Gareth Evans' "The Raid 2," which debuted to much internet fanfare at this past Sundance, is at once hypnotically kinetic and groaningly overlong. Indeed, that's the main fight being fought in the film -- between its terrific, fast-paced action sequences and its dragging plot setup.
"The Raid: Redemption" came out two years ago and was a surprise mega success, no doubt contributing to the seriousness with which this new sequel takes itself. The original also had a simple idea at its heart -- a brilliant martial arts expert, Rama (Iko Uwais), substitutes for a fallen special forces team member on a high-risk raid of a 15-story building. The general premise of a building being taken down, layer by layer, is used again in the 150-minute "The Raid 2." But it doesn't show up until the final 30 minutes, easily the most exciting part of the film. Does that make up for the better part of the first two hours?
Not to me, but for lovers of action "The Raid 2: Berandal" is probably a must-see. The fight sequences do kick ass -- from a mud-drenched prison brawl, to a fantastic club surprise attack (watch below in the NYT's Anatomy of a Scene), to a duo of assassins (one hammer-wielding, the other bringing the pain with a baseball and bat), to an epic finale showdown, in which the nimble, tireless star Uwais makes the viewer question whether he's superhuman.
Now if only some of the self-importance could have been edited out, cutting down "The Raid 2" to a lean 90 minutes of pure adrenaline.
"The Raid 2" hits theaters March 28, via Sony Pictures Classics.