Over the years Isaac Florentine has garnered a legion of fans for his work in the action genre, most notably in martial arts films. Early on he directed a ton of episodes from the varying Power Rangers episodes, but since he has delivered some of the best martial arts film around including Undisputed 2-3, Ninja 1-2, and The Shepard. With all of these films he worked with martial arts superstar Scott Adkins who has dominated the genre as well. Now the two are back together again for their latest film Close Range. I had the chance to sit down with the director to discuss the film as well as the martial arts and the potential future of these franchises.
Bobby: Where did the idea of Close Range come from?
Isaac: I wrote a different script and sent it to the producer and he told me he was just thinking about me because there was this script I wanted to do. Then he sent over the script and I read it and it and it was much like a western and I liked it.
Bobby: You have done a lot of martial arts films. When you go into a film are you looking for that genre or are you just looking for a good action picture?
Isaac: The first thing I am looking for is a good story and characters. Its story and character first and then the action is really secondary because the action you create. If the story works and the characters are interesting then the action can always be choreographed and designed.
Bobby: What’s great about this film is that it is a hardcore action film with just enough story keeping it moving forward, but still mystery to the characters. Was that originally written that way or something designed that you might be able to bring Adkins back if this one is a success?
Isaac: You know you read a draft of a script and you may like it, but want to change it and go in a different direction. It’s basically both where each director takes it in their own direction.
Bobby: You’ve done a bunch of movies with Adkins now. Do you look for projects for you guys to work on together now that he has cemented himself as one of the big action stars?
Isaac: I love working with him, I think it’s been like nine movies now. When you work with someone and you are comfortable with them and they are comfortable with you we both push each other. When Scott comes to work here is there to work. He really works hard. When I come to work, I come to work so we are both really hard workers and the people that I bring to work on a low budget movie are really hardworking people. No one is a pre-Madonna they all come to work and promise to do the maximum we can do with the budget and schedule we have and get better results. A perfect example is Scott who comes to work and works hard, hard, hard.
Bobby: While all of your films are action heavy, Close Range harkens back to the 80s and 90s action films and plays up as non-stop action this time around. Are you really hands on when creating these fight scenes?
Isaac: First the scene has to be designed right, and then it has to be shot right. Many years ago I used to do both, but the people I work with know my style and I know theirs so yes I am hands on. On the other hand, when I have the fight choreographer doing the fights I will sit on the side and not interfere. I believe in the creativity of people and the more you delegate to them the better they will do.
Bobby: Being a martial artist myself I am always interested in people that work in this genre. Do you do martial arts yourself?
Isaac: I trained in Karate since 1971 and some Muay Thai too. Japanese Karate is my style, but with movies you do more street fighting. With me talking to the stunt guys or talking to the camera man or shooting martial arts gives us the edge. I think for the martial artists when they see it on screen appreciate it more.
Bobby: When you go to cast these movies and obviously have people like Adkins, but then bring in someone like Kane Kosugi for Ninja 2, do you have a certain person of style you are looking for in those roles?
Isaac: I first have a vision of the direction we are going to go and then who is the person that could bring the character and the style into the movie, so the answer is yes. Kane was perfect for Ninja 2 because he had the movements, the age, the acting and his movements were perfect package for it. You can see that the way Scott fights in Ninja is slightly different than the way he fights as Boyka and different than Colt MacReady in Close Range because all the styles are different.
Bobby: Since you mentioned Boyka, are there plans to do any more Undisputed, Ninja or Close Range films?
Isaac: Undisputed 4 we have already shot and is still in the works to be completed. I don’t know about Ninja yet, but the Colt MacReady character is a very efficient character for sequels you know.
Bobby: So does that mean if this one does well there is a plan to revisit the MacReady character?
Isaac: I don’t know. I am not the person to be asking, that’s the production company. I hope so.
Bobby: I am a huge fan of your films and it has been a real honor to get to speak with you.
Isaac: Thank you, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me as well.
Check out Close Range available now on VOD and iTunes.