When Gangs of London aired on Sky Atlantic in the UK in April 2020, it became the channel’s second-biggest original drama launch of all time. 2.23 million caught the premiere episode in the first seven days of it being available.
With a second season already given the go-ahead, the gritty action crime drama set in present-day London is finally landing on AMC. Created by award-winning Welsh filmmaker Gareth Evans, the guy behind the acclaimed The Raid action movies, and Matt Flannery, Gangs of London is inspired by the video game of the same name. Similarly, the show is about the rivalry between gangs and criminal organizations in the city.
I caught up with Evans to discuss the acclaimed show as well as his multi-project deal with Netflix
Simon Thompson: The last time we spoke was ten years ago when you were promoting The Raid hitting theaters. Since then, you haven’t jumped at every opportunity that has come your way. You’ve taken it slowly. Was that deliberate?
Gareth Evans: Everything that I’ve done has always been the film I’ve wanted to make at that particular time or the project I wanted to invest my time in. I’ve been offered projects here and there; there have been times where I’ve got two-thirds of the way on a script and been like, ‘This could be something,’ but I’ve lost interest. I’ve always gravitated to whatever and wherever I feel passionate about at that time. I don’t like having four or five things that are on the back burner. That’s never really been my thing. I hate it if I have two things going simultaneously, never mind four or five projects. I’ve always been quite cautious. Before The Raid, I tried to get another film set up that was a much bigger budget thing, which became The Raid 2. When I did the first film, I was getting offered a lot of stuff to go off and do something in America, but I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I can now secure the funding to make the movie I wanted to make originally.’ That was the starting point, I guess, and then realizing that’s how I wanted to approach whatever this is as a career.
Thompson: The industry has evolved a lot over the last decade. Has that influenced it at all? This new deal you have with Netflix is not the first time you’ve worked with them.
Evans: I guess so, in a way. It’s a different experience. When I made The Raid movies, those films went theatrical to a degree, which was super exciting. When I knew I wanted to make Apostle, it was a different movie and different style; at that time, Netflix was the one who would come in and say, ‘You can make it for X amount.’ All the traditional distribution methods would never have got us even close to the amount of money we needed to make that film. We made that movie look like it costs a lot more than that we had to make it. What I loved about my experience with Netflix, and it sounds weird, but I got to see a global audience react to something all at the same time. I’d never had that before, and there is something different about it. That said, I can’t deny that there’s something beautiful about seeing a film play in a movie theater full of people and get that collective reaction to something.
Thompson: The Raid played well in theaters grossing $9.3 million against a budget of $1.1 million. Audiences lapped it up. It grossed another $9.4 million on home entertainment in the US.
Evans: When we first showed The Raid at Midnight Madness in Toronto, I just never anticipated a reaction like that, and I had never experienced a reaction like that before. It was incredible. Regardless of where the film ends up, we make it the same way, we don’t change out the way we frame things or how we would approach the storytelling, and on a visual level, we try to make it feel as big as it can, regardless of what the size of the screen is going to be. If we’re talking about the industry as a whole changing, consumer habits have also changed. Most TVs now are over 40 inches. If you go back ten years, 40 inches was huge. I’ve got a mate, and he won’t mind me saying this, who lives in an apartment, and he’s p***ing off his neighbors because he decided to install Dolby Atmos in his room. He’s got speakers hanging off the ceiling. It’s crazy. That’s where we are now. People are installing seriously impressive home cinema setups left, right and center.
Thompson: That’s a massive benefit to shows like Gangs of London because it has that cinematic quality. Was it always intended to be a TV show, or did you consider making it a movie?
Evans: It was weird because Pulse Films had the rights to the video game Gangs of London, and then they pitched it to me as the first in a franchise of feature films. I took a look at the source material, and I had a different concept. What if we look at the power vacuum of a city when the mob boss is killed, and we use the funeral in the way The Godfather used the wedding to introduce our cast of characters, and then get to see that mushroom cloud expand? When I started to know more about London and delve into the project, I realized we had this vibrant, multicultural, diverse global city that is the whole show’s backdrop. I said, ‘Why are we going to do this as films? Why would you want to have a two-hour running time where we can only probably give a third of that to support characters and different backgrounds. Let’s take the shot at this long-form narrative.’ As a show, we can easily go ahead and spend an episode or two drifting away from wherever the main story is and explore other cultures and characters in a more comfortable, complex way. They got really excited about that.
Thompson: So the intention was always for there to be more than one of whatever it became?
Evans: That was the plan. We knew what our first season was going to be, and then it was one of those things where it’s such a massive world. We were like, ‘Well, these are the sort of broad strokes of what a season two and season three.’ It’s actually quite good not to be too sure about those things because even within the singular season, the stories evolve, and the scripts evolve.
Thompson: And potentially spin-offs? It has worked well for other AMC shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead.
Evans: I’m sure there’s a potential there for it. It’s not something that I’ve contemplated, but there’s always the opportunity for spin-offs because the world is so big. It’s like a sandbox environment. That’s what we were creating in the first season, a sandbox to be explored more and built upon. One of the things that was important to us was to feel like the show could cross genres. We wanted to be able to do that, and we didn’t want it to be like, ‘Oh, it’s just the drama with action beats in there,’ or just be seen as the action show. We knew we wanted to thread thriller elements, a little bit of horror, and other genre elements. I directed the first episode, but Corin Hardy and Xavier Gens did the others. We wanted to give them a sense of freedom and flexibility to plug into different genres, styles, and influences.
Thompson: Let’s talk about your Netflix deal. Have you got free rein? Will it be all movies or potentially shows too? Could this be where that long-awaited remake of The Raid gets new life?
Evans: The remake of The Raid wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I’d love to take a crack at it because then I could put whatever I earn on it into something else that I want to do. The Netflix thing is pretty much whatever each project feels like, whether that’s a TV show or a movie. Havoc is next for me, and I’m super excited to do that. That’s a movie that is definitely a standalone project. There are no current plans for that to become a franchise. I think on a project by project basis, if I pitch something and I feel like it has legs, and it could part one of two or three or wherever, that’s certainly a conversation to be had. Likewise, if I have a TV show idea that I pitch to them, a similar thing applies. Is it a miniseries, or is it a returning series? There is freedom and flexibility for us to figure out what each project would be and how it would be presented. Bearing in mind what we’ve all endured in the last year, it’s good to be back at work. I’m never not going to be grateful for that.
Gangs of London premieres on AMC on Sunday, April 4, 2021.