gareth’s crimson signature, his lascivious Joker grin, his coup-de-grace. From crunching skulls to snapping bones, there’s joyous awareness in his mortal destruction. We gasp, we laugh, we shutter. We can’t help ourselves. That furtive conflict guru has harnesses us like hogs and rides us up and down the spectrum of reactions. Like Clockwork Orange‘s Alex, we unblinkingly take in barbery as snuff.
As the second part in a planned trilogy, I feared Berandal might suffer middle-child syndrome, that it could feel incomplete in the context of a larger arc. The reality couldn’t be further from the fact. You can essentially go into this film blind and not struggle a second trying to keep up. Be that because The Raid: Redemption has about one page of exposition – more an excuse for Iko’s revelatory action than anything – or because Berandal catches you up in moments before delivering you to a conclusion that could easily serve as a bookend, it matters not. All that matters is The Raid 2 is an unforgettable ride and one I can’t wait to embark on again, and again, and again.