‘The Raid 2′: The Sundance Reviews Are In

Gareth Evans' follow-up to 'The Raid' premiered at Sundance this week, and critics are raving!

Director Gareth Evans’ “The Raid 2″ doesn’t hit theaters for a few months yet, but the Indonesian martial arts epic has already enjoyed an early premiere at the Sundance Film Festival — and based on early reviews, the film’s theatrical release cannot come soon enough.

Critics are raving following Tuesday’s premiere of Evans’ “Raid” sequel, which follows Iko Uwais’ Rama out of the tenement building and onto the mean streets of Jakarta. By and large, reviewers agree that “The Raid 2″ improves on the first film in significant ways, with some going so far as to call it the “Dark Knight” of action movies. High praise, to be sure.

Take a closer look with this snap-shot of reviews.

The Story
“Whereas the first movie was mean and lean, the sequel is epic and explosive with a twisting crime drama serving as the backdrop for some of the best action scenes you’ll ever see. … Picking up where the first film left off, Rama (Iko Uwais) has brought in corrupt cop Wahyu (Pierre Gruno), and is now being offered the chance to go after the big fish that are ruining the city. He’s reluctant to join the cause, but when the increasingly powerful gangster Bejo (Alex Abbad) kills [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS], the super cop agrees to go undercover and bring down crime boss Bangun (Tio Pakusodewo). Rama goes into prison, befriends Bangun’s son Uco (Arifin Putra), and once they’re released, he gets into the organization. However, Uco’s reckless ambition sets up a series of double-crosses that threaten to engulf the underworld in an all-out war.” — Matt Goldberg, Collider

The Main Man
“This time out, Iko Uwais’ Rama is much-less of the idealistic hero he was the first time out. Having been left to rot by his police handlers and forcibly separated from his family, Rama’s much moodier, and Uwais’ performance is bad-ass. More than ever, he feels like the heir apparent to icons like Jet Li & Jackie Chan. He was great physically in the first film, but here he gives a tough, gritty performance, even when he’s not kicking the crap out of an opponent (or twenty).” — Chris Bumbray, JoBlo.com

The Direction
“Gareth Evans is the greatest living action filmmaker. This isn’t even up for discussion; anyone who has seen ’Merentau’ and ’The Raid’ suspected as much, but a viewing of ’The Raid 2′ puts the QED at the end of the whole argument. And with ’The Raid 2′ Evans stakes an even larger claim, putting himself into the ranks of the great living filmmakers, full stop. There’s no need to qualify it with a genre at this point – he’s just simply a great filmmaker.” — Devin Faraci, BadassDigest.com

The Violence
“’The Raid 2′ is remarkable filmcraft, first and foremost, and it tells a solid, compelling cop story in a way that left me physically shaking. I cannot wait to see it again, and I am genuinely concerned that the MPAA is going to savage the version we saw because of the profound level of graphic violence it contains. It is a savage world that Evans portrays, though, and any attempt to tone that down will, oddly, make it more conventional and make the violence more generic.” — Drew McWeeny, HitFix.com

The Final Word
“In this vibrant and ever-expanding world of cinema, it’s rare that we ever get to experience something truly incredible in its concept and execution, something so amazing that it pushes an entire genre to new heights. That happened at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday night, as Gareth Evans’ premiered his 2-1/2 hour sequel ’The Raid 2,’ and I believe he’s pulled off something akin to ’The Dark Knight’ of action movies. It is a sequel that is much bigger, more ambitious, and considerably more epic in scope than the first, yet exceeds all expectations and achieves levels of legend in terms of martial arts action intertwined with story.” — Alex Billington, First Showing

“The Raid 2″ hits theaters on March 28, 2014.