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It's always an interesting moment for a filmmaker where they go from making their films in relative obscurity and then trying to get an audience to pay attention to having the audience's attention already and then trying to deal with scrutiny during production. It's the difference between being a huckster and managing hype. Some people manage it quite well, and others get positively freight-trained by the experience.
Which kind of person is Gareth Evans?
We'll find out this year. After all, when "The Raid" made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival, I'd wager less than half of the audience in the room had seen his first film, "Merantau." I was on a jury that gave "Merantau" an award at ActionFest, and when I wrote about that film, I remarked that what set Evans apart at first was his obvious attention to every aspect of the film and not just the action. He's not just a guy who can shoot a great stunt, although he certainly has an eye for that. He's also a guy who understands that the more connected we are to the characters onscreen, the more involved we'll be in any action scene that unfolds. It helps that he has found a group of action stars who also have real screen charisma, and in Iko Uwais, he may have found his very own movie star that he can work with over and over again.
So far, Evans has had an easy accessibility in his interactions with fans via Twitter and at festivals, and one of the guys who has been key to the success of his first two films is Todd Brown, founder of Twitch, which also helps explain how well Evans has handled his online profile to date.
As he gets ready to start work on "Berandal," the sequel to "The Raid," he is being fairly open about the process. The title means "Thug" in Indonesian, which I hope is the American title. It's very cool, very simple. Last year, Evans was already making plans for the new film while he was doing press for "The Raid," and he mentioned how he wanted to bring car chases into the mix for the sequel. Since "The Raid" is all contained within one building, it makes sense that he'd want to get out of that space and broaden the focus for the second one.
On Twitter this week, he got very specific about how closely the two films are related, at least in terms of time.
"We start shooting on January 19th and the first scene takes place 2hrs after the first film ends."
Awesome. I love it. One of the things I dig in action films is when you wear a hero down and really do physical damage to them so that by the time the film ends, they are just barely still held together. To start the sequel while Rama (Uwais) is still woozy immediately raises the stakes.
I'm willing to bet that the whole thing doesn't play out in that same time frame, though. The project was actually originally written as a stand-alone film that they were trying to get financed, and "The Raid" was a way of them making a smaller back-up film first. Basically, they reverse engineered it so that they used "The Raid" to set up a character's backstory. In this next film, if I've connected the dots properly from things that Evans has said, Rama's going to be going undercover. To do what? Beats me. But I guarantee many, many, many bones will be broken. Onscreen. AND IT WILL BE AWESOME.
We'll have more on this one as it comes together. In the meantime, if you haven't seen "The Raid," you really should fix that. Immediately.