A director, a martial arts star, and a hammer-wielding assassin attend advanced screening of The Raid 2

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The Museum of the Moving Image hosted a special advanced screening of the upcoming Sony Pictures Classics film release, The Raid 2. The event included one of the first official non-film festival screenings of the movie in the U.S., followed by a discussion with Gareth Evans – the writer, director & editor of the martial arts adrenaline-fest, along with the movie’s main hero, Iko Uwais – who plays rookie cop Rama, and Julie Estelle – who plays a badass female villain known as “Hammer Girl.” Why is nicknamed “Hammer Girl?” All I can tell you is, she does things with hammer that no carpenter has ever dreamed of.

The Raid 2 screening and discussion was part of filmmaker & martial artist Warrington Hudlin’s ongoing “Fist & Sword” series of curated film screenings at The Museum, which celebrates and analyzes contemporary & classic martial arts & action movies from around the world. The series brings hardcore fans in the New York City area, their first look at the best the martial arts genre has to offer in a high end theatrical setting, many times with key members of the cast and crew present to discuss the filmmaking process.

Gareth Evans, Iko Uwais and Julie Estelle all supplied great into what was involved in bringing what I feel is one of the best hardcore action films ever lensed, to the screen. Training methods and history was an important topic of the discussion, with Julie admitting she had never trained in martial arts prior to filming. The Jakarta-born actress spent six months preparing for her role as a duel hammer-wielding assassin, with an experienced martial arts stunt group. Iko on the other hand discussed his many years of being a practitioner of the traditional Indonesian martial arts system of Silat, from the age of 10.

Welsh film director Evans, told the story of how he visited Iko’s Silat martial arts school as part of a documentary he was preparing in 2007. Evans then asked Iko not to renew his contract for his daytime job as a document messenger for a telecommunications film in Jakarta to join Evans’ brand new movie production company, as the leading actor in his low-budget movies. Thankfully for Gareth Evans, and millions of cinema fans around the world, Iko agreed.

One of the funniest moments of the evening came when Uwais grabbed a seven-year-old boy, who had attended the screening with his father, from his chair and placed him on stage for part of the Q&A. That moment also caused everyone to be more careful with their language from that moment forward.

Among the attendees of last night’s screening were Ric Meyers, former Entertainment Editor for Inside Kung Fu Magazine, Northern Southern Combined Fist kung fu Grandmaster Carl Albright, Demetrius Angelo, who founded the action film convention Urban Action Showcase, along with many other martial artists, movie fans, actors and journalists.

Filmmaker Evans confirmed during the event that a film titled The Night Comes for Us will indeed be his next project. “Night” will reunite Timo Tjahjanto (Killers, The ABCs of Death) and Evans for their second collaboration behind the camera. Timo will direct the new film, while Gareth will produce and handle the action direction. The Raid 2 star Iko Uwais will provide the film’s action choreography. Taslim, who appeared in the 6th installment of The Fast and the Furious series, and Yayan Ruhian, will star in the lead roles.

Evans describes The Night Comes for Us as a classic crime thriller. The film centers around a mobster (Taslim) who returns to his local crime family in Jakarta, only to find himself trapped in a word of betrayal and chaos.

It’s safe to say that Gareth, Iko and Julie felt the love from the audience in attendance. It’s also safe to say that any fan of action films that watches The Raid 2, will want to strap on a seatbelt for an amazing ride.

Below is the official synopsis for The Raid 2, which hits theaters on March 28th, along with a series of stills I shot during last night’s event.

He thought it was over. After fighting his way out of a building filled with gangsters and madmen – a fight that left the bodies of police and gangsters alike piled in the halls – rookie Jakarta cop Rama thought it was done and he could resume a normal life. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Formidable though they may have been, Rama’s opponents in that fateful building were nothing more than small fish swimming in a pond much larger than he ever dreamed possible. And his triumph over the small fry has attracted the attention of the predators farther up the food chain. His family at risk, Rama has only one choice to protect his infant son and wife: He must go undercover to enter the criminal underworld himself and climb through the hierarchy of competing forces until it leads him to the corrupt politicians and police pulling the strings at the top of the heap. And so Rama begins a new odyssey of violence, a journey that will force him to set aside his own life and history and take on a new identity as the violent offender “Yuda.” In prison he must gain the confidence of Uco – the son of a prominent gang kingpin – to join the gang himself, laying his own life on the line in a desperate all-or-nothing gambit to bring the whole rotten enterprise to an end.