Gareth Evans Surprises Sundance Crowd With ‘The Raid 2?

By Addie Morfoot

The Sundance Film Festival premiere of Gareth Evans’s “The Raid 2” got off to a very Hollywood start.

Before the boisterous Eccles Theater screening Tuesday night of the Indonesia martial-arts sequel to 2011’s “The Raid: Redemption,” the film’s distributor Sony Pictures Classics celebrated at Park City’s Epic nightclub.

Techno music blasted while guests could be overheard talking festival shop. “The Venice Film Festival is much cheaper than Cannes,” one partygoer informed another.

“I’ll have your people call my people” a guest shouted before heading to the venue’s Oxygen Bar, where patrons were encouraged to take a whiff of oxygen to alleviate the pressure of Park City’s 7000? altitude.

“The Raid 2? starts where the first film ended. Rookie Jakarta cop Rama (Iko Uwais) goes undercover and infiltrates the ranks of a Jakarta crime organization in order to protect his infant son and wife and uncover corruption.

As for premiering the action-packed sequel after Sundance’s notoriously busy, press-packed first weekend, SPC’s Co-President Tom Bernard said that it was a strategic move. “We are the only thing in town now,” Bernard said. “We wanted to be the main attraction.”

With a snowstorm hitting New York City, many festival attendees were stuck in Park City, making tickets to the film’s premiere scarce.

The low budget original “Raid” made more than $4 million at the U.S. box office and $15 million world-wide. The movie’s staggering success came as no surprise to Bernard. “You have this Welshman (Evans) who goes to Indonesia, marries an Indonesian woman and decides to make a movie,” Bernard explained. “So you have got this movie with no cultural home per se. It’s a mix of many different cultures. So it has a universal feel.”

While the first film’s plot is simple, the two-and-a-half-hour, carnage-filled sequel requires audiences to pay close attention to various storylines.

“I wanted to do something that was different from the first film,” writer-director Evans said. “The first movie was great and it helped launch my career, but I wanted to expand the universe of the film and play around with the characters and their situations. I wanted to make something that felt unique as a sequel.”

As for the loud cheers the film’s brutally violent sequences received during the screening, Evans surmised that it was “cathartic” for audiences “because it’s not really happening.”

“It’s easy for me to shoot those [violent] scenes, but if I had to watch a UFC fight I couldn’t,” Evans said. “I’m such a wuss when it comes to real life violence. I can’t stand it. It makes me feel so uncomfortable, but when it’s fake I don’t mind.”