In the mood for some extreme hyperbole? Take a look at the Rotten Tomatoes page for The Raid 2, writer-director Gareth Huw Evans’ sequel to 2011’s instant cult phenomenon The Raid: Redemption. That first film was immediately hailed as one of the best action movies ever made (even by us), but this new one? Well, here’s a sampling of just how enthusiastic critics are about Evans’ latest work:

“The new center of the arse-kicking universe,” says The Popcorn Junkie’s Cameron Williams.

“The action scenes are simply unreal,” writes the Examiner’s Travis Hopson.

“Sumptuously shot, perfectly paced and flat-out exhilarating, The Raid 2 cements Evans as the best action director working today,” praises Total Film’s Matt Risley.

“Electrifying both in its ambition and its action sequences, this is the best action-thriller since The Dark Knight, and also the best sequel since then,” says Paste Magazine’s Tim Grierson.

“Only viewers with zero appreciation for the genre will leave unimpressed; devotees should add approximately six stars to the [four-star] rating above,” writers Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf.

And, simply, “Wow!” per Fearnet’s Scott Weinberg.

That’s barely scratching the critical surface. When The Raid 2 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, the film Twitterati covering the Park City, Utah, fest started typing things like “best,” “greatest,” and “holy shit” with the frequency of “the,” “of,” and, well, “and.”

The, er, best part about it, though, is that they were all telling the truth. Nearly two-and-a-half-hours’ worth of adrenaline, dizzyingly choreographed fights, and more brutal nihilism than Rust Cohle with two six packs in him, The Raid 2 pushes the action genre to levels other filmmakers never attempt, and with a smaller budget.

Like its predecessor, Evans’ follow-up is an aesthetics first, narrative second attraction, but the filmmaker is definitely maturing as a storyteller. Picking up immediately after The Raid: Redemption, this film sends rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais, who deserves to be a worldwide, A-list action star by now) undercover in prison to infiltrate a powerful, ruthless crime ring, and, further echoing its Internal Affairs/The Departed influences, he gets in way too deep.

A sprawling crime saga with numerous key characters, twists, and complicated relationships, The Raid 2 shows that Evans has the desire to be seen as more than a grandmaster of eye-bashing action. But the Welsh filmmaker isn’t delusional. He’d be the first person to tell you that The Raid 2’s biggest and strongest hook is what’s on its bloody, bruised-up surface. He’s confident enough in that to sanction an “Internet only” trailer that sells The Raid 2 better than any reviews, essays, or other written fawning could ever do.

See for yourselves:

Insane, right? Indeed, consult Fandango right now to see if The Raid 2 will screen anywhere near you tomorrow, when the film begins its limited theatrical release before expanding in the coming weeks.

Before doing so, though, get the best action movie of the year’s backstory from Evans himself. Here, the forthcoming and jovial filmmaker explains where his intense love for cinema comes from, how he went from making no-budget student films in Wales to blowing international audiences’ minds, and what it takes to shoot scenes that leave critics saying you’ve made “the perfect action movie.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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