THE RAID 2: BERANDAL (2014)

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Gareth Huw Edwards has done it again, only this time bigger.

Sequels are always tricky usually a pale imitation of the original but what Edwards has done here is raised the stakes and upped the scope of the first one.

The film begins almost immediately after the end of The Raid:Redemption and finds our hero being thrust into the more complex world of gangsters and corruption at the highest level. Here, he has to infiltrate one of the major crime syndicates in order to take them down.

Beranthal retains all the best of Redemption and expands on it making it a crime thriller as well as keeping the ultra violence of the fights, of which there are many incredible set pieces. The music, like the first one, brings to mind the music of John Carpenter’s films, moody synths and it fits into the composition of the film beautifully. We get an insight into the world of gangsters in Indonesia and the corruption that is behind it much more extensively than the first one.

Poor Rama (Iko Uwais), it seems like the skills he has have forced him into situations of which there are no escape, short of fighting his way through them to the very end. What is painful for him is an adventure for us.

At 2 and a half hours this is a roller-coaster ride that delivers on all counts bar a slight confusion of who some of the characters are, but that may be down to me.
I got there in the end.

It was with joy that Yayan Ruhian returns as a different character. He was brilliant as Mad Dog in Redemption and he also choreographed the fight sequences with Iko Uwais as he did for the first one. An incredible martial artist whose skills in Pencak Silat and other forms of martial arts are plentiful.
Special mentions go to Julie Estelle as Alicia ‘Hammer Girl’ and Vey Tri Yulisman as Baseball Bat Man who deliver some fantastic action sequences.

Edwards retains the extreme violence and comic book style of the first one and firmly places himself in the top end of action film directors. I wonder if, and when, he will make an English language film and how it will be. Time will tell.

This is definitely a film not for the faint of heart but if you are interested in martial arts and the action genre you should definitely check it out.

4/5

BUY ON BLU-RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE

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JOURNEY TO THE WEST: CONQUERING THE DEMONS ‘Xi you xiang mo pian’ (2013)

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An origin story with a twist. Or a loose interpretation.

When I first heard about Stephen Chow’s Journey to the West I was immediately struck by the title.That’s Monkey, right? But when I saw the trailer I wasn’t sure. Yes, there was a fish demon in there but the whole thing looked very different.

The tag line on the poster is “It’s time to kick some legendary tale” and that’s what it does.

A demon hunter in the making goes to a village to protect it from demons and learns a lot about humanity, himself and the world around him.

Chow fills the world with his own unique slapstick style of comedy, ie Chaplin re-routed through Hong Kong and mainland China to arrive at the place his directorial style lives very comfortably now.

He is clearly influenced by film from all over the world; that was one of the big things that I noticed when I watched Kung Fu Hustle and then Shaolin Soccer. His style has an old school Hollywood feel to it but doesn’t for one second feel out of date.

Stephen Chow is a filmmaker who is daring to do things differently from either Hong Kong or mainland China and for that he will always get a nod from me but this film as fun as it is and entertaining as it is just slightly misses the mark of perfection. That’s not a bad aim, though.

The characters are all very interesting but the film seems to lose it a little in the binding. Bearing in mind the Chinese culture and their inimitable way of telling stories, maybe it’s not as palatable to a Western audience of the piece as a whole, does that make sense?

Certain scenes are a little drawn out and for the Chinese these may be perfection but for me, they lack a little subtlety. I am nit-picking here and don’t want to seem like I am down on this film, I enjoyed it, I just felt if a few elements were different I would have given it a higher rating and I think seeing the potential was why I found myself a little unsatisfied.

The whole Buddhist angle that permeates the film is wonderful.
The message-pretty much ‘be nice’ is an age old one that clearly needs to be told as that isn’t how people behave all the time.

Huang Bo was great as the Monkey King, playful and mischievous and Zhang Wen is a perfect replacement for Stephen Chow, who can now concentrate purely on directing.
Qi Shu  brings the love element to life in an unexpected way.

I am fascinated with the idea of the monkey mind and its capacity for destruction.  Another facet of the Hanuman factor and the potential for calming this mind and then what can be achieved, these all share tropes with Wu Cheng‘en’s literary classic.
The end hints at the possibility of a series and that would be great.

Until then I’ll go back to the book to be taken on the magical Journey to the West.

3.6/5

BUY IT ON BLU-RAY DVD HERE