Gareth Evans knows more than most about on-screen scuffles.
The Welsh director is very same behind last year's unrelenting action masterpiece The Raid, showcasing the sort of game-changing, no-holds-barred brand of martial arts that caused grown men to excitedly air punch while sat in the cinema. And it's deservedly spawned a sequel.
And some - The Raid 2 is bigger, bolder and, dare we say, better, than the first. So instead of asking Evans for his major influences, or to cite his favourite fighting flicks we thought we'd probe his inner most geekdom and find out what cult classics he can't get enough of...
Shaolin Chamber of Death
“This is early Jackie Chan. He plays a student of shaolin learning from his spiritual teachers but also a prisoner they are keeping. The felon shows him death blows rather than the peaceful moves he’s been taught. It all kind of climaxes when he realises the person that has been teaching him is the person responsible for killing his father. But what makes it so cool is the fact that this is Jackie being dumb. He doesn’t speak at all until the very end of the film and there is a sequence, an initiation thing that he has to go through to prove that he is ready to graduate as a Shaolin monk, involving a fight in a room full of wooden men. So there are these wooden, robot-shaped guys and they’re all controlled by chains - straight punch, straight punch, kick, stomp, stomp - which is meant to be tense and thrilling but you can’t get over the fact that there are people inside these little wooden block body things. Weird but watchable.”
“Now this is a crazy martial arts comedy with a very unusual style of fighting. My favourite scene, and I’m praying to God that I remember this right because if it’s not, then it’s just my subconscious and I probably need to go and see a therapist, is when they’re fighting against this huge guy and one technique they use to beat him is to keep pulling his pants down, revealing a big nappy with Chinese writing on it. Equally bizarre is the finale showdown, where two combatants take on a master, because it mixes animal styles with martial arts - one of them literally neighs like a horse. Weirdly, they’re looking straight ahead as they fight, away from each other, so they’re essentially fighting sideways.”
“A lost classic from the 80s, it was recently reissued by the guys at Drafthouse films in the US, and it’s just the most amazing little film - so bad but at the same time so good. It’s about a rock group who do Tai Kwon Do and try to stop crime in their city which is perpetuating from a drug-dealing motorcycle gang of ninjas. It all kicks off when a rival band are jealous of them and ask the ninja biker gang to get rid of this Tai Kwon Do Rock group. It’s also surprisingly violent in places. Watching all the bad kicks and bad punches, you never expect it to get that blood thirsty, and it does. A real fan boy film, a cult favourite, it boasts the best dialogue and drama you’ll ever see in a film that features a Tai Kwon Do Rock group, I promise you that.”
“There’s a reason why you probably haven’t heard of Samurai Cop. Another 80s undiscovered cult film recently released on DVD, it’s ludicrous. I’m pretty sure the guy who directed or produced it owned a huge amount of cinema chains in Iraq or Iran or somewhere and moved to the US with a big amount of money hoping to be a movie mogul. And so Samurai Cop was one of his films. It’s awful but hilarious at the same time. To think he had dreams and ambitions of doing big Hollywood films and ended up casting someone as the lead just because he happened to look like Sylvester Stallone. I think he was Stallone’s bodyguard or trainer at the time and that’s purely why he gets cast, but there’s not really a good action scene in the whole film. He has one scene with the horniest nurse ever to appear in film and it's simply awkward, as is the editing. Moreover, they replay the same shots over and over again just to pad the fighting out, popping dialogue over the top that wasn’t spoken so people’s lips stop moving and they’re still saying dialogue and explaining what’s happening. So there’s a guy on fire and they’re like ‘oh my gosh, he’s on fire’ while clearly not saying anything. Yes, the perfect film to watch with beers on a Friday night.”
“This is a good one, about some ninjas searching for a VHS tape which contains some incriminating footage - ironic because you can now only find this film on VHS tape. It’s largely terrible for around an hour or so, but climaxes with one scene which for me watching as a kid, was super incredible because these ninjas fought one another. Then all of a sudden they would tunnel under the ground, churn up the earth and do somersaults and fly out. Who didn’t want to be a ninja as a kid? The suit adds to that superhero element, and I remember the artwork bring really cool, like half the US flag and half ninja face. Remarkable."
Dragon Bruce Lee Part 2
“When Bruce Lee tragically died, the Hong Kong film industry started casting a lot of people who looked vaguely like Bruce. They had nowhere near his skills but they’d capitalise off his image and name, as they did with this ambiguously titled effort. Shot in wide screen, the guy doing the pan and scan is struggling to keep up with the movement of it. So he would be down trying to shift the frame across every now and then, then left and right, trying to fit everyone in. It did, however, feature Bolo Yeung, the same guy who played one of the villains in Enter The Dragon, and also ended up fighting Jean-Claude Van Damme a bunch times in Blood Sport and Double Impact. I always had a fascination with Bolo Yeung. There was something about him that was fearful, scary. He terrified me as a child. He just had that presence where you just believed he could crush you with his bare hands. Not that he was intimidating in this film, as they gave him a little Charlie Chaplin moustache, negating everything bad ass about him."
Ninjas Condors 13
“This is guesswork, but I want to say there’s no 1 to 12, it’s just called Ninja Condors 13. I have no idea why or even what the story is, but I remember it being wild and in terms of violent martial arts film it’s off the chart. Those few who have seen it always rave about it. These sorts of film usually start with somebody’s master/teacher/father being killed and usually it’s pretty generic stuff but in this one, literally within the first 60 seconds of the film, it starts with this kid and his father being chased before they capture the dad, hook these ropes around his arms and legs and his head, with the other ends connected to these guys on motor bikes. And they pull him apart. So within the first minute you get the most violent scene in the film immediately. It’s a bad dummy shot from a wide angle but it just seems like, okay, now you’ve got my attention. So it’s a pretty awful film but it’s one that will always be worth a watch.”
The Raid 2 is in cinemas from this Friday