Interview: Joe Carnahan on The Raid Remake & Bad Boys III

Earlier this week, XYZ Films announced that actor Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Grey, The Purge franchise) and director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team, Smokin’ Aces) were boarding The Raid remake. had a chance to do an exclusive 1-on-1 interview about his plans for the remake, as well as the current status of the third Bad Boys movie he’s directing, Bad Boys for Life!

Based on 2011’s Indonesian action sensation directed by Gareth Evans, the original was released in America as The Raid: Redemption and stars martial artists Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (who later appeared in The Raid 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). The Raid tells the story of an elite DEA FAST team that becomes trapped in a tenement run by a notorious drug lord, his two highly-violent martial arts killers, and a personal militia armed with machetes and machine guns. Stranded on the 6th floor with no way out, the team must fight their way through the city’s worst to survive their mission.

RELATED: The Raid Remake Gets Frank Grillo to Star & Joe Carnahan Directing! I’m a huge fan of both “Raid” films, and when you and Frank announced that you were going to do it, I thought, “Well, those are the guys.” Tooting your own horn, why do YOU think you’re the right guys to remake or reimagine it?

Joe Carnahan: “Smokin’ Aces” was about a guy in a penthouse and a bunch of crazy people trying to get to the top floor. I obviously have a fondness for this type of a tale. So I feel like there’s a lot going on. This is the superhero renaissance, where these movies now, they’re the bread and butter for the industry. I think that you can take those, what that is and what that’s become and this idea of the invulnerable, immortal, un-killable, regenerative hero and turn that inside out and have a guy who’s injured and hurt and wounded psychologically and psychically and scarred and putting him in a situation… With Iko in “The Raid,” these are healthy, able-bodied young men. This is not that scenario. Frank’s character’s a special operator who’s just come back from getting his ass kicked in half by a real brutal, gruesome operation, where they just got their heads handed to them. And just like athletes do, like football players do, you still run out there at 65% and do your thing. You know what I mean? Because that’s just what you do. So I think we’re trying to apply these really human, very relatable story and character elements that will make it something that will find empathy and understanding in an audience. You know, because everybody’s been there. “I pulled my back out.” “My knees hurt.” “My shoulder’s screwed up.” You know, but you want to make these guys very human and very mortal, and then drop them in some of the most intense sh*t that you have ever seen, you know? Because then it ups the stakes on so many levels. We talked to Gareth about the broad strokes of it, and he’s unbelievably cool and supportive and a lovely dude. So that’s kind of the long form answer with a lot, just because the approach will not be a frame-for-frame remake of “The Raid,” which would be a huge mistake.

"Stop! You're smothering the poor bastard!"

CS: Yeah. Agreed.

Carnahan: I don’t want to do that. And no one wants to see that, you know? So I’m more interested in taking what’s there in “The Raid” and just exploring it more.

CS: What’s cool is that in the original they gave Iko’s character enough family man background so you connected with him, but then it was off to the races.

Carnahan: In this one you spend some time with him and his family. You see what it’s like to live in that kind of world. You see what a guy like that would deal with. You see him getting his knees aspirated and having fluid taken out of him. There’s a reality to it that I think is really critical to telling that story. And if you remove everything about it that was mildly cartoonish or campy it becomes terrifying.

CS: Yeah, exactly. Obviously, Frank’s a very capable martial artist. Do you have specific fighting disciplines that you’re looking to utilize?

Carnahan: No, but I think what it’s going to be, as I said, like, if it could feel like more “Eastern Promises” or “Saving Private Ryan” where it just felt like it was really real, but it was very ad hoc and very kind of—not that it’s going to be outdated. The minute you say, “we’re fighting Jeet Kune Do, we’re fighting Muay Thai, we’re fighting Jiu Jitsu… you’re immediately quantifying it. The bottom line is, given the scenario, whatever, a human being is gonna react differently in every situation. If I can get to that gun and shoot you before I have to punch you, then I’m going to do that, or kick you. So if I can get to this knife, if I can get to this… there’s going to be this situational stuff, but it’s not going to feel like the handheld snatch and grab style that will be something like one of the “Bourne” fights, and I love the choreography in those movies. I like the fight in “Old Boy,” the hallway, right? That’s what I love. And it had a reality to it. And you know it’s choreographed. It’s very, very choreographed, just cracking guys with a hammer. It had a beauty and it had it without feeling like, gee, I don’t want to watch a dance. That’s what Iko did so brilliantly choreographing those. They had this beautifully fluid dance quality to it, which is so f*cking cool. And that last fight in “The Raid 2,” how great that fight is. But in this iteration it needs to feel more grounded and more grueling, you know what I mean? The way these things would feel, if you’re already hurt and incurring more damage and more of a battering. Do you know what I mean?

CS: Yeah. Well, to give him a certain air of vulnerability.

Carnahan: Exactly. I think that that’s kind of the feel. So again, no matter what you do, Max, you’re going to piss off—it’s like being an umpire. You know, you make a call and they hate your guts because the guy was home, you know? Or that was a strike, or what have you. So you’re left with, “What’s the best decision you could make creatively at this moment, and let’s do that.


CS: Yeah, you could do two or three different versions of this, and each one would piss off people in a different way.

Carnahan: We can’t sit here and second-guess ourselves endlessly. It doesn’t do anybody any good, it doesn’t move anything forward.

CS: I know Garreth was said to have been involved in a previous iteration of the remake. What input has he given you so far, or what kind of wisdom about the story?

Carnahan: He’s given his full support. He hasn’t tried to guide it in any way, shape or form. He wants to be surprised and have fun, and be able to look at something he originated in a completely different way, That’s certainly how I would approach something. If somebody came to me and said, “I want to remake ‘Smokin’ Aces’ but I want to do it in Hong Kong,” my thing would be, “Well I can’t wait to see that.” Gareth has expressed tremendous enthusiasm for myself and Frank. So that’s all he wants. I think for him it’s probably a lot of fun because he’s off the hook!

CS: Sure. Now is the plan to launch into this immediately after “Bad Boys”?

Carnahan: The plan is to go as fast as we possibly can because it’s relevant, because it’s kind of in my crawlspace right now and I want to make it happen and get in there. The schedule’s always shifting, things are always changing. You never know what’s going to fall in, where it’ll drop out, what have you. So I just want to be ready to go.

CS: “Bad Boys III” has been kind of a fluid, touch and go kind of thing for a little while, right?

Carnahan: Yeah, you know, look, it’s tough because Will’s been busy, I’ve been busy. So it’s a difficult thing. A lot of pieces have to align. So I don’t want to time it. By the time I’d like to do this, I’d like to do that. That’s why I think I’m really jamming on the “The Raid” right now, because I want the opportunity to go and try to knock this out.


CS: Sure. I did have one question. This was the first question that sort of popped into my head when it was announced that you were going to do that threequel. Because I like the pre-vis that you put online and I was like, yeah, you’re the right guy for the job. But when “Bad Boys II” came out, I thought the only way you could possibly top that level of carnage would be like if a Miami drug lord got a hold of nuclear weapons. That is the only way you could top that. So how do you raise the stakes and still keep it a grounded, buddy cop story?

Carnahan: I think we certainly did. The script that I wrote was, again, the same thing that I tried to do on “The Raid.” I humanized all these aspects of it, and all these elements of it, and in doing that, you create natural tension. I mean, that’s the thing is no one gives a sh*t about saving the world anymore. We’ve done those stories to death.

CS: Totally.

Carnahan: Those don’t brutally resonate with people anymore, because the world ain’t that great! (laughs) It ain’t worth saving. It just becomes, “Oh, they saved this small country.” That’s wonderful, but you don’t really have a connection to this small country or to the larger, global notion of humanity, but you do to individuals, and you do to people. I think that’s what that script stressed, was those things, you know? What happens when Bad Boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re men? They’re grown-ups, you know? They’re ordinary guys. It’s interesting.

CS: No, absolutely. And I think the success of “Deadpool” last year kind of proved that, that they’re going to go see these movies, they want to be a little more personal stakes.

Carnahan: Also, you know, I think what Ryan did so brilliantly… I remember on “Smokin’ Aces,” when he was talking about “Deadpool.” I mean, that’s how far back that goes. And God bless him, man, he busted his ass. That’s like Hannibal over the Alps, with what he had kind of shell out to finally bring that to the screen. But what he did, and what Fox’s faith in that movie showed is that you can do something with that level of irreverence and violence and profanity and sexually explicit—you know, and it works. And because people want to be titillated and they want to be provoked and they want to be shocked and they want to laugh out loud. I think that’s what that showed. I mean, you have to have that kind of mentality. You know, “Smokin’ Aces” would never have been greenlit a few years ago. The woman that greenlit “Deadpool” was Stacey Snider, who greenlit “Smokin’ Aces” several years ago with Universal.

Bad Boys for Life is still scheduled for release by Sony Pictures on November 9, 2018.


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