THE RAID is a tough act to follow. Even for writer/director Gareth Evans.
A visual representation of how prepared I was for THE RAID Enlarge
How does one improve upon perfection? – “Perfection” (or at least its closest approximation) being a synonym for “THE RAID”, at least in action circles. 2011’s unexpected Indonesian knockout from Welshman Gareth Evans is widely accepted as the defining actioner of the new millennium, and arguably the best of all time. So how could anyone, even the dude who made the damn thing, go about improving upon something like that?
Simple – Expand the Scope…
Scope expanded to include mud and haircuts Enlarge
I’m not necessarily equating an expanded scope with superiority. In fact, THE RAID was so affecting primarily because it was claustrophobic, cloistered and confined. This racked the tension to nigh unbearable levels, only to shatter on the back of an impossibly sophisticated fight scenes.
But while THE RAID was a taut 100 minute survival story, THE RAID 2: Berandal is a sweeping 150 minute crime epic. It’s a different story. It’s a different setting. It’s a different tone. But with the same cast and crew. This frees them up to delight you in new, exciting and (most importantly), gory ways. But enough with the ambiguity - Let’s get specific up in here!
While the original was set almost exclusively within the confines of a tenement block, Berandal has the length and breadth of Jakarta to contend with. That’s an entire city’s worth of playground. It’s also a gangster film, so Gareth Evans stuffed it with Indonesia’s finest players, notably Tio Pakusadewo. Regardless, with a population of 9.6 million, there are bound to be a few ‘big personalities’ to interact with.
And by ‘big personalities’ I could only mean assassins with NOVELTY WEAPONS! Without knocking the innovation of the original’s Machete Gang, Berandal boasts self-explanatory characters like ‘Hammer Girl’, ‘Baseball Bat Guy’ and some dude I can only assume will be revealed as ‘Sword Wielding Hobo!’
A fighter's weapon choice says alot about him. This one says 'clang' Enlarge
The latter is actually a returning Yayan Ruhian. He embodied Mad Dog in the original and probably scared the crap out of you in the process. But he’s also the brains of the Merantau Films Stunt Team, co-choreographer of all the fights with leading man Iko Uwais. And in a recent interview let slip that there will be nineteen fight scenes in Berandal.
THE RAID had five.
And I’m not even convinced that includes miscellaneous action scenes, like foot-chases, stunt sequences, shoot-outs or Berandal’s much publicised car chase. While THE RAID breathed new life into the tired corridor shoot-out, Berandal takes to Jakarta’s highways for a multi-vehicle convoy of carnage. Shot with Go-Pro 3 cameras, the crew closed off highway sections between 6am and 6pm, strapping themselves to the sides of moving vehicles for a more authentic feel. Cameramen even hid in costumes and mounted rigs just to accommodate some of the dynamic long-shots Gareth Evans had in his deliciously warped mind.
This fight scene was so intense it demanded TWO production stills Enlarge
But for all its change in scope and focus, Berandal will live and die on the quality of its fighting. As such Iko and Yayan insisted on 18 solid months of fight prep before shooting. They also dedicated the latter 6 drilling martial proficiency into the likes of Julie Estelle (Hammer Girl) and ensured all fights were FULL-CONTACT. Yes indeed, with the exception of head-shots, everything you see in Berandal is what you get. No padding, no tricks. Just discipline and control.
A real kick that really happened to a real sternum. Enlarge
Gareth Evans knows precisely why people love him, evidenced by the fact he spend six whole weeks designing the grand finale – a massive six and a half minute one on one between loveable underdog and titular ‘thug’ Iko Uwais and knife-wielding Silat Grand Master Cecep Arif Rahman. And if there was any doubt as to the projected intensity levels, shooting had to stop every 20-30 minutes so the make-up crew could more accurately paint on damage to combatants.
Make Up Dept: "More Blood. More bruising. Fewer intact noses." Enlarge
THE RAID 2: Berandal will annihilate Irish cinemas on April 11th.
Expect it to be 2014’s highlight!