It's probably not too much of a stretch to say that Gareth Evans is the greatest Welsh director ever to make action movies in Indonesia.
Evans, whose new film is “The Raid 2,” met its star, Iko Uwais, in 2007 when was working on a documentary on rare martial arts styles in Indonesia; Uwais was a driver for a telecommunications company who was adept at a style called silat Betawi.
Uwais, recently in The City with Evans to promote “The Raid 2,” said their meeting had a “strange chemical click.”
Together they began making movies, and 2011’s “The Raid: Redemption” exposed them to audiences around the world. Gareth says the elaborate undercover cop story in “The Raid 2” originally was proposed for the first film, but it would have been too expensive to make. But after the success of the low-budget original, “The Raid 2” became possible.
“We kind of reverse-engineered the franchise,” says Gareth, adding that he upgraded not only the number and quality of locations, but also the equipment. He even recorded sound at Skywalker Ranch in Marin.
In “The Raid 2,” Uwais had more to do than simply fight. With no real acting experience to draw on, he says he just followed Gareth's lead.
“I'm not averse to being in dramas, but I'm more suited to action – like Jackie Chan,” he says, smiling.
The movie’s astoundingly clear, fast-paced fight sequences are its most exceptional.
“The Raid” movies are unlike most Hollywood action movies, which are “fixed in the editing,” says Gareth, who, with Uwais, designed every sequence in advance and shot according to plan.
“Every shot we do is a jigsaw piece,” Gareth says. “We know what the final scene is going to look like. We never have to sell choreography that's not being performed well.”
Gareth says he learned his craft from “stealing from people who have been doing that kind of thing way before we did.”
He cites “The Wild Bunch” as an influence, describing how Sam Peckinpah built up to an action scene by showing the space, and establishing the feel for the geography. “And then everything makes sense,” says Gareth.
The extensive planning was crucial for “The Raid 2’s” showstopping sequence, a huge brawl in a muddy prison yard. Uwais grimaces at the thought of it. “From 6 in the morning until 5:30, mud in my face, hair, everywhere, all day long,” he says. “It's disgusting.”
IF YOU GO
The Raid 2
Starring Iko Uwais, Arifin Putra, Tio Pakusadewo, Julie Estelle
Written and directed by Gareth Evans
Running time 2 hours, 30 minutes