Joe Carnahan talks making a more 'grounded' version of The Raid

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In 2011, Gareth Evans’ Indonesian film The Raid, which starred Iko Uwais, followed a S.W.A.T. team on a mission to take down a drug lord, all the while intertwining the story of two brothers. But it was the film’s fight choreography — and non-stop intensity — that got people’s attention.

Although it’s considered more of a cult hit in the United States, there has been talk of an American remake for years. Back in 2014, there were reports of a Patrick Hughes remake starring Taylor Kitsch. But when that fell through, many thought the idea had died. Until now.

Joe Carnahan recently announced that he and his producing partner, Frank Grillo — who started their own production company called War Party — are taking another stab at the film, but this time, it’s less of a remake and more of a “reimagining,” with Carnahan directing and Grillo set to star.

According to Carnahan, it was a few months ago when the company who owns the rights to the film brought it him and Grillo, and for the two of them, it seemed like a no-brainer. But first things first, they wanted to talk to Gareth Evans. “I wouldn’t want to start tracking mud all over something he originated,” Carnahan says. So when Evans gave them the thumbs up, it was time to figure out exactly what a “reimagining” of this film would look like.

“When The Raid came out, it felt fresh and innovative and it felt like it was pushing the forum forward, which is what you want to do,” Carnahan say. “With this, rather than trying to duplicate or replicate what they did, we have to go purposefully and deliberately in another direction. No one, least of all myself or Frank, would be interested in doing a frame-by-frame remake of The Raid. It’s stupid. And with what’s going on in the world right now, there’s other opportunities to take that story and to expand certain portions of it and make it more metaphorical and allegorical and play with notions about where we are today. When I think of honor and valor and nobility, none of that stuff lines up with someone like Donald Trump. If I was special forces and I had a bozo like that calling the shots, I’d have a major crisis of conscience.”

That’s not to say that Carnahan is looking to make a political film. As he puts it: “I don’t want to jam an ideology down someone’s throat, but there are very interesting things you can explore with what we’re dealing with right now in the world. In times of turmoil like this, it’s always had a wonderfully propulsive effect on art. It’s always churned things out that become a social commentary.”

Speaking more generally, Carnahan’s goal is to reimagine the scenario from The Raid and attempt to make it more relatable by crafting situations that don’t seem far-fetched in today’s world. “We’re trying to make it credible and grounded so that you have this sense that these scenarios could actually transpire,” he says. But that’s not to say that the reimagining won’t pay homage to the original. “You do have to doff your hat a few times to the original. It’s purely out of respect,” Carnahan says. “It’s smart. But I think once you make those decisions, your best plan of attack is to simply believe in what you’re doing and not worry about, ‘Oh gosh if I don’t have the scene where the guy’s jamming the machete through the wall and cuts him on the cheek, they’ll hate me.’ Which I love that scene, that would be one obviously you’d want to keep because it’s such a great moment in the movie. But you can’t get hung up on that stuff and you can’t create this elaborate shopping list of ‘I must have these moments in the film.’ I just think that’s a mistake.”

At the end of the day, Carnahan and Grillo hope to do something “special and unexpected” with The Raid. And most importantly, Carnahan says, “I’ve got great faith that we’re not going to let people down.”

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