Even the staunchest haters of “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” will most likely admit a grudging respect for the way Ray Park brought Darth Maul to life. Casting a talented stunt performer who could also act was the smartest thing Lucas did in that whole film, because Park brought that physicality to everything he played in the film, even when he was just pacing.
When I recently posted my “Top Ten Of 2014” list, I had “The Raid 2” right there at #10 on the list. I think it's an incredibly made film, and a big part of that is because the stunt team on that movie is top-notch, unrelenting, and precise in a way that allows them to do things that look impossible. As you can see in the piece embedded at the top of this article, I spoke with Iko Uwais, the star of the film, at Sundance a year ago. I think these guys are crazy good at what they do.
And so you take “Star Wars,” which i love, and you take Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Arif Rahman, who I think are amazing, and you put them together? That is absolutely remarkable. Iko is the hero of both “The Raid” and “The Raid 2,” and he's a fast, compact fighter who is also a very effective actor. If you've seen the films, then you know that Yayan Ruhian is one of a kind. He's the guy who played Mad Dog in the first film, and in the second film appeared as a completely different person, Prakoso, a deadly killer whose effectiveness has cut him off from his family. For my money, the best hand-to-hand fight I've seen so far this decade, in any movie, is the one between Uwais and Cecep Arif Rahman at the end of “The Raid 2.” Rahman is the one with the knives, and if you give him a Jedi (or Sith) weapon of equal effectiveness, I'm willing to bet you'd get a “Star Wars” fight like no other.
Both The Wrap and Twitch have this up right now, and I'll take the Twitch story as the no-questions-about-it confirmation considering Todd Brown, who runs Twitch, was also a producer on both “Raid” movies. If anyone could get a confirmation on this story, it's Todd.
It'll be exciting to see how JJ Abrams folds these guys into what he's already shot. Since the actual photography is already done, adding them now suggests that they're going to be doing some sort of performance capture work, perhaps even playing fully-rendered aliens.
We have less than a year until we find out.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens December 18, 2015.