Gareth Evans is one of the best martial arts directors working today. His work on The Raid (2011) alone is enough to win him such praise. A bloody, brutal, skull crushing, bone-snapping, 101 minute joyride, The Raid feels like it features 90 minutes of hand-to-hand combat. Its run time makes the 3:41 fight scene with no cuts in Tony Jaa’s The Protector seem fleeting and the pace of its brutality makes Jet Li’s Unleashed feel restrained. And it’s plot was so good that Karl Urban’s Dredd ripped it off.
Not that there was any real plot outside of setup: a twenty man SWAT team in Jakarta raids a tenement ruled by a drug lord. Before you can say “it’s a trap,” all sorts of truly astonishing, as in “I sure hope no one got hurt in that scene,” martial arts and urban combat mayhem ensues. Here’s a taste:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf82xMr5fGg
Gareth is smart enough to take advantage of every scenario and not simply rely on the physicality of his leads to make a scene sizzle. The film takes full advantage of the layout of the tenement and takes into account the strategy of the opposing sides to keep even hardcore martial arts fans fully enthralled.
The Raid was not a film about the fluidity of movement but about the efficiency of the strike. And Iko Uwais is very efficient in his movements. In Iko Uwais, Gareth has found both a frequent collaborator, prior to The Raid they filmed Merantau together, and a budding star. Having a similar style to Tony Jaa, although not as powerfully built, Iko Uwais seems lighter and quicker in his movements. In part that could be because the silat and the SWAT team fighting styles combined with the pace of the film doesn’t allow for much posturing. He is also a far better actor than Jaa being able to portray a wider array of emotion on his face. He makes an easy hero to root for.
For their follow up to The Raid, the duo made the decision to bring back other frequent collaborator, Yayan Ruhian. Argumentatively, the tiny in stature Yayan is the better martial artist. His two marquee fight scenes in The Raid were so good that not only did they nearly steal the limelight from Iko Uwais but they are nearly enough to make you root for the bad guy.
Now this trio of collaborators are about to release The Raid 2: Brendal later this month. The plot…it’s a martial arts film does anyone care about the plot? The fight scenes, well see for yourself below, but Gareth Evans is making some bold promises with this trailer:
Here is hoping that The Raid 2 is more Drunken Master 2 than Ong-bak 2.