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Leslie Mann tops up in The Other Woman.The Raid: Redemption, which kicked and slugged its way out of Jakarta two years ago, was a work of diabolical genius. Its follow-up, The Raid 2, is equally diabolical. But this time the genius is intermittent.

The first film was basically a non-stop action sequence, set almost entirely in a gangster-infested tenement. Beleaguered SWAT cops fought their way to the top of the building, and one of them prevailed through the brutal, claustrophobic combat.

The Raid 2 features the same hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), and pays homage to the earlier movie by staging many battles in tight quarters, including a car, a prison cell and a walk-in wine cabinet. But the sequel runs nearly an hour longer, and has a less dynamic rhythm.

The brawling itself is every bit as inventive and exhilarating this time around. Writer-director Gareth Evans and his collaborators, essentially the same team as before, have absorbed and refined the tactics of many action masters, notably Hong Kong's Tsui Hark. The fight choreography — by Uwais and co-star Yayan Ruhian — is brilliant; the filming, editing and sound design are flawless.

The Raid 2
Release Date: 18 April
Director: Gareth Evans
Starring: Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle

The Starving Games
Release Date: 18 April
Director: Jason Friedberg
Aaron Seltzer
Starring: Maiara Walsh,
Brant Daugherty

La grande bellezza
Release Date: 18 April
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Toni Servillo,
Carlo Verdone

Transcendence (K12)
Release Date: 18 April
Director: Wally Pfister
Starring: Johnny Depp,
Kate Mara

The Other Woman (K7)
Release Date: 25 April
Director: Nick Cassavetes
Starring: Cameron Diaz,
Leslie Mann

Fading Gigolo
Release Date: 25 April
Director: John Turturro
Starring: John Turturro,
Woody Allen

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
(K12)
Release Date: 25 April
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield,
Emma Stone

La Vénus à la fourrure (K7)
Release Date: 25 April
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Emmanuelle Seigner,
Mathieu Amalric

The script and acting, however, prove less successful. The story is convoluted without being profound, and while there are some strong secondary performances, Uwais is only interesting when in motion. He's much better at punching than brooding, pondering or vacillating.

The Raid 2 sends Rama undercover to prison, where he's assigned to ingratiate himself with Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of a local crime lord. The plan works, and after the men are released, Rama goes to work for Uco's dad, Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo).

Bangun has long co-existed with Goto (Kenichi Endo), who heads a Jakarta-based Japanese crime family. Things get ugly when certain people try to break the truce between the two factions. One of the agitators is Uco, whose actions put Rama in the middle of a gang war.

The plot allows for a broader range of locations, scenarios and, yes, fights than the first "Raid." But the movie is also a playful self-indulgence for Evans, a devotee of violent Japanese cinema. (The director's first short, made in his native Wales, was a samurai tale, complete with Japanese dialogue.)

Evans might intend for The Raid 2 to be a solemn Godfather-like study of loyalty, ambition and betrayal, but he can't resist absurd flourishes. In one scene, a dying man is chased outside, where his blood splashes vividly on white snow — a form of precipitation not seen in tropical Jakarta. There's also a female enforcer who kills with a pair of hammers; she mocks the silent-killer archetype by using sign language.

Evans has lots of ideas, but the good ones are mostly visual. When a bat-wielding thug swings and connects, the camera spins as if it took the blow. That's a great moment, but it — like everything in the movie that works — is just pure sensation.

Mark Jenkins
The Washington Post

Elsewhere on screens

The two weeks of Easter viewing are packed with some of the more intriguing, and beguiling titles thus far this year. The Hunger Games gets a send-up in The Starving Games. Transcendence offers the directorial debut of Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister. Here Johnny Depp seeks to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. Elsewhere, Golden Globe winner La grande bellezza arrives on screens.

The following week sees Nick Cassavetes’ comedy, The Other Woman, with Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton. Meanwhile, Roman Polanski returns behind the camera with La Vénus à la fourrure and Woody Allen takes a rare starring role in a film he hasn’t directed in Fading Gigolo. Wrapping things up, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 offers a sequel to the rebooted franchise. Early word has it better than the tepid original. JO’S

 

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