I grew up on action films. The memory of watching Arnold, Sly, Willis, Van Damme, and Seagal kick ass and take names in the name of justice doesn't fade decades later. Action adventures aren't as easy to produce as some think. You don't simply blow shit up, stage a car chase, and find a group of good looking actors to carry out the stunts.
You need a certain level of authenticity to authorize the experience. A reliable face and mind behind the action. Someone you are convinced could kick that guy's ass, save the girl, and drop a one line smoke bomb before exiting.
Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan represent hope for action addicts and have made a pact to get it right.
This past week, the two friends and collaborators formed the production company, War Party. The goal behind it is simple. Make reliable and worthy action entertainment.
Take Wheelman, the Netflix original film shooting this fall that the duo are producing, for example. This isn't just any script. It's written and directed by Jeremy Rush, one of the hottest young names in the business. He won an award for screenwriting and Netflix didn't waste a second scooping up his first mainstream film. That's because Rush treats his work like a fresh pint of Guinness. Sip and savor, ladies and gents.
The plot is simple. Grillo plays an expert driver that is betrayed by his crew and he must race against time to save his family. In other words, he's going to kick lots of ass, rock a five o'clock shadow while doing it, and drive like a mad man. Think Drive, but with a bigger horse behind the wheel. That's all the plot you need for an action movie.
Folks, these people aren't reinventing the wheel or challenging Daniel Day Lewis' shoe cobbling. It's about entertainment. Getting what most moviegoers assume is conventional and turning it into something original and fresh. It's all in the details. How precise will the stunts be? What kind of cars will they use? Who is behind the wheel? Who is overseeing the operation? Is the script good?
The answers. Grillo. Carnahan. Rush. Netflix. BOOM! Sip and savor the event folks.
It's easy to trust Carnahan. He directed one of the most soulful, captivating, and underrated cop films in Narc. He tossed Liam Neeson and Grillo out into British Columbia and pitted them against a pack of wolves in The Grey, a film that resonated deeper than most expected. He created the wild B-side to Pulp Fiction with Smokin' Aces, giving Ryan Reynolds his first role with teeth. He helms Bad Boys 3 next year. The man doesn't work unless the work is worthy. Paychecks don't stack up anywhere near integrity.
Grillo is the action hero audiences deserve. Talk about a guy who exudes confidence, swagger, and the ability to convince. He's an avenging, purging, and the ultimate purveyor of poetic justice. A tightly clinched fist wrapped around a heart of authenticity that can't be bought. The 51 year old star of AT&T's hit series Kingdom and star of the highly successful Purge series is riding a high that hasn't stopped since 2011's Warrior, the blueprint behind Kingdom.
Put those two together with an ambitious guy like Rush and it's the makings for a madness that may just blow the roof off the streaming service's potential. Instead of going through a distribution deal that may not do the film justice, Carnahan and Grillo hooked up with Netflix, ensuring that creative freedom was attained along with the film being released around the world at once. How about that for precise?
Action isn't an easy enterprise these days. Everybody has seen the revenge flick, cop drama, or wild bunch gesture. It's all in the details. Think of a chef in a kitchen. You take an authentic actor, mix in a talented director with some producing muscle, and a pinch of style in order to create something endlessly entertaining.
Grillo and Carnahan give hope for action addicts who need a fix. Wheelman is just the beginning. War Party is getting warmed up. Who needs awards when you have pure entertainment?
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