Writer/director/John Woo junkie Gareth Evans assembled action genre euphoria with The Raid: Redemption, a film that made an artform out of ass-kicking, while utilizing filmmaking that laid hundreds of shakicam movies to shame. In front of the camera, the hero was Rama, a SWAT member played by Iko Uwais, who had to fight his way to the top of an apartment complex filled with adversaries. With that film's well-deserved success, Evans and his Indonesian star Uwais (who also writes the choreography) now return with The Raid 2: Berandal, which was originally intended to be made before The Raid: Redemption.
Uwais has only appeared in four films including The Raid: Berandal. He was discovered by Evans when the filmmaker was making a documentary in Indonesia in 2007. Two years later, the duo c/ollaborated for the first time on Merantau, where Uwais married his Pencak Silat style to Evans' incredible filmmaking. The two then made The Raid: Redemption, which was released in 2011. Before appearing in that film's sequel, he worked with Keanu Reeves on the actor's directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. With a third Raid film in the works, Uwais is also listed on IMDb to assist with the fight choreography on the English language remake of The Raid: Redemption.
I recently spoke with Uwais over the phone, with an occasional appearance made by his translator. We discussed the difference between the two films, his work with Keanu Reeves, his love for Jackie Chan, and more.
The Raid: Berendal opens in Chicago on April 4. How would you describe the reaction to the first film 'The Raid: Redemption'? How did that influence what you wanted to do with its sequel, 'The Raid 2: Berandal'? The reaction for the first film was very unexpected; we won "Midnight Madness" [at the Toronto International Film Festival]! For this second film, I felt more confident. I realized that the audience would expect differently, some would expect a second film to be better than the first, or the opposite. But because Gareth and I worked together so closely, we could do better choreography in the second movie. We tried to give the unexpected to the audience for the second movie, which I think is better than the first.
How did the 'The Raid 2: Berandal' benefit from being put on hold? Is the movie different now from when it was originally conceived as the first film?
Because this film was meant to be the first, the fight choreography was always there. It has been there for a while. The difference is that when the two films switched order, we had to change the choreography of The Raid: Redemption. We then made The Raid 2: Berandal to be more intense.
'The Raid 2: Berandal' might have a bigger scope than the previous film, but it also has numerous tight spaces for these fight scenes. How did these locations prove a challenge to you?
It's challenging in terms of choreography. If we had too small spaces, we had to adjust the location or space of it. If its in a car, then we have to adjust the choreography of the car.
How do you and Gareth bond in terms of building the choreography within your films?
We exchange references. I will show him some film that involves the martial art of Pencak Silat, some action movie from the past. Then Gareth will show me martial arts scenes from movies like Jackie Chan films, and we would make the comparisons between the two. He should show me martial arts from other parts of the world, like kung fu, the Chinese martial art.
You took a brief break from working with Gareth to appear in Keanu Reeves' directorial debut, 'Man of Tai Chi'. How was the experience working with Keanu different than working with Gareth?
Of course there are differences between working with Gareth, as I know Gareth personally. But working with Keanu is also very exciting because he is one of the best known actors in the U.S. The pace of work is a little bit different however. I learned a lot in terms of acting form Keanu, and working together is very cooperative between me and Gareth. The working pace between myself and Keanu is also great and exciting.
Are you a fan of any recent action movies?
I am more into martial arts films, and the movies of Jackie Chan. I have learned a lot from him and his movies, and he is kind of my inspiration when I am working on my own movies. I have seen a lot of his films, and they become a part of a lot of references that we make.
What is your favorite Jackie Chan movie?
I like all of them. Tokyo Story, and Mr. Nice Guy.