The first teaser trailer for The Raid 2: Berandal – the eagerly-anticipated sequel to, arguably, the best action movie since Hard Boiled – hit the internet recently, giving us tantalising glimpses at Iko Uwais’ returning hero, Rama, and the horde of new characters he’ll be butting heads with. Literally.
To get the lowdown on these new characters, we jumped onto Skype and asked the film’s writer-director, Gareth Evans, to give us a world exclusive guided tour…
The teaser opens in intriguing fashion: Rama (Uwais) is sitting in a prison cell. Which is not usually the sort of place that a cop likes to hang around. What gives?
“The idea is that Iko’s character goes undercover in this one and there are shades of The Departed and Infernal Affairs in there,” says Evans. “The prison section is the opening of the film, setting up his mission and that’s going undercover in order to infiltrate a mob family to uncover corruption in the police force.”
As Rama begins to punch a chalk outline on the wall, the trailer shows us flashes of the new characters Rama will meet, both inside and outside the walls. But who does the figure on the wall represent? “That’s a good one. Oh, shit…” laughs Evans, neatly dodging the answer. “I wanted to have certain connective tissue to the first film and the choreography he does is largely the same, as much as he could remember on the day of shooting, as the choreography he uses for hitting the punchbag in the first Raid. In the first Raid, it’s all about him preparing himself spiritually, physically, emotionally so he can go off and complete his mission. He looks focused, he looks primed, he looks fired up. I wanted to contrast that now that he’s in prison on this mission and a lot of personal things have happened to him, so that ending to that punching session is designed to show a sadness and a tragic side to him as well. He’s full of regret as well.”
The first non-Rama figure we see is a mysterious figure, with a bag over his head. We know who this is, but we couldn’t possibly say, and Evans isn’t for blabbing either at this point. “I’ve stayed super-quiet about that. There are people on forums in Indonesia and they’re trying to figure out who it is. They’re comparing body shapes and how muscular his shoulders are. My stance is they’re all wrong. Even if they’re right, they’re all wrong.”
This is Indonesian actor Arifin Putra as Uco [pronounced Oo-cho]. “He’s the son of the mob boss, Bangun,” says Evans. “He’s the lynchpin for the entire movie. When we did the teaser poster, it was a purposeful thing to stick him dead centre of the frame. He’s the driving force of the storyline for this. He’s the one pushing the plot. Uco’s never had to fight a day in his life, and he’s starting to feel that. He’s sort of the personification of this new generation of ridiculously entitled rich kids you see flying around in Jakarta who are filled with anger and rage and pull all sorts of shit wherever they go, and they feel they’re entitled to be like that. Who’s going to touch them? Who’s going to stop them? He’s an interesting character, full of internal conflicts and complexes.”
Next up is Uco’s dad, Bangun, played by Tio Pakusadewo, and one of the film’s biggest links to The Raid. “Everything in the first movie - Tama’s building, Tama’s reputation - was all given to him by Bangun,” says Evans. “He’s the guy who’s got the keys to the city. He’s dealing with the top-level cops, the ones we hinted at in the first movie, they’re all dealing with him and he used that building to facilitate paying them off, so it didn’t go through him.” In fact, eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot a painting of a bull in Bangun’s office that’s virtually identical to the one owned by Tama in The Raid. “Little touches we put in there to link the films together,” says Evans.
Now, stalking through a cornfield (perhaps the very same one in which our hooded character awaits his or her fate), comes a top assassin, known only as… The Assassin. “He’s The Raid 2’s Mad Dog,” says Evans, referring to Yayan Ruhian’s virtually unkillable henchman from the first movie. “He’s this wordless, coldblooded assassin who specialises in using an Indonesian knife called the karambit. It’s a curved blade with a finger hook so you keep it very close to you. It’s brutal.”
In the movie, The Assassin works for “this rising gangster called Bejo” and is played by Cecep Arif Rahman, whom Evans met in 2007 when working on the silat documentary that introduced him to Iko Uwais. “He’s an incredible silat expert, and someone I’ve wanted to work with since I’ve known him… and he’s an English teacher in his spare time!”
Berandal will pit Rama against a series of larger than life villains, including Very Tri Yulisman’s Baseball Bat Man, an assassin who uses his prodigious batting skills to great effect. Yulisman was part of the choreography team on the movie.
“He’s another one of Bejo’s assassins,” explains Evans. “He uses a baseball bat and causes carnage wherever he goes. Very was training Julie Estelle [who plays Hammer Girl] and their chemistry was so strong that I cast him.”
Frightfest attendees will have already seen Julie Estelle’s deaf assassin in jaw-dropping action, taking out a group of gangsters on a train with her trademark hammers. Hammer Girl is very much part of a double act with Baseball Bat Man. “Baseball Bat Man and Hammer Girl are brother and sister,” says Evans. “The backstory is that when they were children they suffered at the hands of an abusive parent and when they killed him they were taken under Bejo’s wing. There’s a sense that neither of them have matured at all so there’s a childlike way about how they take out their targets.”
Julie Estelle, who plays Hammer Girl, didn’t have a martial arts background when she was cast in the role, which Evans admits was influenced by “things like Chungking Express and this idea of a female assassin who’s super cool”. But that didn’t put him off. “Julie came to this thing with no skillset at all and no martial arts background whatsoever and she came away getting more shots in one take than Iko has in three films. We’ve wound up Iko something chronic about it. We’ve been giving him so much shit!”
Your eyes are not deceiving you. This is Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in The Raid. But this is not Mad Dog, reincarnated. Instead, this is Prakoso, Bangun’s chief assassin (weapon of choice: the machete). “I won’t do a martial arts film without Yayan being in it,” says Evans. “I wrote Berandal before The Raid even existed. My intention was always to have Yayan play Prakoso, and it never entered my mind that he couldn’t do it. The great thing about Yayan is his ability to transform and shift. We straggled his hair, made it look grey, gave him a beard but people are always going to see him as Mad Dog. When you see his performance, it’s so different.”
The chap with the scalpel is Bejo (Alex Abbad). “If I had to make a connection, he’s the Solozzo of The Raid,” says Evans. “He’s the guy who steps in and mixes shit up and causes a whole lot of trouble. He’s the catalyst for the all-out war that breaks out in the film.”
Evans worked with Abbad on his first film, Merantau, where he played a pimp. “We’d been talking about him playing this role for three or four years,” adds Evans. “We made him gain 10-15kg for the role. He chubbied up a little bit, still not enough to compete with me, but he tried!”
Evans wanted The Raid 2 to have a much larger scope than the first movie. “What I wanted to do was mix things up so it wasn’t Indonesian gangsters vs Indonesian gangsters here. So I decided to import, and one of my favourite genres has always been Japanese Yakuza films,” he explains. So this is Kenicho Endo as Japanese mob boss, Goto. “He’s the equivalent of what we have with Bangun. They’re on an even playing field. We establish early on that these two families have had a truce for over ten years. Bangun and Goto regularly meet up to discuss the territories and any issues they may have about security and safety. It’s almost like a mutual respect between the two of them. They’ve both seen enough violence now to be done with that aspect of their life.” We’re guessing that they’re not quite done with it. Not yet.
Meet Keichi, Goto’s son and Uco’s opposite number, played by Ryuhei Matsuda. “Both men are ambitious, but Uco is more reckless in his decision making and his ideas of what he needs to do and how he can impress his father and also show his drive and ambition,” explains Evans. “Keiichi is much more cautious. He takes a moment to think things through before he reacts.”
This chap firing guns in a rather random fashion? That’s Eka, played by Oka Antara. Evans: “Not to keep referencing The Godfather, but he’s essentially Tom Hagen to Bangun. He’s the consigliere, he’s the level-headed one who helps control Uco and helps Bangun in his decision-making process as well. He’s earned his place and come up from nothing and he’s the true right-hand man for Bangun.”
Evans is particularly proud of one sequence involving Eka. “I think that for people who like the moment in The Raid where Joe [Taslim, who played Sgt. Jaka] did the triple tap with the gun to the guy’s face, Oka gets to take that to a whole new level in one of his scenes.” Eat your heart out, Robert Duvall…
Here, we see Rama being attacked by thugs in a car. But this is not the car chase-cum-fight about which so much has already been said. “People are responding to the fact that we have two or three moments with cars in the trailer,” says Evans. “But none of them are from the car chase. They’re all individual scenes outside of the car chase. I’m holding that footage back. I’m debating whether I do show them in the main trailer. I don’t want to, for want of a better phrase, blow all my load with my money shots in a trailer.” He laughs. “My parents are going to kill me!”
Here, we see another new character making somewhat efficient use of a mall elevator to take out the competition. This is Ryuichi, the third major Japanese character. “He’s the opposite number of Ecka, the right-hand man of Goto. We have a lot of parallels between the two families and how differently they react and stick together or fall apart,” says Evans of Kazuki Kitamura’s character. “He’s the peacemaker in Indonesia.” Some peacemaker.
“This is my favourite shot in the entire film,” says Evans of this astonishing upside down trick shot that follows Epy Kusnandar’s porn boss, Topan, as he’s flung through a window by Rama. And we haven’t even seen the half of it. “It’s ridiculously complicated to get that shot done,” says Evans. “If it was just a case of the camera going upside down, we could build rigging, but we wanted to flip the camera upside down, turn it back to level and then swing around in a whip pan back to Iko.”
His solution? Two DOPs. “We had two DOPs controlling the flip upside down and by the time you do the spin the other DOP has to leg it out of the frame for the turn around for Rama coming through the window. I’m super-excited about that scene. It’s pretty funny and fucked-up. We play around with a rough, raw, brutal, brawling martial art and a bit of gunplay as well.”