‘Raid’ sequel retains roots but elevates series to new level

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In 2011, Welsh director Gareth Evans and actor Iko Uwais brought the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat to the world stage with “The Raid: Redemption.” In it, Uwais plays Rama, a police officer sent on a mission to oust a crime lord. The film was met with widespread acclaim; critics and audiences praised its fast-paced mentality and choreography. Although it was named by many as one of the greatest action films of the decade, others criticized the lack of story and substance.

After the success of “Redemption,” Evans and Uwais returned to the drawing board to create a sequel. Drawing from the criticism, the two envisioned a fully developed film with complex plot structure, themes and deep character relationships that would still deliver a rib-shattering punch. What resulted was “The Raid 2: Berandal,” which premiered at Sundance 2014 to overwhelming acclaim.

In an interview with The Daily Californian, Evans and Uwais discussed the differences between the two films as well as the difficulties of filming and producing “Berandal.” “Don’t expect a rehash of the first one,” Evans warns. “I hope that the audience will let us do something new and do something different with ‘Berandal.’ ”

“Berandal” begins just a few hours after “Redemption” ends; Rama is recruited into a police force dedicated to fighting government corruption. Police Chief Bunawar (Cok Simbara), head of the task force, places Rama undercover to befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), the heir to Jakarta’s largest crime syndicate. He successfully infiltrates the mob, climbing from a small foot soldier to a respected member of the family. As Rama uncovers corrupt officials inside the family, he also risks being discovered the deeper he goes.

From a structural standpoint, “Redemption” and “Berandal” are vastly different. While “Redemption” is a fast thrill ride, “Berandal” slowly builds tension like a roller coaster.

According to Uwais, portraying Rama in “Berandal” was not only more difficult but also more rewarding. “The first film is about alertness and fighting spirit,” says Uwais. “However, in the second film, I go through a much broader spectrum of emotion as well as emotional conflicts. Therefore, it was more difficult to film the ‘Berandal.’ But the payoff is greater, and the reward is larger”.

Although the structure of “Berandal” is different, the film features action scenes that fans of the first film will thoroughly enjoy. Fights are spread out, well shot and creatively cruel. Within minutes, the audience is thrown into a muddy prison yard. Hundreds of prisoners, armed with shivs, bottles and brooms (in Rama’s case), slash, kick and tackle prison guards in an attempt to escape. Beautifully choreographed, every blow seems to be outdone by another just seconds after.

“Berandal” also introduces car chases to the series. According to Evans, these scenes were some of the most difficult to film. As one of the pioneers of bringing Indonesian cinema to Hollywood, Evans had to collaborate with the government to block off certain roads in Indonesia for “Berandal.” Evans also stressed the difficulty given their limited equipment and expertise: “We only had two cars. If we crashed one, we would lose any chance of filming with that one. The process took about 12 days, because we’ve never done this before and it’s never been done in Indonesia before.”

Fans of “Redemption,” do not fret. “Berandal” may be a whopping two-and-a-half hours, but it is definitely one hell of a ride and exceeds every aspect of “Redemption.” With the addition of character, color and complexity, “Berandal” still retains roots from “Redemption” yet elevates the series to a new level of beauty within brutality.

Contact Matt Hong at [email protected].

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