The Raid 2 was one of the few movies to blow the roof off this year’s Sundance film festival.
At its world premiere screening, anticipation for the martial arts sequel was high and it didn’t disappoint, sending festival goers into a dizzying spell of broken bones and extreme violence.
A few months later the film is now being released theatrically and preview audiences have embraced it with the same love Sundancers did back in January. Much like its predecessor The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2 (no subtitle this time) is a hard-edged action film shot in Indonesia with a lot of passion and fearless stuntmen. Gareth Evans is back in the director’s chair along with his action star leading man Iko Uwais to continue the story which this sequel picks up moments after the original film ends.
The Raid 2 is more expansive than the original Raid which was mostly set in very tight quarters on a lean budget. On a recent trip to San Francisco to promote The Raid 2 director Gareth Evans and a very tired Iko Uwais spoke to Hypable about putting this bigger sequel together and how extreme the violence really got on set. The following is a transcription of that conversation.
Hypable: After seeing this finished version of the film and the previous unrated cut at Sundance, I barely noticed any changes. How were you able to get through the MPAA ratings board with so few changes?
Gareth Evans: We were very lucky because the changes were minimal. We did make some changes but they’re so subtle like cutting a couple of frames here and there. Also, there were some issues with Hammer Girl where she impacts to the flesh. Impacts to the flash are okay but impacts to the flesh and dragging the body are not. I trimmed here and there and thankfully you didn’t notice, which is great for me. (laughs)
Hypable: Yeah, after seeing the Sundance cut with tons of unrated violence I figured there was no way that version would survive the ratings board. It’s very surprising it did and I figured there would be at least two major changes.
Evans: Oh man, tell me. (laughs)
(mild spoilers follow)
Hypable: The baseball bat to the face and the shotgun blast to the face in the final scene.
Evans: (laughs) I thought that shot would give us problems with every censorship across the board but so far so good. There is also the shot of the cop’s grilled face but you don’t see it. It’s all implied with sound effects. There’s also the motorbiker.
Hypable: Yes, who gets a machine gun to the face.
Evans: Yes, but you don’t see his face.
Hypable: During pre-production did you plan the action sequences carefully at all to avoid any future problems with the MPAA?
Evans: No, I just shoot what I want to shoot and hopefully it gets through. I don’t want to start censoring myself during the shoot because then I’ll start second guessing myself all the time. I just want to shoot what I want straight through and hope it turns out ok. Granted, after making three movies I’ve also learned that I should probably have an alternate shot or at least have a second camera running to get a less violent version of what’s just happened. (laughs)
Hypable: But in the world of unrated DVD versions of films I’m sure you can put the original cut of the film out there.
Evans: Yeah, I’m sure I could. Not to sound weird and possessive but I do want those extra frames in there. It makes a difference for the film and it obviously makes a difference for the MPAA. It changes it for me too when they’re gone. Trimming those frames is fine but it’s not quite right, it’s not quite there. I also have about 30 minutes of deleted scenes I want to put on the DVD. Some of the scenes aren’t a big loss and some were.
Hypable: Were these expositional scenes?
Evans: No, we had three executions plus the scene of Iko beating up the politician’s son and then we had a huge shootout during a street festival. We shot that one for about 5 or 6 days and spent a lot of money on it but when it came time for the final edit that scene didn’t work.
Hypable: You’re juggling a lot of characters and story during the two hours and twenty minutes of the film. How easy or difficult was it to keep everything balanced?
Evans: The hardest part was trying to make sure the rhythm was right between scenes. Making sure the characters were fine was easy because we mostly shot in chronological order.
Hypable: I think it’s great you brought back Yayan Ruhian for this sequel but in a different role. He has great action scenes in both movies but I was surprised and almost didn’t recognize him when I saw him in The Raid 2. Did you have any concerns that people might get confused seeing him play a different character in this sequel since he had such a memorable presence in the original?
Evans: No, not at all. The character in this movie was written for him because this script existed before the original Raid existed so the character of Prakoso was always going to be Yayan. And if I’m going to do a martial arts film I want Yayan in there anyway because he’s such a talent and great to have around. For this sequel if I had made him a twin brother of his character Mad Dog from the original Raid that would’ve been terrible.
Hypable: He could’ve been like Van Damme.
Evans: (laughs) Double Impact with Yayan.
Hypable: Iko, how closely did you work with the stunt team before shooting started and how close were some of those body blows we see in the film?
Iko Uwais: We only did a few takes, 2 mostly just to get things right. The thing about the stunt team is we are all friends but for the sake of the movie, we are all friends who must make full contact. There is a huge level of trust between us so the end result looks believable on camera. We need to make full contact so it looks real but at the same time we need to trust each other so we don’t hurt each other.
Evans: The body hits are real but the face is too dangerous because one hit to the head that goes wrong and we’re screwed.
Hypable: Based on the way this film ends, it’s safe to assume there will be another sequel. Is that what’s next for you?
Evans: No, I’m going to do two other projects first. I have an idea for a movie in the U.K. and one in the U.S. The one in the U.K. is with Universal and it’s the true story of a UFC fighter who masterminded the biggest robbery in the U.K.’s history. It’s a fascinating story and we don’t have a title yet but it’s the story of a guy named Lee Murray. The other one is with MRC and it’s something I’m also writing called Blister. It’s my take on the contemporary American gangster story with echoes of The Wild Bunch. Then after those two the plan is to come back and do two more films in Indonesia, one of them being The Raid 3.
Hypable: Speaking of movie titles, the U.S. title of the film is The Raid 2. It’s a very simple and clean title but outside the U.S. it’s also known as The Raid 2: Berendal. I know this is strictly a cosmetic question but which title do you prefer?
Evans: (laughs) You’re going to get me in trouble with that question. You’re getting me to take the piss out of The Raid: Redemption
Hypable: (laughs) Since we’re going there, what’s your take on the original movie’s title switch from The Raid to The Raid: Redemption?
Evans: (laughs) Since we’re going there? Do we have to?
Hypable: Yes, because it’s still a mystery who gets redeemed and why.
Evans: (laughs) I know. For me, we couldn’t call the original film The Raid for legal issues but we wanted to keep the title The Raid in there somewhere so we called it The Raid: Redemption I don’t remember whose idea it was, I really don’t. But after that I was worried they might call this sequel The Raid 2: Retaliation.
Hypable: Are you involved at all with the planned U.S. remake of The Raid?
Evans: No. I have a say in certain things but for the most part I don’t want to. When I made the original I didn’t have anyone telling me what to do. I got to make the original Raid any way I wanted and if I had any budget issues I had to figure out creative ways to solve them. Patrick Hughes who is doing the remake is a great director and as long as they let him do what he wants I think the remake can be great because the only thing that needs to stay the same is the initial concept. After that the film can go off in a different direction. I’m still cautiously optimistic to see what he does with it.
Hypable: The score by Joseph Trapanese is amazing. I know Mike Shinoda is not back for the sequel but the music is still great. How closely did you work together or did you give him free reign on the score?
Evans: Nice! I gave him free reign and he always knows what he wants. If there’s ever a track that doesn’t work I tell him straight up but otherwise I listen to his ideas and try to guide very subtly.
Hypable: Whose idea was it to put those Nine Inch Nails tracks at the end?
Evans: (laughs) Mine.
Hypable: You’re obviously going from city to city answering a lot of questions. Is there one question you wish would go away?
Evans: Why is a Welshman in Indonesia making films? That’s the one I always get and you didn’t ask it so thank you so fucking much (laughs).
The Raid 2 is now playing in wide release.