The Raid and The Raid 2 are two of my favorite action films of all time, so it was a delight to see this recent Vulture piece where director Gareth Evans explains his process behind some of The Raid’s most spectacular set pieces:
There’s a subtle difference about how long a camera lingers on violence, and how much detail is shown. Almost all the extreme violence in The Raid 2 either cuts away on impact, moves onto another opponent, or happens at a distance in a wide shot.
There are moments in The Raid 2 where I wanted to use the camera to question screen violence. When we hold on the shotgun blast — you have a wide frame to look at, you choose where your gaze falls. But violence is pointless if you don’t also use it to say something about the characters. The restaurant scene in The Raid 2, with the lineup of men having their throats slit, barely shows any actual detail of violence. The focus of the scene is about the psychology of [crime boss villain] Bejo and [antihero] Uco, who are capable of committing and witnessing such brutality, yet still conducting a business meeting at the same time.
Or [Uwais’s heroic cop] Rama burning the corrupt policeman on the hot plate — you only really see the aftermath in any detail. Again, the primary focus is on Rama’s anguished face as he battles within himself, as he starts to slip deeper into the world of violence he now resides in. It’s how you present violence that is the key component of this differentiation. If it has something to say about your characters, then it can be as important as a scene of dialogue.
I was honored to do a video essay with Gareth a few years ago, where he dissected his top five action scenes of all time. Check it out below.