The way Gareth Evans‘ The Raid ended, you’d better beleive that fans would want more of the same thing, and that is what the man gave us in The Raid 2. Well, it’s not set in an apartment complex/drug compound, instead, the film is set in the entire city of Jakarta, which gives way for a whole new world of fist fighting action, and a deeper look into the criminal underworld that makes the first Raid film look like nothing.
In our roundtable interview with Gareth Evans, we talk about keeping up with expectations, the massive choreography on sets, the choreography for that car chase sequence, lessons he learned from the first Raid film that he hopes to take to the sequel, The Raid 3, and more. Hit the jump to read our interview.
How do you continue to keep up with or exceed the expectations that you yourself and your fans have set?
Gareth Evans: I don’t know. Our approach to designing action scenes is always this one formula that we have. take two or three minute action scenes, we like to have this idea of punchlines dispersed throughout the scenes, so there is always building towards a punchline or something. Like in the prison riot, like the first big punchline is when the guy gets kicked into the tiles. You have all this choreography and flow in fluidity, you get a moment like a strong impact that the audience gets to get that little breath in, and once they notice everyone else is doing the same thing the natural instinct is to laugh and not take it too seriously. Cause we do stuff that is a little bit violent. But I don’t want to design it in a way like it is repulsive, disgusting, like you can’t take it anymore. So what we do is we give you those edgy hits, but then we pull away. So like that guy with the tile thing, you see it for about half a second, not much on screen, then we pull away and go off into the other piece of carnage. So it’s finding a way to build up to that punchline. Boom. Hit. Then come back up again. It’s all about pacing.
Except for that one scene where Bejo (Alex Abbad) was slicing people’s throats slowly.
But that was like not about the choreography as much, but the idea of “how twisted are these two guys” that they are able to have a casual business conversation while they do this extreme act. And he doesn’t even care. It doesn’t matter. To a certain extent, that’s not intended to be “dark and disturbing” but it’s like dark humor. It’s twisted as fuck, but it’s not intended to be taken as a horror freak show moment. It’s more of “how can they still have this business transaction after all of this?”
How do the visuals develop? Is it through storyboard? Is it through choreography? Or Word from the DP? Or is it a combination of everything?
I’ve never done a movie board. I don’t really do storyboards much. I do shots with my DoP, and when we visit sets, we just take a bunch of stills of “this is that shot,” or “this is this shot.” But the feel of it, the one instance I had when we looking for locations, is like wherever we find something in terms of structure we work with it, but I said to my producer Todd, ” I just have to have a red carpet.” That really was my one thing. I really wanted a warm texture for that. I wanted to get the reds and the warmth which would get darker and darker as we went deeper and deeper into the film. I wanted to experiment more with the lighting on this one cause in the first one it was corridors, rooms, and an atrium, and that was it. So we couldn’t really do much to change it one. Yeah there was a broken light every now and then, but it really wasn’t much we can do with the colorscape in the first one. It was very monochrome sorta like dark and dingy. So in this one, we knew we were shooting one on a wider format using the Red Cam, and we knew the resolution would be better and we could take in a lot more color detail, so we started thinking a lot more cinematic, let’s do anything when it’s not action, not running around chasing action sequences, let’s time to sit back and get those big wide shots, those grand bigger scale production value on set.
Were Martin Scorsese’s movies the inspiration for The Raid 2?
I think Scrosese has influenced every person making films. Definitely the Sugar Cane scene, or the casino. What I love about is work is that even now the Wolf Of Wall Street is the coolest fucking film I have seen all year. And he just keeps doing it, because he keeps progressing and getting better and better. So yeah obviously there is going to be an influence in some way or another. What we were doing in this one, I created in my own image what the Indonesian maifa is like. I didn’t go off into and meet people. I didn’t ask “did you kill someone with a baseball bat.” The feel of it was based on movie gangsters, a stylized less comic-book feel to it. When it came to Alex Abbad’s character, the guy with the cane, the whole thing the sunglasses and slightly chubby cheeks, I based it off Seijun Suzuki’s film Branded To Kill. The main character in that had the same kind of look, part and big sunglasses. Then we started to play around with the idea that maybe we can bring in some comic-bookish elements into this like Hammer Girl and Baseball Batman. I’m terrible with names. They come from that slightly fictitious world where blends reality. Cause when we tempt with keeping it grounded in reality so we don’t do acrobatics, we don’t do flips, we don’t do people flying in the air. The furthest we pushed it was the Babe Ruth moment. That was the XZY guys were producers, and they were questioning the script: “do you really want to do that with a baseball?” And I said “yeah, I do, I really want to go for it.” They were worried about it pushing over the edge, and I told them let me see how it looks when I shoot it because I can shoot it in a way that even though it’s ridiculous it feels like it works to a certain degree.
In 2009 you wrote Berndal, at what point did you decide to use that for The Raid 2?
What happen was I wrote Brendal back in 2009, and that story then was about ordinary every day guy who goes to prison, friends send him to a mob boss, he becomes an enforcer for them, and right in the middle is the gang warfare. So for me it was like “okay, that’s the general story.” Tried to get a budget for two years, couldn’t get it off the ground and make one. So we went off and made The Raid instead. And as we were making The Raid, I started thinking of that script, well what was the problem, what am I not happy with that script? And the biggest problem I had was the motivation of the guy to stay there when the gang war went on. Why didn’t he fucking leave? He has no ties, he needs to get out. And well I thought, if we make him an undercover cop, he’s the same cop as the first Raid, and that this is some how tied into what happened to that building, then that fixes a lot of problems that I had with that original script. So then when I finished writing this, I started to put names at the end of the script, well I am going mention a guy named Bunawa and Rza, I am going to make them the focal points of part two. So no one had a fucking clue who they are in the first film, but that would become more the forefront in the second film. And so after we finished The Raid, we went back and retrofit that script, so about 20-30 percent changes in the writing just to introduce the investigation element. But that original version still had Hammer Girl, still had Baseball Bat Man, still had Uco, so just adding more of the police side to it.
So where do you see this film going forward?
I’m going to go back a little. Basically what we did on The Raid 2 is went back two hours after The Raid finished. So what we are going to do after The Raid 3 is go back three hours before The Raid 2 finished. There is a scene there, there is a decision made by one of the groups, which you should already know by now. There is a decision made by a group towards the end of that film, and its a rash decision. That’s going to be the thing that sets of the spark of a whole lot of consequences and the different interactions we branch off into the story.
What’s it like to get the critical acclaim and stardom from these Raid films.
It’s kind of weird. It’s one of those things where it’s reassuring to know that there are people who are actually okay with what we come up with and I don’t need therapy. The fame thing, and I guess for Iko as well, is that we both can kind of avoid it since we both live in Indonesia. Like for me, I am away from the industry a lot. Indonesia is kind of different from here – it’s like you can feel the industry everywhere. Like if you go in LA you can feel it, the presence is there. But in Indonesia, it’s kind of dotted around. Little group, little group, here and there. So we can go about our everyday life and be normal-ish people. I don’t feel like it’s affected me.
How did you create that car chase sequence, because it is pretty incredible.
I’m going to sound stupid, but what we did was buy a lot of toy cars. And we did that “neee” “bang” “bang”, and you get somebody on the iPhone and tell them “don’t get my face, I don’t want anyone to know I did this.”
So that won’t be on the DVD?
Yeah, no. And what we did after that is, okay this is where I want to do this, this is where I want to do the action. And then we’ll go off and make the premixed version using computer software, very slow software, it’s not very detailed. There is no feeling of speed, so it is hard to tell or do it shot by shot the way we would do a fight scene. Then all of a sudden it’s hard touch. It’s really slow and boring shit, but it could look real good in the real speed and when camera angles are there. And then we had Bruce Law and the Hong Kong stunt team come in to Jakarta, and they sat down with us and went through everything. Told us all the logistics of it. We needed a towbar to pull the car, and then we needed to put the camera in the front, and then we moved on to the next one. But we couldn’t do some at the same time, so we put the camera inside the car. We went through every little detail, what the set of it was, how many shots per day, how many locations we’ll need, do we need extra cars. We also needed to put a roll cage in the car to protect the driver from injuries. 90 percent of it is logistics, and them executing the actual stunt to make it safe, and all we have to do is follow them, and keep up with the cameras, and it’s all good. But sometimes there will be little things along the way there it wasn’t as we planned it. The calculation can change in a snap. So what we did with the car going through the bus station was our plan initially was… oh man we spent so much fucking money on this… we used these huge cranes on both sides of the car, so we can put the camera on the wire and get this huge bird’s eye view of the bus station and the car was suppose to go through the station and skid on the road on its back. That was the plan. Then when the stunt guy got out, our plan was the smash it with another car to make it look like one progressive shot. But what happened was the car went through and came to me slower and slower, and it just stopped. Then the bus station fell down on top of it. Sometimes there is some improvisation, because the fighting we can control a lot more, but when it is literally a chunk of metal that’s moving on momentum, you haven’t much say in what you are going to do next.
There was also a scene where you needed to transfer one camera from one car to the other.
Yeah, that one was wow. We were trying to figure out how to do that shot. Cause we wanted to go one from one car to the other, and then out through the back window of that car. So we had an idea of doing it where it would be all green screen, we just have the cars in the studio, and put in the road in afterwards, but we were worried it would look so fake. So we didn’t do that. So we thought what about doing it on a flat bed truck where they were both connected. Then we were worried about the car looking to static because the car is not moving. So then we just ignored that we haven’t figured out how to do it yet, and as the day got closer and closer, I started talking and said we should just try it and do it [passing one camera to the other in moving cars], so we had the camera car and the fight car, and when we got to that same speed, he pushes the camera through an open window, and then the producer shouts action, and he pulls up and the whips across. He drives away, and another car pulls up, and matches the same speed. And as we coming into the speed, inside that car, the passenger seat is my DP. Then when that camera comes in he grabs it. And he is following the action, the actor responds to the back window blowing up, which we had precut, and the camera out, and what you don’t see is the platform lying down on the floor, and what we had was the third guy lying down and provides support and stability. It was one guy to another guy and another guy. The worst part of it was that it was the RED camera, and it didn’t have any rigging on it, and it couldn’t leave the box. It was literally the box, and we couldn’t get it though anything otherwise, and I am watching it.
What lessons have you learned from The Raid 2 that you hope to carry on to The Raid 3?
Yeah, I’m not doing a fucking car chase again. It’s just the infrastructure in Indonesia is not built for that yet. It was such a hard slot. We lost 50 percent of our shoot that day, and every single day of the car chase. Like roads wouldn’t be closed when we needed them to be closed. They would be closed for a take, and as soon as I would call cut, they would be opened again, and traffic would flood through, while we are still reversing to go back into position. It’s like we are driving backwards, and all of a sudden motorbikes would pass us. One guy swung for us. It’s stressful man, it’s hard work. So I tell them wait until March it would be worth it. But we learn from different things. We learn from mistakes not to do again. And sometimes I would do a project I would do on the side and put that to use in a film. So when I did V/H/S 2, a short film i did with Timo [Tjahjanto], I wanted to figure out how to do the POV, a perspective from one camera, there is a scene at the end that is just five or six minutes of just his perspective. Me and Timo had discussions of not doing a jump cut, we not going to cheat or edit of having a jump cut to get ourselves from one place to the next. And the problem we had was that it was set all in this one compound building, but the real set was made up of three locations and different parts of Indonesia. So started looking for movement in camera, where we could put cuts in where it would seem seamless. So where it was on a pan or a tilt, we saw that one wall had one texture, and another had similar texture. So we would come in really close in, drag across, and cut to that next wall, and now we are in a different building. That was our connective tissue from this building to the next. And that was something we used from the Raid 2, like the prison riot. We look for textures, mud textures, body textures, finding a way to get a little bit closer, like if you are a nice guy he would pick up a rock and smash it on the next guy, and then drift across the mud and go into the this fight, and them come back to this fight, and come across here following these guys climbing the fence, come back down to this guy ripping another guy’s mouth open. Come across here, and back to Iko fighting, Iko fights come around, and we go back here of Benny and Ujo fighting. We make it really look like one flow, but really it’s nine or ten shots stitched together. But by finding those textures we can go and do that, and that’s the lesson we brought one there to this.
What can we expect to see on the DVD/Blu-ray
Out of everything we have done on the production so far. We’ve had so many fight scenes, where I have said: can you stick a knife, and rip his thigh open? Can you stab a guy in the neck with a light bulb and rip it open? Can you take your trousers off? We are going to put deleted scenes on it, because we had a ton of delete scenes. As usual I have the worst track record for knowing how long it is when compared to how long the film should be. So I added a three hour cut to the first version of the film, that was already when seven or eight scenes I had already cut, so we got about 30 to 40 minutes worth of stuff, maybe not all would make it. There are a couple of action scenes we cut. Some dramatic scenes we cut. We stick all of them on it.
Did you every do a count of how many bones Rama broke in the film?
We kind of lose count every now and then. The first one somebody did a count, I don’t know how much it was, it was something like 100. I watched this video clip about a month ago, and it was about all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s kills in the three years since he started until now. There was a few times here it was like five or six people he kills, and I was kind of surprised. And then it hit Commando, and commando pushed to 100, and the weird thing about Commando is that 20 or 30 of them are in the first ten minutes, like 80 of them are in the last 15 to 20 minutes. That’s not a question I don’t know how to answer, but yeah, Rama kills a lot of people in the film. But I don’t think it’s that high in this film, it’s deceptively small. But he breaks a lot of bones.
The Raid 2 opens in theaters on March 28.