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Producer Bill Kong Sets ‘The Furious’ With Director Tanigaki Kenji

April 25, 20245 Mins Read

The action thriller, assembling the best of Asia, has started production in Bangkok

Bill Kong is cautious, vastly experienced and has an impeccable reputation as a key gateway between Hollywood and China to maintain. He is someone far more likely to deadpan than gush.

So, to hear him getting into high gear with a pitch for his bucket list martial arts movie project “The Furious” immediately invites comparison with previous Kong-produced action pictures including Oscar-winner “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Jet Li’s Fearless” or the Zhang Yimou-directed “Hero.”

“I’m going to do an action movie that rocks the world. And to prove that Hong Kong still has something to give the film industry. I want to show that Asian people can still make an action movie that is better than the rest of the world,” Kong tells Variety.

Significantly, “The Furious” is a project made by Hong Kong, rather than made in Hong Kong. Kong’s Edko Films is financing and producing. XYZ Films is producing and handling world sales (excluding China, Hong Kong and Macau). The film is scripted by Mak Tin Shu and is produced by Kong, Frank Hui and Shan Tam. Executive producers are Todd Brown and Aram Tertzakian of XYZ Films.

(By producing the film without mainland Chinese finance or production partners, it can be made without reference to Chinese censorship considerations at script stage. And Kong expects the finished work to be treated as an import.)

Starting production in Bangkok, Thailand, earlier this week, the English-language action thriller is directed by Japanese stunt director and action choreographer Tanigaki Kenji.

And it boasts a pan-Asian cast headed by China’s Xie Miao, Indonesia’s Joe Taslim (“The Raid: Redemption,” “Star Trek Beyond”), Thailand’s Jeeja Yanin (“Chocolate”), Yang Enyu and Indonesia’s Yayan Ruhian (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” “The Raid”).

Fittingly, the story is straightforward. When his daughter is snatched off the street, simple tradesman Konggu (Xie) fights his way through a complex web of criminals in a frantic attempt to win her back by any means necessary. His only ally is tireless journalist Navin (Taslim). The two men from utterly different backgrounds must learn to trust, collaborate and draw on combat skills from their own hidden pasts.

But if the pitch has echoes of other revenge movies, Kong says he is setting the bar far higher. “If we fail, ‘The Furious’ will only be as good as ‘The Raid’ or ‘Taken,’” he says. “We also want the characters to move people.”

There is an industry mission too. “Through this film, I want us to discover the new Yuen Woo-ping, the new Sammo Hung and the new Donnie Yen,” Kong says, referencing the martial arts choreographer who directed “Crouching Tiger,” whose shoes Tanigaki is expected to fill, and to past and present icons of the Asian martial arts genre.

Director Tanigaki Kenji.
Edko Films

Tanigaki already has impressive credits in Asia, including action work on Soi Cheang’s “Monkey King” and Japanese anime-to live action franchise “Rurouni Kenshin.” Kong now likens Tanigaki to the top names in Hollywood who have made the transition from action and stunts to film directing. “Think what Chad Stahelski was before directing ‘John Wick,’ of ‘Deadpool’s David Leitch or ‘Extraction’s’ Sam Hargraves,” he says. “That’s what Tanagaki is in Asia right now.”

XYZ’s Brown, who says being a part of “The Raid” changed the course of his life, is similarly in awe of Tanigaki. “While people may not know who director Kenji Tanigaki is right now, they’re certainly going to. He’s the best there is, his work is incredibly kinetic while also being incredibly grounded and real,” Brown tells Variety. “People know Bill Kong’s previous martial arts productions for being incredibly beautiful and emotional, but this one? Tanigaki is going to punch the world in the face.”

Todd Brown of XYZ Films.
XYZ Films

Tanigaki has been based between Hong Kong and Japan for decades and has worked closely with Donnie Yen. He explains his approach to directing “The Furious” as bringing together multiple different forms of martial arts, a cast of athlete-actors, minimal stunt doubles and CGI and lashings of rehearsal time.

“I’m not interested in making actors who cannot move look as if they can,” Tanigaki says. “Our cast has real skills from different martial arts disciplines. Everything we are doing is going to be practical.”

Tanagaki trained and rehearsed with them in a disused car showroom in inner Bangkok for a month, before heading to locations on the outskirts of the city for the next two and a half months.

“Take the films of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin or Fred Astaire. We are still watching those movies 50 years after they were made,” he adds. “They are classics, that are practical and real. I hope our movie will be able to live on like that.”

Kong says: “Now is the time to make a great Asian action film. We have the people and the motivation. Chad Stahelski follows every Asian action movie and I remember he once told me, ‘You [Asian filmmakers] don’t know your own strengths’.”

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