Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Cung Le, Keith David and Juju Chan head the cast for Jesse V. Johnson’s new action thriller, ‘Savage Dog‘…
Indochina-1959. A lawless land controlled by criminals where Vietnamese warlords and European war criminals hold the power. The Den Dhin Chan Labour Camp is the worst prison in the land, run by a quartet of four dangerous men. It is here that a European former boxing champion, Martin Tillman (Scott Adkins), has found himself. He’s survived the prison by taking part in the illegal fight game which sees wealthy criminals gambling on the outcome. With Tillman due for release – and planning on returning home – the corrupted souls who control the jail will do anything they can to keep him locked down and making money for them. But when all that Tillman holds dear is taken away in a vicious act of violence, he will be forced to walk the road of vengeance and unleash the ‘savage dog’ that dwells within….
Impact has long championed the work of many of the cast and crew from Savage Dog – from its director Jesse Johnson (Pitfighter, Charlie Valentine) through leading man Scott Adkins (the Undisputed and Ninja franchise), Marko Zaror (Mandrill, From Dusk Till Dawn the series), Cung Le (Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, RZA’s Man with the Iron Fists), veteran actor Keith David (The Thing, Dead Presidents). The film’s female lead is Juju Chan from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and Roger Corman’s Fists of the Dragon.
On playing the character Martin Tillman, Scott Adkins says: “Martin is one of these characters that doesn’t say much. He plays his cards close to his chest. He’s a tortured soul. I’ve played this type of character before, but it suits me well. The fights in this film are more realistic than most of my other films. We’re not doing so much the long takes or the flashy techniques; we’re trying to be more brutal and gritty because that goes with the story that we’re trying to tell and the character I play. It’s hyper violent in a fun way. It’s something that I enjoy. It’s cinematic and violent.”
As the film is set in Indochina in the 1950s, Adkins observes: “A white guy doing martial arts in the ’50s doesn’t necessarily make sense, but my character Martin is living in Indochina, so we’re saying he’s had some experience training with some Thai fighters, so we’re mixing some old school boxing techniques with some sort of Thai boxing techniques.”
The films fight choreography is handled by Luke LaFontaine, a veteran screen fighter himself whose credits include Charlie Valentine, The Beautiful Ones, Alien Agent and The Last Sentinel with Johnson, The Masked Rider TV series, Martial Law and Welcome to the Jungle/The Rundown with The Rock.
“You’re gonna get a really tight and engaging story,” Adkins promises. “It’s something different, set in a time period that you’ve not quite seen before for this type of movie. It’s got strong characters and it’s got some great action. I’m very happy to be working with Luke LaFontaine the fight coordinator. He’s bringing something interesting to the fights. Luke has done a stellar job.”
On his co-star Marko Zaror, he states, “Marko and I worked on Undisputed III together. He’s an incredible martial artist, and one of the best in the business in screen fighting. We’re quite similar in many ways.”
Zaror says of his character; “I wanted to find the Rasignac within myself. He’s an assassin, an opium dealer, and he fought in different divisions. He’s a war assassin, and he gets in Martin’s way. He has codes of honor and respects life and death, and has his own philosophies. The fight scenes will shake things up. The fights will be realistic and will use some interesting weapons. My character knows Savate, a unique style of martial arts.”
Former Strikeforce Champion and UFC veteran Cung Le who plays the antaganistic Boon had the following to say of his role; “My character is just trying to make a living, but because of his military background, he sometimes works for people that he doesn’t necessarily like. He’s there doing his job. His main focus is to make sure his family is taken care of. Whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy, he’s just got to be there to make sure things get done. I dig this character. I wanted to see what kind of a guy I could pull from Boon. I’ve been through a lot, and I thought I could pull some emotions and moments from my own life to show how Boon would react to certain situations.” And as for why he took on this project: “I jumped on this because it was a chance to work with Scott Adkins and ultimately do a big fight with him. The centerpiece fight we have is savage!”
We’ve admired Johnson’s work as a director for a long time, and its been interesting to see his progression as a director – he certainly knows his action having honed his craft under Stunt Legends Vic and Andy Armstrong. But he’s never neglected the story and dramatic elements of the projects he delivers and the first look at Savage Dog looks like a perfect blend of action and drama.
“Savage Dog has been an obsession of mine for quite some time. I wanted to tell a story that was set against an original and vibrant historical-background. A time of mythic-heroes, larger-than-life villains and the men who scratch a living in between. I wanted something that felt new and original, but also harkened back to the ‘golden-age of action-movies.’ When I talked with Scott Adkins about this project I realised I had finally found my muse, an actor who was as obsessed with movies and the quality of “action-versus-acting” as I am – an artist who pays incredible attention to his performance, as well as his spinning-kick!” Johnson exclusively tells Impact.
“He was an inspiration to all of us, and I am just truly grateful to this cast of characters who decided to join the French Foreign legion in IndoChina for a few months: Marko Zaror and Cung Le whom I have watched and enjoyed for years. Vladimir Kulich, who nearly steals the show. Keith David who adds gravitas and profundity to the story, and Juju Chan who is just heart-breaking. Just a group of insanely-talented and committed-actors …” he continues. “We knew we wanted Savage Dog to be a ‘love letter’ to another cinematic era, but also needed it to be completely modern in it’s technique and execution. It was a rough, physically-demanding shoot, that covered hundreds of miles of mountains, muddy swamps, and into a land of no cell or internet… and it tested the creative-team to the breaking point! But, these productions are the ones you are most proud of, and I pray that the blood, sweat and tears are evident in the finished result. I hope your readers enjoy our movie as much as I do!
Savage Dog will be unleashed theatrically and on VOD from Xlrator Media later this year.
(Johnson and Adkins have also recently wrapped their next project together Accident Man which sees the two of them bringing their own brand of mayhem to the mean streets of London…)