The American remake of 2011 cult classic Indonesian martial arts film The Raid: Redemption seems to finally be getting underway. All the paperwork was done way back in November 2011 — the movie didn’t even release in the U.S. until the next March — and it’s gone through several start-and-stop preproductions, with Chris and Liam Hemsworth in talks and Taylor Kitsch and director Patrick Hughes both attached and dropping out in 2014.
In February, Joe Carnahan and star Frank Grillo sent out a Snapchat dubbing it a “reimagining” that was cut with footage and music from the movie itself, so I guess we’re supposed to take this go around seriously.
The Raid and its sequel are two of the most highly regarded action movies in recent memory. The Bourne series in the early ’00s started trends toward using more realistic martial arts and shaky camerawork to enhance the action, and since telling your cameraman to disco on the job is easier than teaching actors how to fight, most of Hollywood took one of those trends and ignored the other — to sometimes silly effect.
But The Raid was one of the leading lights in the other direction, teaching Silat masters to act instead of teaching actors to perform Silat. Lead choreographers Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian actually played the film’s most prominent fighters, Rama and Mad Dog. The films received critical adulation, with the Raid 2 even becoming known as “The Godfather of action movies” and earning Uwais and Ruhian choreography roles and cameos for Star Wars: The Force Awakens with scenes like this —
So it’s fair to say these movies are massively influential — among people who saw them. The Raid earned $4.1 million in America, but never more than $961,454 in a single weekend, and The Raid 2 did even worse with a $2.6 million take and no weekend higher than $956,672.
So why are we going through with an American remake?
It’s not for the art. If this were somebody’s passion project, we wouldn’t see that level of turnover in the directors and lead actors assigned to it.
It’s not for the money, either. Every movie is a gamble, and Hollywood is constantly trying to cheese the odds with built-in fanbases — sequels, popular book adaptations, playing up a TV star in the advertising, all of these are attempts to make a movie that a certain population is already sold on.
But a potential Raid remake’s built-in population was sold for less than $5 million domestic, and they’re not making a movie over that number. Further, this is exactly the kind of echo-chamber fanbase that’s more likely to be upset by a remake than to go see it, so they might even be starting from a negative on that front.
Carnahan and Grillo could very well make a wonderful movie here, but attaching it to The Raid seems like a lot of heartache for little advantage.