When Welsh director Gareth Evans introduced his new movie “The Raid 2: Berandal” to invited guests at the Epicentrum theater in South Jakarta on Friday, it was the first time he had come face to face with moviegoers in Indonesia. Evans had just returned to the country from a series of screenings of the action sequel in the United States, where it was shown at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. He also traveled coast to coast, from California and Chicago to New York to promote his movies.
Even after the huge success of “The Raid,” also known as “The Raid: Redemption,” Evans is still nervous about the prospect of releasing his newest endeavor. In doing the highly anticipated sequel, it became his personal mission not to copy his own work. “Berandal,” (“Thugs”) is more expansive than its predecessor. It runs more than two hours, features a set of new characters, and a massive exploration of techniques, fight sequences and locations.
“We try to weave drama into the fight scenes, so you’re not just watching people fighting, but there’s a story line going through,” he said.
The 33-year-old said he had always wanted to make “Berandal.” The original script was written four years ago, but the production team was unable to get the $4.5 million budget that the film required. Instead, Evans made “The Raid,” which only cost him $1.2 million.
The surprise hit took the world by storm and turned Evans into a rising star as an action director. After Sony Pictures Classic acquired the rights for distribution and a remake of the movie, Evans also received offers to direct films outside Indonesia. And both the critical and financial success also meant he could finally do “Berandal.”
“When that opportunity came up, there was no way I was going to do anything else,” he said.
“The Raid 2: Berandal” picks up after Rama (Iko Uwais) leaves the drug lord’s lair at the end of the first movie.
Despite the raging violence and loss of life, the raid turned out to be a small operation, and Rama is in danger of exposing himself to Bangun (Tio Pakusadewo) and his family, the city’s ultimate crime lord who is himself associated with the Japanese yakuza.
To protect his family, Rama goes undercover as a prisoner named Yuda. He is instructed by the chief of the anti-corruption task force, Bunawar (Cok Simbara), to earn the trust and respect of Bangun’s son, Uco (Arifin Putra), who is in jail.
Behind the screen, “Berandal” resembles a one-man show, as Evans was in charge of writing, directing and editing the movie. Filming stretched up to seven months, about a month over schedule. Actor Oka Antara, who plays Eka in “Berandal,” said that Evans was the type of director who knew the shots he wanted to put into his movies.
Evans said he liked to keep his shots practical and far away from computer-generated images.
“Berandal” is undoubtedly violent, but Evans said his movie “is not repulsively violent,” and that there was a purpose to every scene.
“It’s designed to make the audience feel the shock,” he said. “When you hear people react, you would feel a communal atmosphere.” His kind of violence, as seen in “Berandal,” is, in Evans’ own words, “ridiculous” and “cartoonish.” After all, he makes movies to entertain people.
“It’s OK to laugh at it because it’s not real, it’s not designed to be taken 100 percent seriously,” he said.
Although Evans leaves the choreography to Iko and Yayan Ruhiyan, he still talks passionately about Indonesian martial arts, silat. Hammer Girl, a new female character played by Julie Estelle, is an embodiment of silat harimau as previously seen in his debut film “Merantau.” This time, the character uses a pair of hammers as claws.
To incorporate fighting scenes in the movie, Evans treats the choreography like music. He likes to clap along with every kick and punch to create the rhythm of the scene.
A Hollywood remake of “The Raid: Redemption” is currently in the works. Screen Gems, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, has assigned the helm to “The Expendables 3” director Patrick Hughes. Evans, who is co-executive producer, said the remake would follow his movie, but he wanted to give Hughes the freedom to do something different.
“They can do anything with it, I don’t care, it’s all good,” he said.
Evans himself is looking into a couple of possibilities of filming outside Indonesia, possibly in his native Britain or the United States. Even so, he said it was unlikely that he would work for a big Hollywood studio because he liked to take control of his movies. He said he would prefer to work on movies with a budget of $30 million to $40 million.
“If it’s like $90 million up to $200 million, then it gets made by the studio, you’re just calling the shots,” he said.
He will also be working as action director with “Killers” co-director Timo Tjahjanto for a Joe Taslim action movie called “The Night Comes for Us.”
“The Raid 2: Berandal” opened in Indonesia on Friday./The Jakarta Globe