Gangs Of London Cast And Director Reveal How They Filmed Brutal Fight Scenes
New Sky crime drama Gangs of London may have only dropped yesterday, but already fans are awestruck by the 'brutal' fight scenes - many of which took days to shoot.
Directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid), Corin Hardy and Xavier Gens, the new gangland thriller sees Peaky Blinders' Joe Cole take on the role of sulky, hot-headed Sean Wallace, the son of the UK's most notorious gangster (Colm Meaney), who must assume the formidable position as head of the family after his father is assassinated.
Opposite Cole is Sope Dirisu's Elliot Finch, a mysterious low-life desperately seeking to become Sean's right-hand man.
His fight to the top turns out to be something of a literal one, as we learn early doors with an extended pub brawl in the feature-length first episode - where ashtrays and darts are turned into macabre makeshift weapons, and grown men are thrown across the room like ragdolls.
The ambitious pub sequence took the cast and crew around four days to film, as did another, even more brutal confrontation later in the episode involving a character called Lenn (who spends most of the exchange flailing about in his underpants with a meat cleaver).
Of course, moments of hyper-violence are often part of the territory with a gang drama, even ones like Gangs of London, where slick production and beautiful, almost gentle, cinematography nearly distracts you from the white-knuckled ride waiting to ambush.
However, in drawing on his background in Indonesian martial arts films, Evans has not only choreographed such sequences with care, he's also given them precedence in driving the narrative, in turn ensuring they're never frivolous, nor overly relentless.
Instead, they become an extension of the action - an adrenaline rush that viewers are already hooked on.
Just done episode 1 of #GangsofLondon. Top tier, high-end TV. Whilst the London criminal underworld is fairly well trodden ground, the frenetic action sequences and brutal violence take it to the next level. Kudos to Gareth Evans. Onto episode 2...
- MarcFC 007 (@marcfc) April 23, 2020
Pub fight scene. Glass ashtray in mouth, leg snap around bar. 10/10
*orders a dart for those creepy walks home* #GangsOfLondon
- HerNextDoor S͓̽t͓̽a͓̽y͓̽ ͓̽a͓̽t͓̽ ͓̽h͓̽o͓̽m͓̽e͓̽ (@next_sarah) April 23, 2020
Just seen the first episode of #GangsOfLondon its outstanding the fights are the best I've seen #brutal
- shaun smith (@tempersmith) April 23, 2020
50 minutes in to the first episode of #GangsOfLondon watching Elliot's brutal fight scenes like..... pic.twitter.com/HG2kfJ04cH
- Kat (@kat18002603) April 23, 2020
Speaking to LADbible, Evans said: "This show and the approach to the violence has always been one where it's not exploitative, so we will give you things which are visceral and we'll give you things which are kind of hard-hitting.
"Depending on the tone of the scene and the setup for it, something like the pub fight can play quite fun. It's a rollercoaster and you can enjoy the energy of it and be swept away by it.
"Then the fight with Lenn at the end of episode one is quite aggressive and is quite strong, almost like a horror film, so they have to play tonally different.
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"But in both of those little punchy visceral moments of violence, we don't dwell on them for long, so you'll see something, but you'll see it for a few frames and then cut away to something else.
"So then you're kind of filling in the blanks in your own head, and so I don't think that what we've done is irresponsible in that way.
"And also the show exists in a heightened world, so that allows us to be a bit more stylised then with what we're aiming for."
Dirisu added: "The fight scenes and the violence are never glorifying the negative aspects of the show.
"We're not celebrating that people are out there fighting and dying, but it is definitely a flavour and a part of the series that we've created."
These hyperactive fight sequences are what will arguably linger in viewers' minds most after watching the show, which is probably good, given what went into creating them.
Speaking at a Q&A ahead of the show's release, the cast and creators discussed how the fight sequences were brought to life, with Dirisu - who features heavily in the show's action scenes - saying: "I have a background of playing a lot of contact sports when I was younger. I played rugby, I played American football, I still play football as much as I can now. I did karate and judo when I was younger, but it was just after school clubs. It was never at the level that Gareth is used to.
"That said, I had a willingness to put my body through stuff - but that doesn't mean I had any coordination or skill!
"For a month my body did sort of transform from this has-been to someone who could hold his own weight in these fights."
Referring to the pub fight scene, Dirisu continued: "They were four really intense days, but they were a joy to do and I felt really looked after. I felt supported in doing those, and I think Gareth will remember that I just always wanted to be the guy.
"I have to definitely shout out Mens[-Sana Tamakloe], who was my stunt double. Some of the more brutal incidents that you see is definitely him.
"But I wanted to do them, apart from the one where he gets tossed across the room and his back smashes against the corner of the wall - that was one I was very happy for Mens to do!"
Evans explained how his past work has often involved 'turning a martial artist into an actor', whereas this called for the opposite, as he was tasked with transforming an actor 'into someone who could be physically capable of the choreography we're gonna throw at him'.
"We had about four days for the pub fight, and then three and a half days for the Lenn fight," Evans said.
"For that fight I'd say Sope is in it for 95 percent of the shots and gave everything to it.
"It's quite an exhilarating process. You get his weird sense of elation when you're reaching the end of a sequence and you know that you haven't' had to drop too much to get it done."
He continued: "With the pub fight we knew that that was going be one that would be more like a rollercoaster ride, so we want that to be fun. We want that to be energetic and thrilling, and you can kind of get dragged along through that sequence and enjoy it.
"And then when it came to the Lenn fight that's a whole different tonal shift. The Len fight borrows way more from the horror genre [...] There's no escape from something, and it's relentless and it's tormenting him."
Gangs of London is now available to watch on Sky and Now TV.
Featured Image Credit: Sky
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