I really like Gareth Evans’ The Raid. It’s one of the best action films of the 21st century, the fight scenes are mind-blowing, and it’s got a really strong, lean structure that helps carry the set pieces and characters. It’s not a deep movie, but it’s an incredibly well made one. And yet what makes The Raid stand out—its action—is incredibly hard to emulate. To make a U.S. version of The Raid would seemingly lose what made The Raid special in the first place.
Last week, we learned that The Grey writer-director Joe Carnahan and producing partner/actor Frank Grillo had come on board to the U.S. “reimagining” of The Raid (calling it a remake or reimagining is kind of unimportant because neither one conveys the details of the project; for brevity, I’m referring to it as a remake). Carnahan is writing the script and planning to direct, and Grillo, who’s co-producing with Carnahan and XYZ Films, will star in the film.
Steve Weintraub spoke with Carnahan and Grillo earlier this week for an exclusive conversation about The Raid remake, and after learning how they got involved with the project, they explained how their version will differ from the original. Simply put, Carnahan and Grillo don’t want to make a highly-choreographed picture in the vein of Evans’ movie or John Wick. Instead, they want their picture, which will build a deeper story with regards to the two brothers and their father, to highlight “The Walking Wounded.”:
JOE CARNAHAN: What Frank and I both cotton to is this idea of special operators. Special forces operation guys often times like football players. They’re never 100%. Soft tissue damage in their hands, radial fractures, knees are shot, this and that. So this idea you’re catching a guy who is compelled to go after his brother after he just got his ass kicked in a completely different operation. You’re getting a guy who’s like the walking wounded. So you’re immediately plugging in to this very mortal, very human, everybody’s been hurt, everybody’s tweaked their back; in fact, more people have an affinity and an understanding of that situation than being this completely physically fit monster that doesn’t feel pain
They see their characters not as indestructible martial arts masters, but more in the mold of special ops soldiers or football players. Specifically, these guys play hurt. No one is at 100%. They’re all dealing with injury, they tape it up, rub some dirt on it, play at 80%, and go do their job.
When you have these kinds of characters, the complexion of the movie changes. For Carnahan and Grillo, they want the entire film to feel like the “knife fight between Adam Goldberg and the German in Saving Private Ryan.” They want that knock-down, drag-out, deeply uncomfortable brutality.
CARNAHAN: There’s a level of brutality, a level of violence. If our movie felt like the knife fight between Adam Goldberg and the German in Saving Private Ryan the entirety of the movie, then we’ve done exactly what we need to do. Something that grueling and tough.
FRANK GRILLO: You want to look away but you can’t.
Which, leads to the next question: Why not just make a new movie that isn’t called The Raid and avoid the comparisons? As Carnahan and Grillo explain, as much as they and fellow cinephiles love the original, most people have not seen The Raid:
GRILLO: Many Americans, most Americans, have never seen The Raid before.
CARNAHAN: By the way, Smokin’ Aces is about an assault on a penthouse with a bunch of crazy people fighting their way up to the top. That was six years before The Raid was made. So it’s not like these are things that don’t interest me. I can show you a pattern. I dig that kind of an idea.
GRILLO: And I’ll tell you something that bothers me. When people say you’re doing to do “The Hollywood Version” of The Raid—
CARNAHAN: Or whitewash it.
GRILLO: First of all, we’re not the Hollywood version of anything. We come through the back door all the time. I’m not Tom Cruise. I’m not the Hollywood version. I’m not knocking Tom Cruise, but he’s Tom Cruise. He gets to do whatever he wants. So my point is we don’t have to do this. We can do anything we want to do. We want to do this because there’s something we see that we want to show to American audiences, and audiences globally. Many people have not seen The Raid.
CARNAHAN: Among cinephiles, it’s a beloved film. But people in Des Moines, Iowa have not seen The Raid.