“No… I’m done.”
Rama (Iko Uwais) uttered those three little words towards the end of The Raid 2: Brandal (trans: thugs). I could not help to say to myself, “MTE Rama, my thoughts exactly…”. I think only a handful of people shared this sentiment with me though. Like everyone else that i know, i am excited to see what would Gareth Evans do in the successor of The Raid: Redemption now that he finally have the budget he desired to fully realized the original script he wanted. But after seeing this, along with Mo Brothers’ Killers only a couple weeks apart, seems like something out of my comfort zone.
After taking down a drug ring along with the drug lord whilst exposing a corrupt police officer, Rama escaped by the skin of his teeth. He must went undercover and join ranks with the lowlives at prison in order to infiltrate an underground crime syndicate. For the greater good he must stay away from his loved ones and sacrifice his identity. When things got more muddled, Rama found himself trapped within a crime ring and corrupt government system. Can he trust anyone? Or is he just another mice in the labyrinth of someone’s twisted idea of a game?
Violence are to be expected if you see its predecessor. Redemption was like a 100-minute adrenaline pump. I think it was well made, and the simple storyline and mediocre script were covered with the jaw-dropping, heart-pumping well choreographed fights courtesy of Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. But Brandal raised the bar of on-screen violence. Now we don’t only have Uwais bare-handed martial arts skill, we have multiple enemies with short distance weapons ready to inflict fatalities. Somehow Evans took a 180º and while Redemption remained simple, Brandal was like a mess of tangled web that even Evans had a hard time of unraveling. The pacing were delirious probably from trying to fit the overabundance of materials into the 150 minutes duration. This length is also another problem, 150 minutes should be enough for the film, there were so many things to fit in and barely anytime to fit them in. Perhaps Evans would benefit for a tighter script edit, he could’ve put a little more restrains and cut off half of the film because he got is enough materials for two separate sequels or a 13-episode season of epic TV show. It was such a shame really because Evans did have interesting characters to play with. I am personally curious with Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Boy (Very Tri Yulisman) backstories and characters. It is such a shame that these characters were so underutilized and ended up just like another notch in Brandal body count.
One of the scene that really made me wonder was Ruhiyan (who appeared as Mad Dog and killed in Redemption) magically reappear as Prakoso another assassin that were killed in a snowy alley. There were two things that bothers me: 1) the reappearance of Ruhiyan, because i really prefer to have Rama’s brother Andi (Donny Alamsyah) return, and 2) snow in the über tropical Jakarta (we don’t have snow here in Indonesia). The snow in particular bothers me because unlike Joko Anwar who likes to create an ambiguous sense of era and geography, Evans films are clearly established in Jakarta. I just can not understand the need of the snow and the creative decision Evans took for this particular scene. Because blood on snow are just not as poetic as it was.
As indulgent as it was, aside from the the bone crunching (literally) actions, Brandal served some beautiful shots albeit indulgent sometimes. But it was a welcome break as the fights become more mundane and the story become overcomplicated and muddled. The car chase scene was exhilirating and so well done and it was something i never expected from an Indonesian film at least. I thought i saw a nod to other films (Kill Bill, Only God Forgives, The Godfather, etc) because some of the things felt very referential. But for sure the film had somekind of crossover with Killers, both shared the cast (Oka Antara and Kazuki Kitamura, who were better here compared to Killers) and use classical music (Hendel’s Sarabande) prominently featured in the film.
Definitely not for the faint hearted, the fan of the original and the genre probably love this successor. But i think i was just not a fan. ‘People do their best work when they are working under pressure’ is a saying that come to mind when i saw Brandal. Evans’ Redemption was a huge success even under tight budget constrains, and ended up with a simple yet effective idea. Despite the weak acting on both films, at least Redemption was focused and on point. So another quote come to mind, maybe, just maybe, bigger really isn’t always better.
THE RAID 2: BRANDAL (2014)
GENRE Action, Crime, Thriller
DIRECTOR Gareth Evans | PRODUCER Ario Sagantoro, Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian | WRITER Gareth Evans | MUSIC Fajar Yuskemal, Aria Prayogi, Joseph Trapanese | CINEMATOGRAPHER Matt Flannery, Dimas Imam Subhono | Editor: Gareth Evans, Andi Novianto | DISTRIBUTOR DeclaSony Pictures Classic | BUDGET $4.5 million | COUNTRY Indonesia | RUNNING TIME 150 minutes | RELEASE March 28, 2014
STARRING Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Oka Antara, Tio Pakusadewo, Alex Abbad, Julie Estelle, Ryuhei Matsuda, Kenichi Endo, Kazuki Kitamura, Cok Simbara, Roy Marten, Pong Harjatmo, Mathias Muchus, Marsha Timothy, Very Tri Yulisman, Cecep Arif Rahman
DID YOU KNOW? The film timeline takes place two hours after first film ended and then two years later. According to director Gareth Evans, if The Raid 2 is two hours after The Raid finished, The Raid 3 will starts three hours before The Raid 2 finishes.