As long-time Impact readers know, we’ve been following The Raid films and the career of Gareth Evans since before the first film even arrived in cinemas. There’s no denying the impact that the original film - which arrived on UK screens in early 2012 - has had, not just on audiences, but the industry. Just as, say, The Blair Witch Project did to the horror genre, The Raid was a film that arrived at just the right time and shunned some of the more formulaic and bloated product that was filling the multiplexes. Instead, Welsh-born Gareth Evans infused his love of Indonesia, Silat and the action genre and distilled it down to an intense and claustrophobic tale of one cop taking on what seemed to be the entire criminal underworld in a battered, bruised and highly dangerous apartment block.
One might have expected it to catch the imagination of action-fans who were becoming well-versed in what the region had to offer the genre, but no-one - least of Evans himself - was expecting the film to start getting the wave of recognition and acclaim that it did.
“The market for (less US-centric) films HAS increased. There’s a lot more of a willingness within an audience,” Evans notes. “I think the ‘barrier’ of a film being in a foreign language has crumbled. It’s not a case of loving one country’s cinema or another country’s cinema… people love ‘cinema’. They get curious about a project and they follow it, regardless of language. I think it’s opened up a lot in the last ten years or so. It’s not a niche market any more…”
The success of The Raid (or ‘The Raid: Redemption as it was re-titled for the American audiences in the wake of the news that a western remake was already being readied) meant a sequel was always on the cards. Evans was ready with a story that he’d had in the back of his mind even before filming the first outing. But he acknowledges that he faced the balance of trying to build on the original’s remit without merely going back to the same well-spring once more. The solution was, in some ways, as effective as it was simple… keep the same commitment to action but broaden the canvas and take the story out into daylight… and so we have The Raid 2: Berandal.
“For me, if we were going to do a sequel, I never wanted it to be something that merely retreads the original. It had to feel thematically different and have something of a new visual appeal as well. By taking it out on to the streets and away from that building it was an opportunity to create these different action sequences. All of a sudden we have complete creative freedom and complete creative control. It doesn’t have to be a corridor or a stairwell or a room any more, it could be a night-club or a car-chase … all these different things and we could do whatever we wanted with them. For me… it wasn’t really a case of setting out to say ‘This is the formula for a successful sequel…’. It was ‘What do I hate about sequels, usually…?‘ which is the copy-and-paste of the first one.
Ah yes, car-chases. In what many are saying is the sequel’s signature sequence, Evans takes us not just down a speeding highway but in and out of the chasing cars.
“We’d wanted to do something that looked different from anything else and do that within the parameters of our budget because we didn’t have a massive budget with this one. My focus shifted away from the ‘how many cars do we have..?’ to working out the choreography between them , working out how they would crash into each other the same way that two fighters would block and kick and punch - creating a rhythm out of that and, at the same time, counterbalancing it with the wide-angle shots of the cars and the claustrophobic battles inside them. Shifting that perspective throughout gave us a dynamic feel that made us a bit different from everyone else…”
Famously, or more accurately infamously, Evans admits that he got a little too close to the action at one point when a car didn’t flip as planned and instead veered in the direction of the camera-crew. Evans notes that while the stunt-team, under the helm of legendary industry-figure Bruce Law, used their experience to make sure there were no injuries, it shows just how well-planned the intricate stunt-sequences have to be and how well everyone has to work together.
Either way, I congratulate him for scaring the heck out of our own Mike Leeder who was on set that day…
“Yeah, that was a close-call. I was more f*cking terrified in that moment than anything else. Thank god we had Bruce and his stunt-team being as good as they are, otherwise that might not have ended as happily. I sent some pictures over to Twitchfilm and I hadn’t had the chance to talk to my parents yet about the fact it had happened. So when the news went up that I’d “almost died on the set of The Raid 2”, I had such a terrible message from my parents… ‘Are you okay???? What are you doing out there???’ (laughs). I had to reassure them we were fine and safe…”
So, what’s next for Evans? It’s tempting to think that the offers must be coming thick and fast and that an inevitable Hollywood career is his for the taking. Evans is enthused by the attention he and the film are getting, but goes out of his way to point out that, in many ways, he thrives in an environment of smaller and ambitious films rather than massive studio pictures.
“We’ve done three films and we’ve barely touched the surface of what Silat can offer - there’s so many different schools of thought to work with. There’s tons of stories for us to get around to doing eventually. It’s exciting for us. But first of all I’m going to produce a film for Timo Tjahjanto to direct which has Joe Taslim (The Raid, Fast & Furious 6) in the lead and that’s called The Night Comes For Us. So we’re working on the design for that right now, laying out all the action choreography and we’re in pre-production on that and will hopefully finish shooting on that by November this year. After that I’ve got two projects - one in the US and one in the UK. They’re both a little different - a step away form martial arts. In terms of The Raid 3, that will probably happen in about two to three years’ time… maybe before that or at the same time, we might shoot another movie concurrently where we could approach Silat in a very, very different way. ..”
Watch out for more Raid coverage later this week.
The Raid 2: Berandal opens in the UK on 11th April, released by Entertainment-One.
Many thanks to Entertainment One for arranging the joint interview with Gareth between Impact and ThereGoestheDay.