When The Raid 2 bowed at Sundance earlier this year, it triggered an instant-analysis debate along a narrow spectrum. Was it the greatest action movie ever made, or merely the most violent? Considering the film’s target audience, that’s a win/win argument. Gareth Evans’ sequel to his culty 2011 The Raid: Redemption, which was set primarily within a Jakarta high-rise, considerably widens the canvas this time out. Returning hero Rama (Iko Uwais) has survived that adventure only to be tapped for an undercover operation as unlikely as it is brutal. He’s spent two years in jail earning the trust of an Indonesian gangster’s son (Arifin Putra), the better to infiltrate the gang when he gets out. The aim is to gain information about police corruption and smash the syndicate, but Evans seems less interested in the intricacies of storytelling than he is in devising one flabbergasting action sequence after another.
This he does, with utter confidence, for two and one-half hours. This is far too long by ordinary standards, but not too long if you a) have an appetite for unbridled mayhem, or b) curiosity about the spectacle of a director playing can-you-top-this with himself.