A thrilling ride if you can stomach the violence

Cert 18 | By Alex Dymoke
Three Stars

TWO and a half hours? 150 minutes? That’s more like a war of attrition than a “raid”. More western front than embassy siege. Still, Indonesian martial arts extravaganza The Raid 2 flies by quicker than most films half its length, thanks mainly to the inventiveness with which Welsh director Gareth Evans choreographs essentially the only thing that happens: fighting.

For every lightning quick bout of pencak silat (the Indonesian martial art that the characters use to beat each other up) there’s someone getting pummelled in the mud with a broom handle.

The level of skill among combatants ranges from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon to Tiger Tiger on New Years Eve, which makes the prison brawl in the opening twenty minutes spectacularly entertaining. Heads are smashed in with trowels, brushes, baseball-bats, baseballs, other people’s heads and all manner of street furniture. There’s a blind female baddie with a black belt in claw hammer (pictured). Someone’s face even gets stir-fried.

That said, creating inventive ways to kill people doesn’t mean you can tell a story, and this is where the Raid 2 falls down.

The first film was one big action sequence (a raid on a tower block) so it was okay for action to take precedence over character development. For the Raid 2, Evans tries to weave a complicated criminal underworld of warring families and corrupt police officers into the narrative.

A more complex plot requires more complex characters but Evans’ writing is too limited to invest them with full, convincing emotional lives. Instead, they remain mere fighting machines, vehicles for awe-inspiring physical stunts, liable to burst with a fake blood at any moment.

But that’s okay. You don’t go and see a film called “The Raid 2: Thug” (Berandal means thug in Indonesian) for subtle performances and keenly observed character development. You see it for the promise of brutally violent, ingeniously conceived action sequences. And on that, it delivers.