REVIEW: “The Raid 2”

Raid poster

I’m not sure if anyone expected “The Raid: Redemption” to be such a worldwide success, but that’s exactly what happened with the 2011 Indonesian martial arts picture from writer and director Gareth Edwards. Now we get “The Raid 2”, a sequel armed with a bigger budget and much more ambition. This first film was built around minimal story but a very interesting premise. This film greatly expands the story while featuring the same entertaining, high-octane, and sometimes brutal action that energized its predecessor.

“The Raid 2” moves beyond the closed confines of a tenement and quickly develops itself as something bigger. SWAT Team member Rama (Iko Uwais) returns, and this time he finds himself in a web of two rival mob gangs and corrupt police officers. After his brother is killed by one of the gangs, Rama is persuaded to join a secret task force set on infiltrating the gangs and exposing the crooked cops. He befriends the ambitious but overzealous son of one the mob bosses which gives him an inside track. But as you may guess, things aren’t nearly as easy as Rama would like.

“The Raid 2” pulls from numerous classic crime films and mob movies. You can’t help but notice it throughout the entire story. If you’re familiar with some of these plot points you’ll know exactly how things are going to play out. While that did take away any sense of curiosity or surprise for me, Edwards still handles it very well and it’s the injections of action (a very unique style of action) that very much separates this film from the gangster movies it otherwise emulates. There are plenty of wickedly choreographed martial arts sequences, but there are also some insanely good shootouts and one particular car chase sequence that blew my mind.


That’s really what “The Raid 2” is all about. It’s a full blown action picture and that is where it makes its money. And let me just say that some of it isn’t for the faint of heart. Blood splashes, arteries are severed, limbs are broken. After all this is the movie that gives us characters simply known as Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. Now obviously she didn’t get her name because of her carpentry skills and he didn’t get his because of his high batting average. Both characters are outrageous but they are also good examples of how much fun the movie is.

“The Raid 2” is a film that will definitely be appreciated by fans of the first movie. It remembers what made its predecessor successful and it builds upon it. Surprisingly there is a lot more story this time around which isn’t necessarily original but it is entertaining. The acting is adequate, but no one is looking at this film for Oscar-winning performances. Most people will be coming to it for action and they will get plenty of it. And it’s no joke either. It’s exhilarating, violent, and jaw-dropping and it will unquestionably satisfy the thirst of any true action movie fan.


REVIEW: “Godzilla” (2014)


Last year brought us “Pacific Rim”, an unashamed homage to the old creature features of the 1950s. By all right it should have been terrible but “Pacific Rim” was a decent film. It was far from perfect but it was a fun and entertaining romp. This year we get “Godzilla”, another monster movie that didn’t have me a bit excited at first and that could have been really awful. But it’s actually not. In fact not only is this new incarnation of the well known reptile better than last year’s “Pacific Rim”, it’s one of the better recent blockbusters and it was some of the most fun I’ve had at the theaters this year.

It doesn’t take long to notice several surprising differences in this film from what you might expect. The movie is built upon a very deliberate and methodical story. It certainly has its huge creature-feature action but we are never bombarded with it. The film is also set apart by its spectacular cast. “Godzilla” features a number of great performers that automatically enhance the experience. Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and David Straithairn make up the film’s great supporting ensemble.


Cranston plays a nuclear physicist who was present during a 1999 disaster at a nuclear plant in Japan. Fifteen years pass and he is still dealing with the consequences of the disaster while also determined to expose what he believes is a cover up of the true cause behind the event. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays his son, a military man married to Olsen. Watanabe plays a scientist studying hidden findings at the disaster site along with his assistant Hawkins. Obviously towering monsters come into play as the story unfolds and revelations are made. The inevitable global threat takes center stage but not before an intense and very well conceived buildup takes place.

Almost every character is given their moments. At first I was wishing I had seen more of this person or that person, but each serve the plot very well. A couple of performers don’t get a lot of screen time but I’m okay with that mainly because they work really well within the story being told. Better yet, everyone is really good. Taylor-Johnson is probably the weakest of the talented cast but he is certainly adequate for what he is asked to do despite his moments of blandness. Cranston is fabulous and Watanabe is rock-solid as always. Hawkins is always good although she is reserved to an almost background character. Olsen continues to impress and Straithairn is a really nice fit as a Navy Admiral in charge of stopping this massive scaly threat.

But perhaps what I like the most is how the movie doesn’t cater to preconceived notions. As I mentioned, it very slowly develops its story but I found it to be incredibly intriguing and always tense. This may not impress those looking for a constant barrage of big creature effects, but I found it to be a wonderful approach which made those big creature moments all the more satisfying once they come. Director Gareth Edwards constructs his film well which hearkens back to the fun sci-fi monster movies of the 1950s. He uses their formulas of build up, buildup, slight reveal, buildup, big finale. I loved that.


Now an argument could be made that the “big finale” is a bit too big. There is some merit to that. But even during those moments the story is moving in different directions which kept things interesting. Better yet, we had only seen passing glances of Godzilla up to that point so watching him duke it out in the finale was pretty exciting. It also helps that the movie looks great. There is a touch of the disaster genre here so we get several wide shots of massive destruction. They are always in context and they look fabulous. I also loved the look of Godzilla. Clearly there is CGI used, but yet he maintains an undeniable familiarity with the old classic Godzilla models. I got a real kick out of that. There is also a brilliant use of sound through the picture from big earth-shattering roars to perfect moments of ominous silence.

I think it’s safe to say that “Godzilla” is one of the biggest surprises for me this year. I had such a good time with the film and I was surprised at how well made and well written it is. The cast is committed and there’s no winking at the camera at any point. It literally had me glued to the screen for the entire running time and more than once I was smiling as it reminded me of those old monster movies that I still adore. Maybe there is a bit of nostalgia talking but I’m fine with that. I had a great time with “Godzilla” and I can’t wait to see it again!