On The Music, Martial Art -- and Muslim Hero -- of Silat Actioner The Raid: Redemption

Credit Evans with the fact that The Raid is, quite literally sometimes, wall-to-wall action comprised of memorable moments, how’d they do that stunts, and viscerally entertaining fight action; a 2-on-1 fight featuring diminutive-but-deadly Mad Dog (Ruhian) and the storming of a drug lab were two that Shinoda and Trapanese pinpointed, but there’s also the ceiling-crashing, refrigerator-exploding sequence, a tense scene involving a hidden crawlspace and a machete-wielding psychopath, and the dozens of innovative ways in which Rama manages to kill bad guys. But blink and you’ll miss a key moment of calm before the storm when the camera catches Rama in his morning routine of exercise, repose, and, most significantly: prayer.

That’s right -- the hero of The Raid is an extraordinarily skilled fighter, a family man, a loyal champion of justice, and he’s also a practicing Muslim. It’s a subtle but deliberate element of the character that Evans wanted to include for many reasons, partly because a segment of the wide-reaching discipline of silat is heavily integrated with Islam teachings and also because Islam itself – the national religion of Indonesia, where The Raid was filmed and is set – is not represented in relatable terms in much of Western media.

“I feel like there tends to be two different versions of Islam in the media,” Evans told Movieline. “There’s the version when you get these super preachy movies where it’s all about the religion, and there are other movies where whenever they’re doing a prayer it’s because they’re about to blow someone up.”

“I didn’t like these two polar opposites because I’ve lived in Indonesia for four years and all I’ve seen, all the people I’ve hung out with, and all the people that I’ve met, they’re moderate Muslims and they live a very ordinary, everyday life,” he continued. "With Iko specifically, Islam is just a part of his heart and it’s a part of his everyday life. I didn’t want to make a big point of it in the film, we just wanted to throw it out there. If people latch onto it they do; if they don’t, they don’t. But it’s there, it’s a part of his character, and it’s a part of his everyday life – and he’s the hero of the film.”

Shinoda, whose band has built a strong fanbase in Southeast Asia, chimed in. “You should see those same people at a Linkin Park show, too. You want to talk about a kind of religious experience, just for us looking out in the crowd... And clearly, part of it too is because people in the U.S. when they think Muslim they don’t think Asian, but when you go out there you get a real sense of it, it’s really fun to see them let loose and it’s not an exception to the rule. They go out and have fun, they go out and party but when they come to a show it looks very different for an American who’s there.”

Whether or not American audiences will pick up on it, Evans doesn’t intend for his film to be a message movie, per se – it simply depicts an aspect of normalized Muslim life in a way rarely seen or realized by audiences, not to mention the fact that The Raid’s Rama is a rare entity in mainstream releases: The Muslim action hero.

“I guess on a subconscious level it comes from seeing how the media approaches that religion as either one extreme to another, and wanting to present the way I see it in Indonesia,” said Evans with a smile. “It’s a million miles away from how it’s presented on Fox News.”

The Raid: Redemption is in theaters Friday.

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