Blood, Bullets & Bodies: ‘Raid 2’s’ Gareth Evans on Great Action Films
A prison riot that turns into a bloody, muddy free-for-all. A subway siege in which a woman wielding a hammer dispatches a platoon of thugs one cracked skull at a time. A gunfight in a black-market porn-distribution warehouse that ends with thousands of bullet shells and bodies on the ground. These are just four of the numerous set pieces featured in The Raid 2, Gareth Evans’ sequel to his 2011 Indonesian-cops-versus-criminals opus that set the standard for screen carnage. But any one of those aforementioned sequences alone could wipe the floor with most action movies, much less packaged together in a film that packs more punches — and kicks, knifings, beatings, shootings and overall violence — per quota than the original. “We do want to make sure that everything we do is bigger and better than what we did previously,” Evans told us back in January, after the film’s premiere at Sundance. Mission accomplished.
How ‘The Raid 2’ Redefines Action Cinema
The Welsh-born director is nothing if not a connossieur of action movies, however, and has never shied away from praising the filmmakers who choreograohed such beautiful mayhem before him. So while he was getting ready for The Raid 2‘s release on March 28, Rolling Stone asked him to single out the five action movies that were the biggest influence on him. Here’s what he picked. DAVID FEAR
‘The Wild Bunch’ (1969)
"I grew up watching this with my dad repeatedly and endlessly — we're both big Sam Peckinpah fans. One of the big things I've taken from it is the way he uses space in the actions scenes; you know where you are at any given moment and you never wondering 'Who just got shot?' I think that last gunfight still holds up beautifully…it's 45 years old and could kick the crap out of most action sequences today! If I come even close to doing something like that sequence in my career, I'd die a happy man."
"To me, that scene is all about using action in the service of a story's emotional arc: Every time one of the Bunch drops, he makes you feel it. You actually care for each and every one of these guys, so their deaths mean something to you. And the fact that he uses a Gatling Gun to dispatch them is a nice touch. It's a movie all about the passing of the Old West, and Peckinpah has his antiheroes trying to use this new invention, the machine gun…and they're still doomed to extinction. Watch how many of them get taken out while shooting the Gatling. They're literally killed by progress! God, I love it."
‘Fist of Fury’ (1972)
"I'm a huge Bruce Lee fan, and I think I prefer this one over all of his films, even Enter the Dragon. There was something about the brutality of this film, the sheer aggressiveness of it, that makes this the one I keep going back to over and over again. When I was a kid, I was never really into superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman; seeing Bruce Lee being able to actually fight like that, with such speed and grace, he was my superhero. One thing I've tried to borrow for my films, in one way or another, is the way that Lee lets you see the anguish and the pain on his face when he loses control. Watch his face in this movie as he goes into a fit of rage —there's pain in his eyes. Whenever you see him get into a fight or start to cross the line, he becomes this kind of tragic hero. He was never just a mindless killing machine."
"As a pure action film, you can't beat this. It fucking moves! If you skip past the bullshit of Arnold Schwarzenegger feeding ice cream to his daughter and all that, once the mercenaries crash-land on his house, the movie becomes one-long extended action sequence. As a kid, I was exhilarated by the set pieces. As an adult, I'm just in awe of the structure of the film. There's this great supercut clip of all the kills in Arnold Schwarzenegger films, and it 's funny because when you get to Commando [around the 6:00 mark], the body count is 98; by the time you get to the end of the Commando clips, the count is up to something like 192! They really don't make action movies like this anymore."
‘Police Story’ (1985)
"It's hard for me to pick just one Jackie Chan movie to single out here, but you're forcing me to, so…. [Laughs] This was probably the first of his movies that I saw, and it blew my mind. That whole sequence in the shopping mall still stuns me to this day. In fact, I can't walk into a shopping mall without thinking of the movie; I'll look up at those large balconies four, five stories up and think "Jackie Chan actually jumped off of those and slide down a fucking pole to the bottom!" He fucking really did it! And he's giving a performance while he's doing it! This is a man who's risked his life several times over to entertain us. The fact he's never won an Oscar — or simply that the Oscars don't have a special category for stung coordinators — kind of dumbfounds me."
‘The Killer’ (1989)
"It's tough to choose between Hardboiled (1992) and this one when it comes to my favorite John Woo film. When it comes to pure action, you can't beat that teahouse scene in Hardboiled; the timing in that sequence is incredible. But on a story level, The Killer is my favorite. What I love about Woo's films is the way he plays around with pyrotechnics and peace and quiet. When you see action films now, they want to be brash and loud; the object is to hit you with everything they've got and just pummel you into submission. But Woo is great at using sound as something dynamic."
"Take the scene in the church: Chow Yun-Fat is shot in the shoulder, and as he's falling to the ground, most of the sound drops out and it cuts to the Virgin Mary — then the gunfire kicks right back in. But that pause he puts in there has such a huge emotional weight. It's a beautiful moment."