Interview with Avengement Director Jesse V. Johnson
by Bobby Blakey
I love all things martial arts. Over the last few years director Jesse V Johnson and Scott Adkins have teamed up to deliver some great martial arts flicks including Savage Dog, Accident Man, Debt Collector, and Triple Threat. Their latest film Avengement takes things in a brutal new direction in the best way possible and I got the chance to speak with Johnson about bringing this violent action flick to life.
Bobby: Where did Avengement come from?
Jesse: It was born of necessity. I had a picture with Scott greenlit, but he did not want to leave the UK because his wife was about to give birth so I raced to my memory banks of scripts. I looked for something that was rather intense that would work for him. I hadn’t made a film based on the East End and gangsters which is something I grew up around. We kept revising it to make sure it was going to work for his audience with the fights and that it was organic to the story as well.
Bobby: There is an evolution to his mentality as well as his physicality in regards to scars and such that happen throughout the film. Was that something that was kind of already laid out or something you guys worked out to come up with the final look?
Jesse: That was part of the exciting things at the very beginning. He is literally chiseled away from the man he was to become this scarred up version of himself. We wanted him to be emotionally damaged when you meet him, which he is, but we wanted to manifest it physically as well as he goes through so much and loses his marbles so to speak. It just reminds the audience how tortured this soul is. It’s not just the heart and soul, but physically scarred, chewed up and spit out. It was very exciting for us to do that and Scott said when he put those teeth in it helped find the character. When he did rehearsal without them he said it was so much harder to find the character since they reminded him of who he had become.
Bobby: These elements are told in a nonlinear style which works here. Was that always the way it was meant to be told?
Jesse: Yeah, for me part of the excitement telling this story was having this guy appear in front of these gangsters and may or may not be part of them. The audience as well as those gangsters in the room learn bit by bit who this character is and what his problem is. I love that sort of thing. There is a film called Harakiri by Masaki Kobayashi that is masterpiece of cinema which I have always been excited by. In one point of the film an old samurai walks into a castle and ask to commit suicide in one of their spare rooms. From that point on you learn his real intentions and it’s the same sort of storytelling in this one. I really thought it was something that could be done and at the end of the day this is also a revenge story. There are a lot of those so for me it was finding a way to make the story interesting.
Bobby: I think that aspect of seeing how brutal he is and then seeing where he came from helped the film to elevate the character. I think it was brilliantly done that way.
Jesse: Thank you. Did you understand all the cockney?
Bobby: I did. I’m far from an expert, but think I have seen enough of them now that I get it. There was a learning curve but I got it.
Jesse: You might now understand exactly what someone is saying, but you understand the spirit.
Bobby: Exactly. One of the things I did notice hear the brutality level was way higher than the kind of martial arts flicks you guys have done in the past.
Jesse: It’s a more serious film at its core, but not at first glance. It initially looks like a B movie martial arts film but aspires to be more. It’s more about him looking for redemption and in the real world fighting is much more brutal than you normally see in martial arts films. Flesh gets discolored quickly and blood is spilled so we wanted this one to be more brutal and in reality more so than the other pictures.
Bobby: I applaud you for taking that risk because fans have expectations of what they want from people like Adkins and anytime they do something different they throw a fit. Here it works so well to elevate the character and story to me made it a better film.
Is there anything else you have coming up you can tell us about?
Jesse: I have several movies coming up with some big name actors that is very exciting. With Scott we have a green light from Sony on Accident Man 2 and a Debt Collector sequel.
Bobby: That is awesome news. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and a bit thank you for making these kinds of movies. There just isn’t enough of them out there and you guys continue to make some of the best martial arts flicks to come along in years. I want to keep seeing more and really appreciate everything you are doing.
Jesse: Thank you Bobby, that means the world to me. I appreciate it brother.
Be sure to check out Avengement in Theaters, On Demand and digital now from Samuel Goldwyn Films.
To check out our review for Avengement head over here.