Hunting down those people who you have targeted as being the most harmful to your cherished way of life is a difficult prospect, but ultimately a rewarding one once you actually capture them. Both the protagonist, former bounty hunter Will Tanner, and the antagonist, human target game mastermind Raul Baccaro, are enthrallingly and fearlessly taking on that daunting challenge in the upcoming action film, ‘The Condemned 2.’ The sequel to the 2007 action thriller, ‘The Condemned,’ follows the two new enemies as they’re thrown into the ultimate game of survival: the launch of another real life televised death match that thrives on its viewers gambling on who will be the only surviving participant.
Lionsgate, which has once again partnered with WWE Studios, after they previously worked together on such films as ‘Vendetta’ and ‘See No Evil 2,’ will distribute the production company’s newest sequel in theaters and on VOD on Friday. To help showcase how the characters’ gambling, corruption and greed are taken to the extreme, and how they’re all struggling to survive, in ‘The Condemned 2,’ its director and cinematographer, Roel Reiné, and actor Steven Michael Quezada both generously took the time recently to participate in separate exclusive phone interviews. While discussing the action movie, the filmmaker and performer delved into such subjects as the experience of collaborating with WWE world champion Randy Orton, who portrayed Quezada’s character’s nemesis, Will, and their passion for crafting the stunts at the movie’s diverse shooting locations.
‘The Condemned 2’ is set after bounty hunter Will Tanner (Orton) fails to capture the leader of a deadly gambling ring, Cyrus Merrick (Wes Studi). Will then becomes the hunted-a human target in a game in which contestants must kill or be killed. As high rollers bet on who will survive, Will, his dad, Frank (Eric Roberts), and members of Will’s team wage an all-out war against the game’s mastermind, Raul Baccaro (Steven Michael Quezada).
Reiné started his interview by explaining that he was interested in directing the upcoming action sequel because he’s previously helmed “a few other movies for the WWE; I’ve also done ‘The Marine 2’ with them, so I was already familiar with the company. I really like what they stand for.” The filmmaker added that he was also interested in collaborating with Orton again on ‘The Condemned 2,’ as he helmed the lead actor in another WWE Studios follow-up action thriller, 2013’s ‘12 Rounds 2: Reloaded.’
But when WWE Studios initially asked Reiné to direct their latest action sequel, he was already working on another project, so the production company waited until he was available to make ‘The Condemned 2.’ Once production finally began on their latest movie began, the filmmaker described collaborating with the WWE again as a “very easy process; everything went smoothly.”
The helmer explained that the relationship he has with WWE Studios works so well because there’s a lot of trust between them. “They know what I can do, such as getting everything done on time within the budget,” he explained. So the production company allowed Reiné to shoot ‘The Condemned 2’ the way he wanted to once he arrived on the action film’s set. “They developed the script with me, and once the production began, they basically let me do my thing, which was wonderful.”
The way the production company’s executives approached working with Orton and the rest of ‘The Condemned 2’s actors was also of importance to Reiné. Since the 12-time world champion wrestler has a developed brand, “It’s very important what Randy does, and how he does it. So it’s very nice to feel how serious (the WWE is) in making genre movies,” particularly ones that feature wrestlers from the entertainment company. The filmmaker added that he thinks he and WWE Studios “will probably make more movies together in the future, because we have a mutual love for the genre, and making good movies.”
Since ‘The Condemned 2’ marks the second time Reiné collaborated with Orton, after they previously worked together on ‘12 Rounds 2: Reloaded,’ the director noted that “it was fun to work with him again, because I think he’s growing as an actor.” The filmmaker added that he feels the WWE wrestler’s experience standing in the ring, in front of thousands of fans, as he performs his fights, helps him as an actor.
But as a fighter, Orton takes “a different type of approach to his character than when he acts in his movies,” Reiné also noted. “The (film’s) camera focuses more intimately on him, so it’s a completely different process for him. I always tell him, ‘Randy, this character is you,’ so I try to bring him back to his personal persona.” The director feels Orton’s film acting is becoming more believable, as he’s learning to truly react to what’s going on all around him on the set, instead of just engaging in what’s happening in the WWE ring.
“In regards to his action scenes, he obviously doesn’t need a double,” Reiné added as he then explained Orton’s approach to filming his stunts in his films. “He’ll have explosions around him and run through the minefields. Having an actor do the stunts himself is a lot of fun as a director, and Randy, of course, is the perfect person for that.”
Reiné then noted that the most important thing in action films like ‘The Condemned 2’ is the stunts. “I always try not to shoot the screenplay; I always add a lot of action myself. When I arrive at the locations and begin working with the stunt crew, I start changing the action in the scenes,” the director explained.
“For example, during the gas station scene, which was shot on our first day, the stunt team and I started to make a new list” of the action sequences they wanted to film that day, Reiné divulged. “But we didn’t have a lot of time, so we shot that scene in only one day. The whole movie was shot in 17 days,” which he described as being a very short schedule for this type of film.
While he likes to incorporate a location’s set-up into the action scenes once he arrives on set, Reiné also admitted that “with the action sequences, you have to be very well prepared. You have to know which explosions will work from each angle, because you only have one take…I’m lucky enough to make a lot of these movies, so I know how to approach making these action sequences.”
Reiné also described his process of being both the cinematographer and director on ‘The Condemned 2.’ He noted how he “can block the actors in each scene, and know what lenses” can best film them. “For me, that’s one thought and process. I do this on all of my movies…as I like to be on set, across from the actors, with the camera in my hand. I can feel what the actors feel, and therefore adjust the (camera) angles, based on what’s happening on the set.”
The director noted that likes that also serving as the cinematographer on his films helps him be fully aware of everything that’s going on throughout the set. He feels it also supports him in forming closer relationships with the actors. “I hear from actors that they get more time with me than any other director, because I’m there with them. I have direct communication with them, and I really enjoy that,” Reiné also said.
Quezada described Reiné as “the ultimate director. I’ve worked with a lot of them, but Roel’s a hard-working director…I was very impressed with him.” The actor appreciated that the director also served as the action sequel’s cinematographer and “shot his own stuff. I’ve never seen anyone work that hard, especially being both the director and cinematographer.”
Reiné “works a full day out of you, and works you hard,” the performer revealed. “But you don’t mind doing it for him, because he’s working just as hard. He’s not sitting down and sipping a coffee as he waits for things to be set up. He’s working really hard the whole time. I think people are going to love the way he did the action on this film.” Quezada also revealed that “I was completely impressed, and can’t wait to make my next movie with him.”
The Dutch filmmaker, who made his projects in the Netherlands during his early career, embraced the experience of shooting ‘The Condemned 2’ on location in New Mexico. “It was spectacular, but it was also tough, because there were so many deserts…But overall, it was a very pleasant experience. The crew there was very professional, and I enjoyed my interactions with them,” Reiné revealed. Quezada also praised the movie’s crew members, saying “The New Mexico crew is the best, and you feel as though you’re at home.”
With both ‘The Condemned 2’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ which is Quezada’s best-known acting job, having been filmed on location in New Mexico, which is where he lives, he described what the process of shooting both projects on location in his home state was like. “I think I’m lucky overall; for some of the other work that I do, I have to fly to other places…I’ve gone to Oklahoma and Los Angeles to be involved in projects,” the actor noted.
“I feel very lucky to be able to go home at the end of the day and hug my children and kiss my wife, and also eat home cooked meals and sleep in my own bed. I think people underestimate how lucky they are to be able to do that all of the time,” Quezada revealed. “Even being a stand-up comic, I’m on the road all the time. It’s tough, because your family has to sacrifice as much as you do.” The actor noted how he appreciates that he can be with his family all the time when he’s filming such projects as ‘The Condemned 2’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ in New Mexico. “But I have to go whenever I have to, and (travel) to wherever the work is.”
Reiné noted that he tried to cast a lot of local New Mexican actors for the supporting roles in the action sequel. “I was very lucky to get Steven, who played the villain in the movie, and is from New Mexico. I loved him in ‘Breaking Bad.’ I was also lucky to get Wes Studi, who also lives there (in Santa Fe),” Reiné said.
Quezada laughed as he explained that even though he’s a local actor in New Mexico, “I work like everyone else; I had had to audition. I was very fortunate that they were shooting” in his home state, as he lives in Albuquerque. The actor noted that there’s a lot of work happening in New Mexico now, “so I’m fortunate to be able to audition for many things that are going on” there.
Further speaking of the other supporting actors he cast in ‘The Condemned 2,’ Reiné revealed that “I also love Eric Roberts, and try to cast him in many of my movies. But he’s a very busy actor, and is always working.” Despite the Golden Globe-nominated actor’s hectic schedule, from the moment the director first read the script for ‘The Condemned 2,’ “I immediately thought of him as the first option (to play Frank). So we immediately called and asked him if he was available, and we’re lucky we got him. It was wonderful working with him.” The filmmaker also divulged that the Academy Award-nominated actor worked nicely with Orton once they were both cast, and then began collaborating together.
Quezada also laughed when asked what his working relationships were like with his fellow actors on the set of the action sequel, particularly since Raul is the villain in the film. “Everyone was really nice. It was a pleasure” to work with the rest of the cast, the actor revealed. He then explained that “it’s not always a pleasure, but I was spoiled (on this film.) I was also spoiled on ‘Breaking Bad,’ which I was on for six years.”
Orton “was great to me. He’s a professional, and was always making sure that I was safe in everything that I did,” Quezada revealed as he praised his co-star who portrayed ‘The Condemned 2’s protagonist. “Roel was the same way; he made sure I was comfortable on stage,” the actor said as he also offered compliments for his director.
Despite starring in this intense action-driven film, Quezada noted that he’s a stand-up comic by trade. “Most people who do stand-up comedy also end up having to do comedic roles for a long time. But for me, it’s been the opposite. I’ve never done anything on TV or in films that allowed me to be a comedy actor. I’ve done a lot of drama,” the actor also explained.
The actor also revealed that performing as a stand-up comic requires him to draw on his personal pain, which helps him funnel that agony into his dramatic film and television roles. “It’s great to work with a director like Roel who understands that. In the audition room, he said, ‘I know you were on ‘Breaking Bad,’ but you’re also a comedian.’ I said, ‘Yes, that’s how I pay my bills.’” The director then told Quezada that he feels drama and comedy are similar, “and I thought, wow, there’s someone else who understands that…As we’ve seen in recent history, people transform from being the crazy comic to doing dramatic roles, and they don’t always do it very well.”
With his most well-known role is DEA agent Steven Gomez on ‘Breaking Bad,’ Quezada added that the show was his big break. “I got to play a good guy on a drama series, which was great. But in ‘The Condemned 2,’ it was a real treat for me to play the bad guy. It was also a great experience, because it was my first action movie,” the actor noted. He added that he had a “great time performing the fight scenes. I grew up boxing and fighting…So it was good to have those skill sets come into play,” before also noting that filming the action sequel was fun.
While ‘The Condemned 2’ is the first action film Quezada has starred in, he relied on his boxing experience so that he could perform his own action sequences and stunts for the sequel. He admitted that “I love the challenge of it, (even though) it’s hard work….I always follow the rule, even as a comic, that you have to work hard. Can I get better? Of course I can, and I’d love to get a lot better.”
The actor added that he’d love to have the opportunity to do more action and physical roles. Those elements “take your mind off only the acting, and it gives you more to think about. I believe it gives more range to the character when you can combine a lot of the physicality with the dialogue, storyline and character development. (The physicality) plays a lot into the choices you make as an actor. I’m 52, but I definitely think I have a lot more action roles left in me.”
With ‘The Condemned 2’ being released in theaters and on VOD on Friday, Reiné revealed that “When I started making the movie, it was never meant to have a small theatrical release; it was intended to receive a VOD or DVD release…But with all the movies I make, I approach the stunts like they’re going to be shown in a big theatrical movie, even though the budgets are low. I think I’m very successful in that.”
The director noted that his movies that are released on VOD and DVD “always look big, and I’m proud of that. So I heard that they were going to do a small theatrical release to promote the DVD release, I thought that was very smart. I hope a lot of people will see it on the big screen. I saw it on the big screen as I was finishing it, and it looks really wonderful. I also used a lot of broad drone shots, which also look really wonderful.”
Since ‘The Condemned 2’ is the latest sequel he has worked on that features a different storyline and cast from the original film, he explained that he kept some of the same elements that made the first installment successful. But he also made the follow-up unique in its own right. “I think fans of the original film will also like this one, because there’s a lot of similar action to it,” Reiné noted.
“But I think this movie is a little bigger, even though we only had about 10 percent of the budget of the original. I think the action is bigger in this film, because in the first one, the story was limited to the island,” Reiné noted. “In the first film, the gambling is also limited to the monitors, as it was done over the internet. You didn’t see the gamblers. So in this movie, I wanted to set the gambling in a casino, so that we can see that there really are people betting on the lives of these contestants.” The director explained he thinks that viewers will also enjoy the new setting, as it makes the betting, and overall story, more personal.
“I think we’re honoring the success of the original film,” Quezada also noted as he weighed in on how the cast and crew made ‘The Condemned 2’ its own unique film, while also keeping some of the same elements that made the first installment successful. “I’ve had fans reach out to me on social media, and tell me they’re big fans of the original, and they can’t wait to see (the sequel),” the actor also revealed.
Quezada added that “I think people will compare (the two films), since this one kept true to the plotline of gambling on people’s lives. But since this film has different actors and a different director, as well as a different storyline and characters, it’s going to have its own specific feel. I think they did a really god job on making a sequel that will stand out on its own.”
Written by: Karen Benardello