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SXSW: ‘The Raid 2’ is better late than never

Posted 8:38am on Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2014

AUSTIN -- It was worth the wait.

Action movie fans have been sweating it out, thirsty for the sequel to the head-slamming 2011 Indonesian flick The Raid: Redemption, director Gareth Evans’ kinetic and claustrophobic tale about one cop who has to fight his way out of a high-rise full of thugs and toughs with only his fists and wits to protect him.

So, when the SXSW screening of The Raid 2 had to be canceled Sunday night because of technical issues, the capacity crowd at the Paramount Theatre was loudly unhappy. But a hastily scheduled showing Monday at midnight turned things around as the new film -- a 148-minute explosion of martial-arts mayhem and an assault on the senses that mixes up early Jackie Chan, John Woo, Quentin Tarantino, Shakespeare, Sam Peckinpah, and The Godfather into one searing cinematic cocktail -- makes the first seem like a children’s story.

Indonesian martial-arts star Iko Uwais returns as Rama, the honorable policeman who this time has to go undercover with a mob family to root out a nest of crooked cops. Along the way, he gets in the middle of a mob war and has to fend off the likes of Hammer Girl, Baseball Bat Man, and The Assassin.

But the plot matters less than Welsh-born/Indonesian-based Evans’ sense of visual style and choreography. With just two films, Evans has put himself at the front of the pack of action-movie directors. There’s a car chase here that demands to rank right up with the legendary chases of The French Connection, Bullitt, and The Road Warrior. There are intricate fight scenes that leave you wondering how legions of actors and stuntmen weren’t sent to ICU. And, yes, it’s very violent.

The audience erupted into applause several times Monday night. When the film finally opens in the U.S. March 28, lots more people are going to be joining them.

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