Gangs of London Director on Bringing the UK's Underworld to Life for Intense Series

Filmmaker Gareth Evans made a major name for himself in genre cinema thanks in large part to his two The Raid films, with Evans recently developing the all-new TV series Gangs of London, which embraces the break-neck intensity of his previous films with the seedy exploits of London's criminal underworld. To help Evans bring the project to life, he tapped filmmaker Corin Hardy to direct multiple episodes, with Hardy previously directing horror films like The Hallow and The Nun. Hardy had previously been developing a new installment in The Crow franchise, which is what ultimately resulted in his partnership with Evans on the complex new TV series. Gangs of London is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

"It started a few years ago, I suppose, when I was working on my version of The Crow, Gareth and I had become mutual friends online through mutual, I suppose, admiration of each other's work and lovers of genre. I think you gravitate together," Hardy detailed to of the partnership. "You can know when someone's a true lover of certain movies that you also feel the same about, and that's what makes us come together, in a way. I wanted to pick his brains because I thought if I'm gonna do The Crow, we need to really balance a certain level of action and Gareth established himself as a master of that. He asked me about a show he was putting together called 'Gangs of London,' if I'd be able to do it, and eventually, I became available and got involved and did what I thought was an episode that became three that became four, and now I'm still making Season 2. It's become my life, which is unexpected, but I'm getting a thrill out of it."

In the series, for 20 years, Finn Wallace (Colm Meaney) was the most powerful criminal in London. Billions of pounds flowed through his organization each year. But now he's dead – and nobody knows who ordered the hit. With rivals everywhere, it's up to the impulsive Sean Wallace (Joe Cole), with the help of the Dumani family headed by Ed Dumani (Lucian Msamati), to take his father's place. If the situation wasn't already dangerous enough, Sean's assumption of power causes ripples in the world of international crime. Perhaps the one man who might be able to help him and be his ally is Elliot Finch (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù), who up until now, has been one of life's losers, a lowlife chancer with a mysterious interest in the Wallace family. But as the wind of fate blows, Elliot finds himself transported to the inner workings of the largest criminal organization in London. It doesn't end with the Wallaces though, there are shadowy higher powers at play.

Hardy might have proven himself as a director who can deliver audiences unsettling subject matter, he admitted that he had some trepidation about entering an all-new narrative realm.

"I was quite terrified in a lot of ways, because it was so, not because it was a challenge, because it was so grounded ... I'm a bit, I suppose, adverse to modern technology, modern world, politics, modern cars and buildings, so it was the fact that it was set now in London and was a very grounded crime drama, but I suppose the thing that constantly made me feel at ease was knowing that Gareth had put this thing together and he was aspiring for a certain cinematic world within Gangs of London," the filmmaker admitted of his apprehension towards the material. "It's ultimately a tonal balance that we had to juggle between a grounded, realistic-feeling crime show that was emotionally family driven with Asian martial arts and Korean revenge thrillers and horror and Western-infused action and tension-filled set pieces that were gonna be cinematic and immersive. Knowing that he had put this thing together, we were on the same level, and then Xavier [Gens], who joined as well, has come from a similar genre background. We found our way to make something that was as un-television-like as possible, I suppose."

Despite the series not being a straightforward horror story, the overall intensity of the narrative leans into genre elements, with Hardy detailing how his installments took on a more horrifying tone than other entries.

"I would say, in defense of Episode 6, or in the U.S., 7, which was Xavier's episode of, without getting into spoilers, but I'm sure everyone's seen it, there's a certain Marian Wallace in the basement, that was an episode which I read which was straight out of almost a Korean torture movie, in a way, and I was sort of like, 'I'm glad I don't have to do that one because that's almost into a different genre of horror that I'm less able to do,'" Hardy detailed. "I think we pushed certain things, it was finding that fine line, where if you go too far into genre, it becomes unbelievable and you lose the connection to reality but, equally, it was really important to build not just visually, but I'm a firm believer in a story needing to suspend your belief, pull you in, and take you on a roller coaster. Particularly a sequence I did in Episode 4, or 5, depending on if you're in the U.S. In fact, the whole episode, was 5 in the U.S., where it's like a melting pot that's building up this tension and it was the mid-point in the season and I just felt it really needed to go for it. At the time, it was going to be my last episode, until I was asked to do the final one, and it had this opportunity for the set-piece in the alleyway and I saw it as an answer-call to what happens in the third episode, with Sean Wallace annihilating the traveler's camp. I wanted him to properly have his ass handed to him by whoever's attacking him, so I can't help be inspired by John Carpenter or Paul Verhoeven or William Friedkin or John Woo."

He continued, "So I knew the geography of the alleyway and the smoky atmosphere from coming out of the Chinese restaurants and the red laser picking up in the fog and the heads exploding, I wanted to push that through and experience on the ground in some kind of real way. Like you're down in Saving Private Ryan, in that way, and then push it all the way back to the house where there's this family dinner unfolding where everything was going quite right until it all goes terribly wrong. The horror aspect is partly in the script and partly filled in as a director when you interpret it and I just wanted to try to end that episode in a breathless way, where the tension and the horror of it has also thrilled you to the point of intrigue."

Hardy is currently working on Season 2 of the series, and while it's unknown the direction the story will take, he revealed he does know there's a conclusion the program is heading towards.

"There's definitely an endgame, an evolving endgame," Hardy confessed. "I went straight from delivering the final shots of Season 1 straight into Season 2 during the first wave of the pandemic and worked for the last year and a half on Season 2 and I've just shot my first two episodes, so it's not been on hold, it's only right now that there's a few days. It's been full tilt and it's been one of the most exhausting shoots, just because it's been so ambitious to keep the level that we've set and push it further. It's definitely a story that's gonna keep going."


Gangs of London is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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