The Sundance Film Festival is known for premiering thoughtful, dramatic independent films about deep, serious issues. But this year, one of the most sought-after tickets is for a martial arts sequel with car crashes, gun fights, and some of the most insane hand-to-hand combat ever put on film. It's called "The Raid 2," and as you can see from the exclusive trailer premiere, it's going to be a wild ride.
The film is director Gareth Evans' follow-up to his surprise cult hit, "The Raid: Redemption," which earned a league of devoted fans when it hit theaters in 2012. In a phone conversation with Yahoo Movies, the Wales native Evans admitted that he had no expectations for the first movie outside of Indonesia where he shot the film. Evans said, "All of our focus was purely on local box office and trying to hopefully make something that would connect with an Indonesian audience." But the movie was accepted to the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the Midnight Madness Award and became a critical favorite.
Part of the appeal of "The Raid" was how it featured the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat, which had been largely unseen by Western audiences previous to this. In the sequel, Evans is once again working with pencak silat experts Iko Uwais — who stars as the lead character Rama — and fight choreographer Yayan Ruhian. Evans told us that his core team spends three months in preparation for the stunt scenes. Evans said they work out "every element, every location and prop and what we need," and then shoot "video storyboards" to plan out all the shots. Then after casting their actors, they spend another three months in rehearsals to have each punch, kick, and flip perfected before the cameras even roll.
The first movie was set almost entirely in one massive apartment building, following Officer Rama up 20 stories to get to the kingpin holed up at the top floor. "The Raid 2" opens up the sequel to the whole of Jarkarta, which meant a new level of stunts as well, including car chases. Evans said they brought in Hong Kong stunt legend Bruce Law ("Hard Boiled," Jackie Chan's "Supercop") and his team to work on the car stunts: "They came over to help us execute our ideas with that, so we were able to experience that so we could minimize the amount of damage that we were doing."
Evans revealed that while the fights in the movie look extremely dangerous and painful, injuries on set usually happen unexpectedly on some of the more minor stunts. He said, "It could be something really simple like a little grab, a little elbow, or something or other that just the timing's off, and then somebody just gets hit for real or they fall wrong. Those are the things where we get the more serious injuries." He added a few performers got sent to the hospital for check-ups, but no one suffered anything more serious than a concussion. Evans said, "We kind of stay a little bit old-fashioned in terms of how we execute the stunts, but the priority, obviously, is always to make sure that everyone that's in the film lives to see it by the end of the movie."
"The Raid 2" premieres at the Sundance Film Festival on Tuesday night, and then opens in limited release on March 28.