Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The (Unexpected) Brilliant Writing in The Raid 2

I loved The Raid: Redemption, with its perfect action movie plot of cops climbing a gang building, each floor occupied by angry criminals. It's the perfect excuse for the unparalleled fight choreography that got the little Indonesian film international acclaim.

That's also why I didn't expect such great writing in the sequel, The Raid 2. No book or movie has sunk a hook that well on me in years. I envied their skill at making me question what was going on in the hero's mind as he sunk into the criminal world. There's a lot emerging writers can learn from its first act.

Rama is our hero – our moral and incredibly capable police guy. The Raid 2 opens with the murder of Rama's brother. He swiftly vows to bring down the crime organization responsible, but to do so he must ally with fringe police he doesn't trust, and from there get tossed into the same prison as the son of the mob's boss. If he can ingratiate himself, then he and the fringe police will have a path to the heart of the organization.

I didn't say you only watch it for the writing.
So Rama gets himself convicted of a crime, but once inside, always acts bitterly towards the son. He only has a sincere interaction with him during a massive riot in the recreation yard, where he saves the son's life. The two have a moment of bonding before riot guards drive everyone into the ground.

The movie jumps forward a few years. The son is already out, and today Rama is getting out too. The mob has pulled strings to help him. On his way to the car, Rama fusses with the cuff of his shirt, tears out a listening bug and drops it in the road before he and the son drive away.

In the cinema, I leaned forward in my chair wondering if, during those five years, he'd switched sides.

Then Rama meets the mob boss himself, who makes him strip. A specialist checks his every crevice, and even feels up his discarded clothing to make sure he's trustworthy. Once they're sure, they incinerate his old clothes and get him a good suit. Something fit for his new life.

The new family.
Did he know they'd do that? Did the police he's working for not know and bug his clothing? Or has he changed in prison? It's too plausible that he could bond with the son while missing the companionship of his brother. But he also could have gleaned that this pat-down was coming and found the police's bug to be foolish.

The opening act of the movie does a brilliant job of making the audience ask those questions, and then tweak them as the unspoken thrust of what characters do. There's the visceral side, of seeing him manhandled and talking humbly to a man who could have him shot at any time, but those are the trappings.


  1. I thought the first movie was great but haven't seen the second one. I definitely will now!

  2. I'm looking forward to this, but will probably wait for the dvd.

    Moody Writing

    1. I'd been keenly interested in the movie for a long time, and then we got the luck of it actually being released theatrically around here. When something small, foreign and promising comes to town I try to pay money for it to encourage more.

  3. I rarely see movies - and you are making me regret that a little.

    1. I go to the cinema very rarely, but that was a splendid day of movies. It's still a very violent film, though, if you have any aversion to those.

  4. Very interesting! I'm too much of a wimp to see a film this violent, so thank you for the summary! When the film is old enough to allow spoilers, I'll have to look for a full synopsis.


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