The line of people wrapped along Sunset Blvd. Wednesday outside the Harmony Gold Theatre was a testament to the fan base that “The Raid” franchise has garnered since “The Raid: Redemption” was released in 2011.
“The Raid 2: Berandal,” the sequel to helmer Gareth Evans’ original Indonesian martial arts pic, premiered at Sundance earlier this year and its Los Angeles debut elicited gasps, screams and cheers from the audience with its intense and violent action sequences.
Evans, who also penned and edited the film, joked about the violent nature of his franchise before the screening began, calling “The Raid 2” a “mild PG-13 drama.”
Evans then introduced star Iko Uwais, who demonstrated his martial arts talents for the audience, before closing with a fair warning for those about to see the film: “Enjoy the violence.”
But, as Evans and Uwais explained, the violence isn’t just a gimmick — each of the fight scenes are carefully choreographed martial arts sequences.
Uwais, who has been practicing traditional Indonesian martial arts since age 10, told Variety (with the help of a translator) that his parents were martial arts instructors, so the practice is part of his heritage.
Uwais reprises his role as Rama in this film and said one of the key differences between fighting on and off camera is that he can’t show weakness while battling in a ring, but on camera he must convey his physical reaction to the punches, kicks and blows.
Staying in character and maintaining emotions between takes posed a challenge, but Uwais said he has a ritual in which he has his castmates hit him in the back to help him get his emotion back up again.
Though all of the action scenes are pre-planned using a video storyboard, Evans revealed that Uwais got knocked out while filming one of the final scenes in the movie.
“He blacked out for a second,” Evans explained as Uwais chuckled, recalling the incident. “We went for about four frames, and he was okay after that.”
Evans also said the fight scenes were carefully structured so that the film would remain balanced.
“If it’s a three-minute fight scene, we want to put four or five punch lines in there. Punch lines are like those moments in the prison riot when the guy has his head kicked into the tile,” Evans said. “If you just stack (these moments) all up next to each other, it would (become) overkill.”
After designing the scenes, Evans said he and his team would create a video storyboard using crash mats and a video handy cam to figure out camera angles and editing details — a technique he developed while making the first “Raid” film.
“I’ve done all of my work in pre-production, so when it comes to the shoot we have this video as a guide track… and we’re just shooting the real version on set,” Evans said. “All the editing decisions have already been made, so by the end of that day I should have the perfect vision of that fight.”
While the producers are anxious to begin work on another sequel, Evans said he needs some time away before working on a third “Raid” and sleep is his first priority right now.
“They’re going to have to wait a while. I don’t want to do it for three years, maybe. I do have a concept in mind,” he said. “If this one is two hours after ‘The Raid’ finished, ‘Raid 3′ starts three hours before ‘The Raid 2′ finishes. So you go back in time a little and then branch off for a different story.”
Evans is already working on pre-production for helmer Timo Tjahjanto’s neo-noir action thriller “The Night Comes for Us” in Indonesia and said he then wants to transition to the U.K. or U.S. to make one of the two films he currently has in development.
XYZ Films’ “The Raid 2: Berandal” bows in L.A. and Gotham theaters on March 28.