April 15th, 2014

THE RAID 2 (2014) ****

The Raid was a hit of instant adrenaline. The Raid 2 is a time release capsule of adrenaline. It takes it’s time building up, then… BAM! It hits you with a frenzied rush of insane Kung Fu awesomeness.

The Raid was structured like a video game. Director Gareth Evans just revved the engine and put the pedal to the metal. The Raid 2 is like being immersed in a great novel. This time out, Evans takes his time introducing characters and interweaving various plot threads before unleashing carnage.

The first 40 minutes or so, Evans plays things very loosey-goosey with the plot. At several junctures, it appears that the wheels could fall off at any minute. But then… POW! Evans hits you with several amazing bouts of kickassery that the mind simply reels.

There are so many awesome Kung Fu kerfuffles here that it’s pretty hard to catalogue. The bathroom fight scene is great. The fight in the prison yard is brutal. The scene where Hammer Girl goes nuts on the subway is amazing. And the finale is jaw-dropping. I mean that death by baseball bat scene? Classic.

But the thing I liked about The Raid 2 is that is really goes in depth with its characters. Nearly every single villain or henchman has his own bit of backstory and/or moment to shine, which I really dug. Evans also expands the scope tremendously and at all times you feel as though you are immersed in his universe.

As you can probably tell, I’ve been a bit skittish when it comes to coughing up the details of the plot. And I’m a bit hesitant to go into depth about the fight scenes too. The Raid 2 is a flick you need to experience cold. If you loved The Raid 1, you are guaranteed to love this one. And if you loved The Raid 1, you don’t really need me to tell you to see The Raid 2.

AKA: The Raid: Berandal.

RIO 2 (2014) **

Blu (the voice of Jesse Eisenberg), the endangered macaw takes his wife Jewel (the voice of Anne Hathaway) and his kids on a trip to the Amazon. Once there, they spend time with Jewel’s family, all of whom look down on Blu because he’s a pet. But of course, when the family’s home is threatened by a bunch of humans who want to tear down the rainforest, it’s Blu who winds up saving the village.

The first Rio was a genuine surprise. It was a movie with real heart and some catchy tunes. This sequel just offers up more of the same, minus the heart and good music. Jemaine Clement returns as the villainous cockatoo, but instead of giving him a funny original song like they did in the last movie, he just sings a cover of “I Will Survive”, with a couple of tweaked lyrics. And that basically sums up the filmmakers’ whole approach. Just do the same thing all over again; just without the inspiration or fun.

The plot is also pretty weak and the “save the rainforest” subplot is lame. There are a handful of good moments revolving around Blu’s father in-law (voiced by Andy Garcia, who’s pretty funny), but not enough to base a whole movie around. I did like the montage where the birds played by Jamie Foxx and Will i.a.m. hold auditions for a talent show, though.