Interview: Gareth Evans (2012) The Raid: Redemption

The Raid: Redemption is a high-octane film unlike any other in recent history. The story is gritty, the action is non-stop and the deaths are as spectacular as they are gruesome. If you love world-class martial arts and intense gun battles, but haven’t heard of this film, don’t worry; you will. Gareth Evans, who wrote, directed and edited The Raid: Redemption was available to shed some light on this wondrous creation of nearly inhuman physical feats.

“I’ve always been obsessed with martial arts films since I was a kid,” Gareth Evans admits. “I watched them growing up since I was four- or five-years-old. First one was Enter the Dragon. And you’re watching Bruce Lee in that film…when you see it you’re thinking that this guy is like a real life superhero. He’s doing things which normal human beings can’t do.” That experience had a profound effect on Evans who then moved through the works of more contemporary film fighters, like Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen to name a few. “I was a huge fan of the genre, but I never thought I’d be making films in that genre. I always thought I’d be making more sort of thrillers and dramas in the UK.”

In The Raid: Redemption a police special-forces team is sent into a rundown apartment block to take down the local crime boss. Unfortunately, plans go awry and the tenants begin hunting the police who are forced to fight their way out with whatever means necessary – sometimes resorting to martial arts. These moments showcase one of the more unique aspects of the film, which is Pencak Silat – an Indonesian fighting style. “I’d seen Kung Fu. I’d seen Muay Thai. I’d seen Karate, Aikido, Judo, you know, everything else, but I’d never seen Silat before,” Evans says. “When I saw Silat for the first time, all I wanted to do was kind of show this to my friends back home that I watched those movies with…. I wanted them to see how cool Silat was.” Unfortunately, Evans didn’t find any films that did the fighting style cinematic justice. “These were cool movies, like cult movies, but the choreography, it didn’t hold up the same way that Hong Kong action films held up…. These films kind of borrowed a little too much mysticism to them which kind of made them more cult pieces rather than true to Silat.”

While the story seems completely plausible in some of the more dangerous parts of the world, Evans says that The Raid: Redemption is completely fictional in terms of Indonesia where the film is set. “At least I hope it is,” he jokes. “The whole concept of it came from wanting to and needing to do a second film and having to bring it under a certain budget level.” Once Evans realized he had a limited budget, he decided that entire story would take place inside one building, and he began researching by watching movies with a similar concept, like Die Hard and Assault on Precinct 13.

Those familiar with The Raid: Redemption probably know it by its original title, simply The Raid. Evans explains the name change. “Truthfully, we wanted to keep The Raid. We wanted to keep it as just The Raid because it was a much more streamlined simple idea, but it literally became a legal issue. We couldn’t get clearance on it.” The struggle apparently went on for some time to stick with the original title, but the filmmaker and studio finally relented. “We just couldn’t get it. It was beyond our control – beyond Sony’s control.”

Fortunately, Evans had already considered doing a sequel and thought about naming conventions for subsequent films. “We thought, ‘OK, maybe the second one could be called The Raid – Something or other,” Evans explains, “to kind of like follow suit. But then once we realized that we needed to do that for the first movie, then we looked for something that would be part of the subplots of the film and redemption was one of those things….” Evans admits that the extra word is a bit of a spoiler, but they had spent five months trying to raise awareness of the film and they weren’t about to name the movie something completely different. “It had to be something and redemption was the least shitty version of what everyone suggested,” Evans laughs.

The Raid: Redemption is a novelty in Hollywood, not only because of its unflinching and superbly crafted violence, but also because it’s an Indonesian film. This movie could herald a demand for more cinema from Indonesia, but that doesn’t seem to be a conscious goal for Evans. “In terms of raising the profile for Indonesian films…I don’t think that’s down to The Raid or down to me or anything like that at all. I think purely when it comes to [Indonesian] films, if they sell it’s down to…a lot of different factors. Will the film travel well? Is there universal appeal about it? I’d be very happy and very proud if as a result of [The Raid] there are people who kind of want to see more from Indonesia, but I think we need to be in a position where we shift the way our Indonesian films are being made right now. Because in Indonesia, the independents are the ones making the interesting stuff and the studios are doing very cheap films which are not very good and low quality. That’s sound aggressive to say, but fuck it, they’ve killed the market for a long time…. The studios need to put more money into less films…we need to make quality films, not just so that we can kind of spread these films out on an international level, but for the local audience to be proud that they want to go and support these films.”

The Raid: Redemption opens in theaters on March 23, 2012.