Director Gareth Evans
Photo by Akhirwan Nurhaidir and Gumilar Triyoga, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
An Interview with Gareth Evans, Writer/Director/Editor of
THE RAID 2
By Joshua Handler
Gareth Evans is a one-of-a-kind auteur. Welsh-born, but Indonesian-based, Evans has found major success with his last two films: The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2, two hyper-violent action films that combine gun violence with Silat, a form of Indonesian martial arts. This past Friday, The Raid 2 opened wide in the United States, and I was fortunate to talk with Evans about the film. I loved the film and reviewed it here.
While The Raid 2 has a well-structured and intriguing dramatic story, the reason the film is great is its action. Says Evans on creating the action sequences, "I'll come to [the choreographers] with...a scenario...'Well this is the fighter, these are the bad guys, this is their weapon...this is what they have, and this is what you have. This is the environment, the location, the props...the skill set of everyone involved,' and I say, 'Okay I'll be back in about 20 or 30 minutes. You come up with six different ways to beat up six different guys...using these props, using this environment...then they'll present to me,' and then usually what'll happen is I'll start to add some of the character to it...
"There should be punchline moments in each of the fight sequences, and usually they consist of about 2 minutes, 3 minutes long, and we should have about four to five punchlines in that space and time, and the punchline is kind of like the big killshot, the big...stunt moments where people have to take a breath when they see them. We put one in and then we slow down again then build up again...until we reach our next punchline. The last step...is that we film everything but we film it all using a handy cam in an office space with crash mats everywhere, and we film it exactly the same as we would do it for the final film. So I'm basically designing my shot list, I'm figuring out every angle and every edit for the fight scene so when we get to the...production stage, we have this video to use as a reference."
In addition to the stunning choreography, Evans also had to take into consideration how the action sequences built character and fit into the story as a whole. "Whenever it came to a fight sequence, it wasn't because we were on page 10 or page 12, it was because it organically felt right to have a fight sequence in that situation. [T]he fight sequences [also] to feel like they had a purpose beyond just the visceral thrills...
"The prison riot, for example, was something where we started off by setting up the paranoia in the character, and then...maybe he's going to come under attack, then realizing that he's not the target...of the attack - it's the guy that he's supoosed to be getting close with that's under attack, and if he gets killed then his whole mission is ruined...and so he ends up having to become bodyguard and protector of that guy because otherwise he's going to have to rot in prison for two to three years for no reason whatsoever...
"On the surface level it's like a seven-minute prison riot and it's spectacle, but...by the end of the scene, there's a complete change in personality in character motivation and character arc for these two guys."
For the now-famous car chase sequence, Evans and crew used CGI only for "touch-ups." Everything else is real. In The Raid: Redemption, there is a sequence in which the camera passes through a hole in the floor from one floor to another in a single take. Evans said he wanted to do the same thing again, but this time between two cars. "Let's just try it and if we do it and the behind-the-scenes footage is good, you look like a fucking hero," said Evans to co-director of photography Matt Flannery. The only CGI used in that sequence is during the shot in which the camera passes between the two cars - the door was added in digitally.
With The Raid 2, Evans wanted to question how far are we willing to follow the hero through sadistic acts. "When I was a kid growing up, whenever I'd watch action films with my dad," recalled Evans, "my dad [would] always be the...guide in terms of...what was acceptable...and what was unacceptable." If Evans' dad deemed something unacceptable, he would send the kids out of the room. "Violence can be visceral and be aggressive. It can be...an entertainment thing...but the part where [Evans' dad]...drew the line was cruel violence...and I think what we do is kind of obscure the line a bit...If somebody's...impacted in some way, it's not about...holding on that shot to see all of the pain and suffering that that person's going through...it's usually about a real quick, sharp, shocking moment of...violence that kind of takes your breath away for a second before we cut away then to show something else...By focusing on...those breathtaking moments as opposed to those scenes that make you feel like you want to wretch...by keeping on having those breathtaking moments, it creates this sort of communal atmosphere of...shock without people hopefully being repulsed by the film."
Many will be repulsed by The Raid 2, but even more will be thrilled by the beautifully-shot and choreographed action sequences, the well-developed characters, and the overall craft of the film. The Raid 2 is now open across the United States.