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THE BIG HIT

Choreography
With a cast now in place, Wong's first order of business was to choreograph the action sequences

With a cast now in place, Wong's first order of business was to choreograph the action sequences. Both Toronto-based stunt coordinator John Stoneham, Jr., and Hong Kong-based stunt consultant, Lau Chi-Ho-known internationally for his creative set pieces for John Woo's The Killer and Bullet In The Head-were hired. Together they scouted each location to determine how the action scenes could be made more elaborate.

"At the same time, if you put an experienced Hong Kong action director on a picture, you expect him to deliver a fresh, innovative and exciting rhythm of action and stunts. So we tried to stretch the idea of what an action scene can be in a Hollywood film."

According to Zide, Wahlberg and Phillips approached the film's demanding action scenes with an enthusiasm that stemmed from a mutual desire to achieve the best shot. "Mark doesn't want the audience to see a close up of him and then a wide shot of someone who looks like him doing the stunt. Lou felt the same way. They take it as far as the stunt-people will allow them to in terms of safety," says Zide.

To make the action scenes more believable, Wahlberg underwent an intensive training period with kick boxing champion Benny the Jet, which came in handy once production began. "Once Che-Kirk found out that I was capable of handling the physical stuff, I started getting calls over the weekend from him wondering if I wanted to jump off a building."

For his part, Phillips was quite impressed by the film's action sequences. "Che-Kirk has taken action to another level, so that a simple car chase becomes lyrical and funny and psychotic. And the Hong Kong stunt men are indestructible-I think that they have rubber bones. It's very exciting."

Wong's talents, however, stretch far beyond staging great action sequences. Thanks to him, scenes like the hotel hit scene and the video store battle between Mel and Cisco are visually richer onscreen than the script might have suggested.

In addition, according to Chang, Wong knows the secret to getting great performances out of his actors-listen to their ideas. "I'm inspired by the actors," says Wong. "When I cast someone, it's not only because they fit the role, but also because they bring something more to the role. They give the character depth and insight."

For example, Phillips suggested that his character, Cisco, should have tattoos and a gold-framed tooth. During the rehearsal process, Phillips, Wahlberg and Wong saw Carlos Santana in concert. "As one of the band members came on stage he made this really cool gesture with his hands that defined Cisco for me," says Phillips. "After the concert I asked him if I could borrow the gesture for the character."

Adds Wahlberg, "The acting gets overlooked in most action films. But Che-Kirk's really in tune with the acting, and the action was actually secondary."

Wong was equally receptive to suggestions from the rest of his talented team. For director of photography Danny Nowak, production designer Taavo Soodor, and costume designer Margaret M. Mohr, interpreting Wong's vision was a dream job.

"Che-Kirk trained as an fashion designer early in his career, so his sense of color is dead-on. From Cisco's Gauthier-gone-mad outfits and Mort's bingo playing get-up to the neighborhood guys in their aloha shirts and shorts, Che-Kirk was very clear that the costumes should add to the overall visual look of the film," says Mohr.

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