Sony Pictures Classics
There was a bare and efficient kind of storytelling in 2011's The Raid: Redemption. The film told a simple story of man vs. building, as series hero Rama (Iko Uwais) steadily progressed through a tower of terror, floor by floor and fight by fight, with just the flimsiest thread of a plot stitching all of the action together. It wasn’t an intricate weave of a story, but one sewn for efficiency - and it was damn effective, even if it could all unravel with the slightest bit of mental tugging. The Raid was a lean and mean action thriller that got right to the brutal business of fighting, and that’s part of the reason why it's sequel, The Raid 2: Berandal doesn’t thrill quite as consistently as its predecessor. This one actually has a story it has to tell beyond “Hey Rama, go into this tower and don't die,” and it doesn't measure up to the graceful carnage of the fight scenes.
This time around, Rama gets caught in the middle of two rival crime bosses who have carved up Jakarta with a meat cleaver; sneering Bangun controls one part of the city, while a set of Japanese gangsters controls another. It's an over stuffed powder keg full of posturing gangsters and assassins, and all it takes are a couple of sparks from both sides set things ablaze. The Raid 2 is markedly more ambitious film than the first, and that’s both a gift and a curse. The film postures itself as a sprawling crime epic, liberally plucking from some of the most celebrated crime films of all time, and at times, the story works well enough. This one does feel decidedly bigger in scope, and towards the end of the film it seems like Rama won’t get a rest until he’s managed to roundhouse kick the entire country of Indonesia.
But because of this ambition, the film starts to sag under all the extra weight. The mobster story has a fresh sheen of Indonesian style, but it’s still a generic pastiche of tired mob tropes - you’ve seen it all before, and you'll see it all again. While the story of the first Raid was more of an afterthought, here it’s treated as almost the main attraction. Whole minutes pass by without Rama pulping someone's innards into mashed potatoes, as the story spends precious time constructing a tapestry of mob alliances and betrayal, and at 148 minutes, the film slightly overstays its welcome (especially compared to the first film’s snappy 101 minutes).
Sony Picture Classics
Truly, the film is at its best when it's moving, and when it's introducing gleefully absurd killers like "Hammer Girl" (Julie Estelle) and "Baseball Bat Man" (Very Tri Yulisman). There's a deep black humor running through Berandal and watching the duo of assassins using everyday household items to dispatch their enemies is a sadistic pleasure. But like its predecessor, the film isn't about soulless bloodletting. The best fight scenes are like a intricate dance of body blows and bone breaking kicks, shot in long cuts that put the shaky cam and hyperactive editing of other movie fight scenes to shame. Also, some of the effects shots are truly horrifying. It's all a marvel to behold and cringe at.
Unfortunately, even extreme violence hits a point of diminishing returns, and Berandal is just too long, which make some of the action scenes jammed into the middle of the film feel like a forgettable wash of violent white noise. But just when I thought I was tired of Bernadal, the last 40 minutes unfold in a marvelous showpiece of action choreography that features a revolving door of opponents for Rama to face, and it's when the film is singularly focused on providing bone crunching carnage at a rapid pace is that the film works best. And it’s no small coincidence that the best part of the film is the section that most closely resembles the first Raid: a base under siege sequence, except Rama is the monster. It feels like Evans and Co. saved their best fight choreography for last third of the film, and from then on, it's nothing short of epic.
The Raid 2: Berandal is missing the streamlined charm of the original, but that's a small complaint in a largely fantastic experience. When it works - which is an overwhelming majority of the time - The Raid 2 is marvelous, a celebration of gore and grace that will leave the genre fan dizzy with glee, and everyone else frantically searching for a sick bag. It's an audacious, brassy, and exhilarating sequel to The Raid. It doesn’t tell as great as a story as it wants to, but this is a movie that reaches for the stars, and comes up short by just a few precious inches.
A few months back we presented a plan to get Lindsay Lohan back on track. Miraculously, some of the items we suggested have already come to pass, she's gone back to being a redhead and is no longer involved with the Linda Lovelace project. Which got us to thinking, who else out there is in need of our help? Ladies and gentlemen, behold:
20 Ways to Get Katherine Heigl's Career Back on Track
20. Think about Doing a Christmas Album
No, it doesn't matter if you can sing. Look at Hanson's "Snowed In" for the needed inspiration.
19. Take a Year Off of Magazine Interviews
Look, I've been in the room, so I know how the process works. If you give me 45 minutes about the craft of acting and 20 seconds about how you're feeling about Judd Apatow that day, I'm going to run with the Apatow part. Even if it's not fair, even if it's out of context. Ratings and reads depend on controversy. Don't give it to them!
18. No More Television
Some celebrities would be well served by doing a great television show. Unfortunately, you're past that now. You had a great show, Grey's Anatomy, and then you had a great show turn into a disaster. There's nothing left for you on television, sadly, which leads me to ...
17. Have Lunch with Anne Hathaway
Somehow, Ms. Hathaway was able to foist Bride Wars and Valentine's Day upon us and so far no one has held it against her. Far from it, she's now a legitimate Oscar contender with Love and Other Drugs, as she was for Rachel Getting Married. Why aren't people remembering her in the bad films, and how can you use that power for your own personal gain? Make her give up her Jedi secrets!
16. Go See 127 Hours
If you really want to become a person who does impressive work, and I think you do, check out how Franco carries the new Danny Boyle film. It's something to behold.
15. Get on Oprah and Admit Something Tragic About Your Childhood
This always works. Plus, if you can time it to coincide with Oprah's birthday you'll get loads of free stuff too!
14. Then Hit Up Funny or Die
Nothing makes us commoners happier than celebrities who are able to laugh at themselves. Viral video is an excellent way to silence the critics.
13. Don't Go Brunette Again
12. Consider Making Your Nickname Permanent
Being called "Katie" softens you in a way that "Kat" and "Katherine" don't. Five years ago this wouldn't have worked because of Katie Holmes. But she's pretty much taken herself out of the game, so Katie is now yours for the taking.
11. Three Words: Under Siege 3
We all remember your solid work in Under Siege 2, and at this point you'd be doing Steven Seagal a favor by agreeing to a sequel. So get out there and ham it up, it will be considered to be gloriously retro sheik.
10. Do a Photoshoot ... for a Modern Dog
You're a dog lover, let people see that side of you. Plus, it will give you a chance to talk about the numerous dog rescue groups you support. You'll be doing some good and you'll look sweet doing it!
9. Book A Guest Appearance on Glee
You've put yourself out there as a Gleek, and as such it's okay to ignore #18 for one tiny little guest appearance. Besides, Glee is right in your wheelhouse in terms of sensibilities, it's a show that encourages a point of view and being passionate. This could work.
8. Listen to the New Girl Talk Album
Personally, I haven't listened to it yet. But I'm told it's great, so I'd like for you to really savor it.
7. Lash Out At Eminem
This could be a simple press release or blog post. Come out against Em's lyrics for being sexist, which will encourage him to immediately release a mean-spirited comeback on YouTube. Then you're the victim. Boom! All of a sudden the narrative shifts to how courageous you are.
6. Consider Doing an Old Spice Commercial
Let's face it, they are doing innovative ads, and you're naturally funny. If they can make Ray Lewis seem approachable they'll do wonders for you.
5. Work With a Prominent Female Director
I get the sense you're trying to help women directors break through, and the ones you've worked with (Julie Anne Robinson, Anne Fletcher) show real promise. But you don't need promise at this point in your career, you need a sure thing. The names you're looking for go a little something like Sofia Coppola, Julie Taymor, or Kathryn Bigelow. Accept no substitutes!
4. Write Something
You're outspoken, and you've mentioned you've got an opinion on everything. So how's about tackling a screenplay? You've got time, you know plenty or writers, give it a shot. There's no better way to find a character you can relate to than to write one for yourself.
3. Ask for Final Poster Approval
The Life as We Know It poster was a monstrosity. Take back control of your career on the image side, even if it means taking less money.
2. Get Political, But Safely
You were born in Washington D.C., the only group of Americans without a voting member of congress. Use your clout to advocate for the fine people of D.C. It's political, but also completely logical.
1. Just Jolie It
There's another icon out there who went through a rough patch, adopted a child, and is outspoken on a myriad of issues. Of course, she had to movie halfway across the world, join The U.N., and develop a really thick skin. But she's now blissfully above it all, able to pick and choose her projects, alternating between silly fluff and dynamic art. Could this be your journey, Katie Heigl? It's too soon to tell, but if you follow these 20 simple steps we definitely like your chances.
On that note, I hope you all have a weekend full of turkey leftovers! Check out last week's Movie Musings here
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.