5 Reasons Why The Raid 2: Berandal Is Better Off Without Sony Pictures
Note: While I try my best not to give out spoilers, it is best to read what is written below after watching the movie
March 28 was bound to be a great day: a Friday leading to a long weekend and the premiere date of The Raid 2: Berandal. Its debut, The Raid: Redemption, blew my mind back in 2011. Instead of the typical gun shooting and machine-accommodated fighting scenes, Redemption took the road less travelled to base an action flick on: pencak silat, an Indonesian traditional martial arts. The result is an extremely intense 101 minutes that would lure even anti-violence moviegoers and keep them on the edge of their seats throughout. Gareth Evans was the talk of the town and his production house, Merantau Films, gained its cult status shortly after.
It blew Hollywood’s mind too. Redemption was shown internationally and eventually, a Hollywood adaptation followed. Sony Pictures Classics is to thank (or to curse?) for the distribution. The “independent film division ofSony Pictures Entertainment” that “distributes, produces and acquires specialty films (especially of documentaries,independent filmsandart films) from the United States and around the world”, releases The Raid’s sequels including the upcoming third.
That I am a fan of The Raid, it is no secret. I literally counted days to the premiere and forced my jumpy self to keep my eyes opened the whole 150 minutes to not miss a second of it. (I had to shut my eyes a few times, but it’s the determination that counts). I admire Gareth Evans and his appreciation to Indonesia’s martial arts. I have just as much admiration for the cast - most of which are professional martial artists. But in the following, I will not be focusing on its plus points. I’d let the post-Sundance premiere’s raving reviews for Berandal speaks for itself.
Instead, I will be highlighting about why I think Berandal has lost some of its independent spirit in favour of an action flick best-suited for Hollywood audience.
The charm: rustic vs polished
Redemption debuted as a huge surprise, in a good way. Unless one really is a movie mania, not many has watched Merantau (Merantau film’s debut effort in 2009, also starring Iko Uwais), let alone heard of director Gareth Evans. The movie had so little dialogue and so much action scene (really bloody ones), but so impactful in its simplicity. The simple plot (cops raiding a thug syndicate in an abandoned building) suited the intentionally amateur-ish picture quality and Pencak silat had never looked that appealing.
Berandal appears swanky in its top notch visuals. Gone are the shaky camera movements and dark colour schemes. Instead, tiny details are zoomed in to add some drama and everything looks extremely bright; almost advertisement-like. While the eyes thank the top quality visuals, the mind spots a mismatch in the intensely dark storyline and the suspiciously bright colour scheme.
Redemption wrapped up in 101 minutes, thanks to its unconventional plotting and fast pace - leaving audience wanting more. Berandal, on the other hand, falls for a few Hollywood clichés that results in a much slower pace, totalling to 150 minutes.
First, the presence of Julie Estelle (blind and mute warrior of villain Bejo’s gang) that felt rather forced, for the sake of having an eye candy heroine (in this case, an anti-heroine). Not much was revealed about her character, except for her ‘signature gesture’ of coin twirling. The purpose of the gesture was not clear, instead it resembled a pivotal scene on Inception for a questionable motive.
Second, street racing that has been a staple in pretty much every modern mainstream action movie. Thus, it could easily lose its thrill when done in a mediocre way. With that said, Berandal’s elongated street racing scene falls flat in its lack of value addition to the overall storyline.
While Prakoso (or ‘Mad Dog’ in Redemption, acted by martial artist Yayan Ruhlan) is one of the most memorable characters in both Redemption and Berandal, his final scene is bizarre on so many levels. The scene starts off at a striptease club in Jakarta, and continues on to a very curious location where snowfall took place. It goes without explanation that snow has no place in a tropical country like Indonesia (except the tip top of Mount Jayawijaya in Papua). The very illogical setting takes the emotions away from one of the movie’s crucial scenes.
Old stars shine the brightest
Berandal is a star-studded movie, with veteran Indonesian actors from the ‘90s including Tio Pakusadewo (mafia boss Bangun) and Cok Simbara (police Bunawar) holding pivotal roles. The choice of actors is in line with Gareth Evans’ vision of ‘beefing up the movie’s plot’. Such is a smart move, as Berandal has much more depth than its predecessor. However, casting experienced actors proves to be a double-edged sword that stabs Berandal in the heart.
Leading actor Iko Uwais (Rama), who came from a martial art background, has a decent acting skill. Nowhere close to his seniors, though. The same can be said for Arifin Putra (Uco, Bangun’s son) who delivers an almost-believable antagonistic role. Among the younger stars, praises can only be given to Oka Antara, who does not need many words to play a convincing character of Eka (Uco’s brother) - the obedient yet mysterious son of Bangun. Alex Abbad, too, delivers a memorable performance as an eccentric antagonist.
A very contrasting final duel
One of the most gripping scenes of Redemption was the final duel between Rama and Andi (Rama’s estranged brother) versus Mad Dog (master martial artist Yayan Ruhian). Set in a dimly lit room of the abandoned building, the final duel saw all three characters relying on their physical abilities to survive the life and death situation. It was extremely gruesome and heart-wrenching as blood was spilled and raw emotions revealed.
Berandal’s final duel, on the other hand, sees Rama facing Cecep Arif Rahman (a national pencak silat athlete who played one of Bejo’s main fighters) in a bright-as-supermarket restaurant kitchen. While the scene features captivating pencak silat moves from the two experienced martial artists - it somehow is not as gripping as Redemption’s. Audience is not given enough time to immerse in the heart-thumping moments of a bloody empty-handed fight between two equally strong men, but has to be satisfied with a predictable ‘the good vs the bad’ ending. The lack of time spent on the duel is probably due to the final scene that is coming after, but such time allocation take away The Raid’s main charm - the beauty of pencak silat moves.
Disclaimer: This article is based on the writer’s personal opinions as a moviegoer and an Indonesian movie enthusiast. It does not, in any way, reflect the publication that the writer professionally represents.
The writer has true respect for Gareth Evans and everyone who is involved in The Raid. She believes that the movie is a huge milestone for Indonesian cinematography. The above opinions are given with genuine intentions of opening up constructive discussions that would hopefully and eventually lead to more quality Indonesian movies in the future.
“As we grow older, I don’t think people would want to see us shaking lollipops and acting all cute. Instead, they would want us to strive to perfect ourselves as artists. If that’s the case, then we’re confident that we can be such artists.” - Kwon Yuri
Hi! I don’t usually write any serious post, but I feel like sharing something.
I started photography back in high school. I was only 16? 17? I was young. I used to love drawing. I would draw anime characters and make little manga. It’s a way for me to please myself. But then my dad bought me a DSLR camera! It was a Nikon D40x. my first camera ever! I was so happy back then. I feel like I can be a professional photographer someday. When you’re young, you feel like you can achieve anything. And of course the road to your dream isn’t a walk in the park, you have to work HARD. So I started shooting. I would shoot my little sister, some friends and even go to concerts to try stage photography. I tried everything. The photos are not that good. I was proud of it back then. But looking back now, it was just a mess. Well I was alone in High School, and in fashion photography you need a team (consist of make-up artists, stylists, assistant etc.). I didn’t have a team back then.
photos i took back in 2009-2010
In university, I get to meet new friends who are filmmakers, make-up artists, and models!! So I get to collaborate with them. I would approach juniors and asked whether they want to do a photo shoot with me. I used my ‘senior’ card, and I always apologize to them about me not giving them any compensation. I promised them, one day, I would pay them. Just not now ;) all of them are great. I once had this shoot that started at 00:30 am midnight! And we finished around 4 am. It was crazy! But we had so much fun and all of us skipped class the next day haha.
It’s been 4 years since I started photography, and nothing much has changed. I still struggle finding talents, I still struggle with wardrobe. And I would constantly STARE at photos on the internet, and saved a bunch of them and STARE again and I would STARE again! HOW THE HELL DID THESE PHOTOGRAPHERS PRODUCE SUCH IMAGES!!?? I mean they shoot with DSLR camera; I shoot with DSLR camera, why can’t I produce the same images!!?
latest work of mine. featuring Yoo Seoung Hun
So what I’m trying to say is, I’m still struggling just like every amateur photographer out there. We just have to keep shooting. I once watched this interview of Nicoline Patricia Malina. She said that she used to do photo shoots 3 times a week. She’s that determined to learn photography. We all should learn from her. "We should always be curious". Curious to produce great images that is. That’s the key. Never let that curiosity go.