In 2011, Welsh-born writer-director Gareth Evans gave Hollywood action movies a swift kick between the legs with his dazzling assault on the senses, The Raid.
A protracted fight-sequence, performed inside a car during a high-speed chase, is extraordinary.
However, while the first film hung all of its brilliantly executed stunts on a gossamer-thin narrative, the sequel goes to the other extreme and punctuates its hack and slash with a convoluted tale of corruption that bloats the running time to an uncomfortable two-and-a-half hours.
When we left rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais), he had barely survived the ascent of a 15-storey Jakarta tower block and apprehended a traitor in the ranks. Before he can catch his breath, Rama is interrogated by Bunawar (Cok Simbara), head of an anti-corruption task force, which is dedicated to weeding out all the bad apples in the force.
‘There’s no such thing as a clean war in this world,’ explains Bunawar before he outlines his master plan: to send Rama deep undercover in prison to befriend Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of local kingpin Bangun (Tio Pakusodewu).
If Rama can get close to Uco, he can infiltrate Bangun’s criminal network and bring it down from the inside.
Thus Rama cuts himself off from his wife and child and adopts a new guise behind bars to impress his target.
A fight in the mud-slathered prison yard galvanises the relationship between the cop and heir apparent, and eventually Rama is welcomed into Bangun’s inner sanctum.
Meanwhile, power-hungry rival Bejo (Alex Abbad) sets in motion a cunning plan to take control of the city.
The Raid 2 bludgeons us into exhausted submission with its action sequences including some ferocious.
You quickly lose count of the number of crushed craniums as Uwais cuts a swathe through crowds of heavily armed henchmen and meets his match in a lethal assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman).
The violence and sadism are unrelenting and the body count is astronomical.
Regrettably, the twists and turns of the somewhat impenetrable plot are even more dizzying than Evans’s camerawork.
The writer-director’s ambition is admirable but his attempts to flesh out this brutal universe induce brain-ache.