April 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: Violence is elevated to art in 'The Raid 2'

Iko Uwais returns as Rama, a super cop, in 'The Raid 2.' (Akhirwan Nurhaidir / Sony Pictures Classics)

The violent fight movie epic “The Raid 2” is a bloody masterpiece.

This is a movie that elevates fight sequences to the level of high art. Director Gareth Evans stages battles big and small — from a riot in a muddy prison yard to closed-quarters confrontations in a moving SUV and inside a friggin’ bathroom stall — that are like symphonies of blows to the head. Not even the wild fight scenes from 2011’s “The Raid: Redemption” can compare to those staged here, which bring to mind the glorious bullet ballets from John Woo’s pre-Hollywood resume. If you’re into fights, “The Raid 2” is your holy grail.

You don’t need to have seen “The Raid” to appreciate what’s going on here, but it doesn’t hurt. After taking out a high rise full of thugs in the first movie, Iko Uwais is back as Rama, a super cop assigned to take down a ruthless Jakarta crime syndicate. He gets himself tossed into jail to get in with Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of mob boss Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo). From there he moves his way up the chain, “Departed”-style, and plenty of double crosses ensue.

More importantly, plenty of fights ensue. Like a video game, Rama must work his way through a series of mini-bosses before reaching the top guys, and “The Raid 2” throws some doozies his way. There’s Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman), a brother-sister duo whose weapons of choice are obvious from their nicknames. Most deadly of all is the Assassin (Cecep Arif Rahman), and when Rama and the Assassin square off in the kitchen of a restaurant, it’s one for the ages.

Two and-a-half hours may seem like a lot for an Indonesian crime saga, but “The Raid 2” has a sweeping scope that justifies its running time. And it will knock you out.

'The Raid 2'

GRADE: A

Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence throughout, sexuality and language

Running time: 148 minutes

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