THE RAID: REDEMPTION has been a global sensation since its release, and it has been billed as one of the best action films of the decade. It is also tremendously violent, and is definitely not for the faint-of-heart! InCinemas sat down with THE RAID director Gareth Evans in a fun and engaging 25-minute InC-terview at the Goodwood Park Hotel on Wednesday evening.
[Image of director Gareth Evans, and actor Iko Uwais]
Q: How did THE RAID: REDEMPTION come about in the first place?
Gareth: THE RAID was something that came out of a lot of frustration for us. After the silat action film Merantau, we wanted to get Berandal made first, and that was a much bigger project. We spent a year and a half trying to get the budget in place for that film. But we couldn't get it. We just couldn't get the money in time for the film.
When that fell through, I told myself we had to make something quick, a backup project, a 'Plan B', and that was what THE RAID became. So THE RAID was literally me saying "Just go for it, go with the flow, and see what we can do with it." Budget limitations helped to form the story like that it would be set in one building, which we could just shoot, and maximize our hours.
Q: Are there any films that have inspired you to make THE RAID: REDEMPTION? How have these films influenced you in some way or another?
Gareth: Yeah, a lot of films. Stepping away from obvious influences like Asian cinema, which kinda like influenced the action of the film, a lot of my main structural story influences came from American films like Assault on Precinct 13, Die Hard, and The Warriors, you know, classic action films.
We were able to mix a lot of different genres together. When I was writing THE RAID, I noticed that if we took all the action out, what we were left with was the structure of a survival horror film, you know, the idea of people being hunted. So when that kind of kicked in, I realized we could do anything with it. We could add any element we wanted.
And then I got interested in the idea that we didn't had to follow the same rules of a martial arts film. So we had scenes like a machete stabbing through the wall, you know, scenes that are horror genre film scenes. It was about finding a way to make it all work and feel organic in the film.
Q: How was your working relationship like with actor Iko Uwais?
Gareth: He's like a little brother to me. Every chance I get, I'd pick on him. We've worked together now for two films and one documentary, but it's not like one project ends and we don't see each other till the next one starts.
We work in the same office, and we would always constantly come out with new things that we want to do for choreography, and to see how we want to push the next film. We kinda hang out with each other so much that he is becoming like a family. He's like a little brother I never had.
- Catch actor and fight choreographer Iko Uwais' stunning fight scenes that are built upon the artistry of traditional silat martial arts, and the raw power of his hand-to-hand combat techniques in THE RAID: REDEMPTION!
Q: THE RAID: REDEMPTION has been passed clean without any cuts with an M18 rating for violence here in Singapore. Would you still release your film here if it was censored in some form or another?
Gareth: It's actually the distributor's decision. Obviously, I don't want my films to be cut. I'm not a fan of it. I didn't make this film to play in a specific country. As long as it gets released in some format somewhere around the world in a version that I'm satisfied with, then that's fine.
I also have respect for other countries' censorship laws. So what may be cut in another country, may not be cut here. It becomes something of how far do you want to push it to make sure that it is fully uncut, to the point that only a handful of people are going to see the film.
The lack of audiences will cost the distributor money, and then they will lose faith in you and your next project. It's a fine balance between really being possessive of your work, but at the same time, having an understanding of the business of it. As long as the cuts don't affect the storyline, then I am okay with it. If you can justify the reasons behind the violence as opposed to it being splatter, you usually will get people to come around to your way of thinking.
Q: How do you feel about the brutal violence depicted in the film?
Gareth: It was important to kind of make people have a reaction, but not to repulse them. I don't want people to come away feeling that they have seen something disgusting. I want people to come out of the theatre thinking that "Whoa, that film was violent, but it was fun while it was on".
You know like in some horror films, when someone's neck is cut, you would see the wound close-up, you would see the blood gushing out. But we weren't doing that. We had the camera safe at a wide point, so everything you think you see is just in your head. So basically, I'm making the audience as sick as me then. It's audience participation, so it's all good.
Q: How did you make the violence so realistic and gruesome in the film?
Gareth: We killed people. It was all real blood. Real people dead. Nah, I'm just kidding. I'd a very, very talented CG guy in Indonesia, a freelance guy. So he did all those things. He figured out how to make the blood look real.
So, for example, for the thigh ripping scene with a knife, on the set we would just pre-cut the trousers and use the handle of a knife, and place it down on the person's thigh and just slide across it. And my CG guy would just go ahead and add all the blood and flesh rip and everything else in the editing room. It's kinda grim, but it's fun as well to see how the whole process works.
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Q: What was the most challenging scene that you had to do?
Gareth: Probably the 'Hole Drop' scene where the actors had to drop from a hole on the floor onto a lower floor level. But it's not because of anything related to camera movements or the physical action itself. It was more of the location that we had to shoot the scene in.
[Find out how they shot the 'Hole Drop' scene in this special featurette!]
We wanted to build a two-storey set inside a studio, but all the studios that were high enough for it, they were booked out. So we ended up having to use an indoor badminton court, and that court had a tin roof. And if you ever been to Indonesia, it gets really, really hot around noon time. The temperature becomes crazy. It was like about 40-42 degree Celsius. It was so hot in there. We literally had no energy left. Even when we shot some of the scenes at night, it was still very, very hot.
Q: There was also a lot of work done with the sound design in the film. Can you tell us more about it?
Gareth: Yes absolutely. The thing that I was most proud of was the gunfire sound effects, because when it came to the machine guns that the SWAT team used, they were using them with suppressors on them. All the library sound effects had the cheesy 1970 'pew-pew-pew' sound, so we wanted to get rid of those, we didn't want to use them at all.
So I sat down with my sound editors and designers and told them we had to figure something out, to do something cool. It didn't had to sound real, but it had to feel right for the film. So I told them, let's just focus on the mechanics of the gun, the movement on the inside of the barrel, the sound of the trigger etc., and just whack a lot of bass in the subwoofer so that when you hear the gunshots, it will go like 'Voom Voom!' and hit you in the stomach. So that was basically what we did. We created our own sound effects. The second reel of the film was really incredible, I feel.
Q: How will the sequel, Berandal, be different from THE RAID: REDEMPTION?
Gareth: For THE RAID, we were shooting in this dark, dingy little building, where we wanted to kind of go a bit low-light on some aspects, so that we could lose that whole super-clean video sheen that you get from high-definition these days. We wanted to give it more texture, a rougher feel, something like 16mm indie films from the 1970s and 1980s like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or something.
For the sequel, we are dealing with a different group of people as compared to the low-life, thuggish kind of gangsters in THE RAID. We are dealing with sort of like the elitist, high society gangsters, and that will be reflected in the cinematography. We are probably going to shoot in scope actually, a wider lens maybe, and go for a more glossy feel.
I don't want to repeat the same thing. If we try to copy what we did in THE RAID, we will just be overthinking everything. And rest assured, I want to make Berandal exactly as how I first wrote it. So fingers crossed, we can do that, starting January next year then. It's going to be fun!
[Trailer for THE RAID: REDEMPTION]
THE RAID: REDEMPTION is rated M18 (Violence), and opens InCinemas 17 May 2012.