The poster for director York Shackleton’s action thriller, ‘211,’ a Momentum Pictures release.
Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

People often don’t realize that they need to change both their perspective on, and actions in, life, in order to improve their circumstances, until fate pushes them into challenging situations. That’s certainly the case with the ensemble cast of police officer and civilian characters in the the new action thriller, ‘211.’ The heist movie highlights how people from all backgrounds can truly bond, and realize the importance of advancing their positions, after they are inadvertently thrust into a treacherous environment.

Momentum Pictures is set to distribute ‘211’ tomorrow in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD. The film, which was written and directed by York Shackleton, was inspired by a real bank robbery that happened in 1997 in Los Angeles. The heist led to a deadly battle between the two heavily armed bank robbers and the Los Angeles Police Department, and is referred to as the Battle of North Hollywood.

‘211’ follows a group of ruthless American soldiers who murder a war profiteer in Afghanistan, after he failed to give them their proper payment. The soldiers then track the criminal’s money to a bank in Massachusetts, and decide to travel to America,so that they can take the bank’s employees and customers hostage. When the local police uncover the plot and begin to respond to the robbery, Mike Chandler (Nicolas Cage) is amongst the officers who report to the scene.

Mike, who is on the verge of retirement, still misses the old days, before cell phone cameras began dictating how he could act in front of the public. But he’s now mainly driven by the grief he’s still experiencing from the death of his sick wife, as well as his estrangement from their daughter, Sophie Skelton (Lisa MacAvoy). Mike is partnered with Sophie’s husband, Steve (Dwayne Cameron), who learns that she’s pregnant right before he and his father-in-law respond to the bank heist.

Besides the robbery, the police duo must also mentor a troubled teenager, Kenny (Michael Rainey Jr.), during a ride along, which is his punished by his school for defending himself against several of his classmates who bullied him. While Mike, Steve and Kenny are all initially wary of the arrangement, they eventually overcome their differences to become friends who bond together and contend with the implications of the brutality around them.

Cory Hardrict, who plays Mike and Steve’s police colleague, Hanson, and Rainey Jr. generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘211’ during individual exclusive phone interviews. Among other things, the actors discussed how to they were drawn to their respective roles because they appreciated the way Shackleton presented the way the characters responded to threatening circumstances. The duo also shared that they appreciated the filmmaker’s directorial style on the set, as he encouraged them to infuse their own ideas about their characters into their performances.

The conversation with Hardrict began with him explaining what drew him to play Hanson in the new drama. He liked having the opportunity to “play along Nic Cage. When I heard that he was attached to star in the film, and I would have the opportunity to do some great stuff alongside him,” the actor became even more intrigued to star in ‘211.’

“My character is also a good cop, and is always calm, quiet and cool, until it was time to go help out and save people alongside his brothers on the force.” While Hanson emotionally struggled throughout the chaos that ensued during the heist, Hardict pointed out that his character still maintained “his good values. He just really wanted to serve and protect people. That’s a type of person I really wanted to play.”

Rainey Jr. revealed during the beginning of his interview that he was drawn to play Kenny in ‘211’ because he “had met up with the director, York, in California. During that meeting, he told me everything about the character. York told me that in the initial script, Kenny was a skateboarder, and I really like skateboarding. So when I heard that, I thought it was pretty interesting,” the actor shared. Shackleton “also told me where the movie was going to be filmed (in Bulgaria), and who else was going to be in it, and I thought those elements were interesting, too.”

While Rainey Jr. was drawn to the skateboarding aspect that was originally incorporated into his character’s arc, he revealed there wasn’t much else about the role that he truly related to. “But I like the character’s overall story. He goes from being a shy kid who gets bullied in the beginning of the movie to taking on full responsibilities as the story goes on, which allows him to grow as a person,” the actor disclosed.

Once Hardict signed on to portray Hanson in the action movie, he did some research into the life of a police officer as he prepared for the role. The actor shared that he “watched some YouTube clips about police officers. I focused on how they carry and conduct themselves while they’re on duty, as well as their daily routines and different police codes. I also watched a few police films, including ‘Training Day.’ I also wanted to use my imagination on what I know about police officers, and determined what I could bring to the character on my own,” the performer revealed. “So I combined those three elements together, and played the realest character that I could.”

With ‘211’ featuring an ensemble cast, including Cage, like Hardict previously mentioned, the actor cherished his experience of collaborating with his co-stars. “We all had great camaraderie. Everyone was there for one goal, and that was to make a great film,” Hardict emphasized. “The cool thing about all of the actors on this set was that we all talked to each other and helped each other out. If there was something that I, or any of the other actors, didn’t know, we shared things, so that we could help each other. It was a great experience to work with the rest of the cast.”

Rainey Jr. also enthusiastically shared that his experience working with his co-stars was “a lot of fun. There was a lot of action, so there was also a lot of movement. We had to do a lot of rehearsals together, in regards to the action,” the performer acknowledged.

The actor added that “I enjoyed the action element a lot, especially when I got to watch the bank heist sequences being filmed. It was really interesting and cool to see how things work.”

With ‘211’ being so reliant on the action-driven scenes, Hardict committed himself to the process of creating the combat sequences, particularly the physicality for Hanson, once the shootout between the police and bank robbers begins. “I had to be in shape, so I was always working out on the treadmill, and keeping my cardiovascular up. I was carrying this uniform on me, and also doing a lot of running and shooting, so I had to be in great shape,” the actor noted.

“I did a lot of my own stunts, as they weren’t too strenuous on me. If there was something that involved jumping onto the concrete, there would be a pad on the ground for me to fall on, so that I wouldn’t hurt myself. For the most part, I got through it without any broken bones. So everything worked out!,” Hardict also shared.

With the thriller being written and directed by Shackleton. Hardict relished the experience of collaborating with the filmmaker. “I’ve known York for 10 years. He’s a great director to work for, because he allows his actors to be themselves and find their characters. He also gives his actors the foundation for the characters, and then lets them go for it. That’s a great quality in a director, and I can’t thank him enough,” the performer divulged.

The experience of collaborating with Shackleton as a helmer once production began was also a process that Rainey Jr. cherished. “Working with York was great! He’s an actor’s director, and helped me a lot, which I appreciated. Working with him was very easy, and we had a lot of fun,” the actor divulged.

‘211’ was shot on location in Bulgaria’s capital city, Sofia, which was an experience that Rainey Jr. really enjoyed. “One of my favorite parts of acting is traveling. I love traveling the world. Filming in Bulgaria was really fun. The food and nature were amazing, so I really enjoyed that experience,” the performer revealed.

Hardict also described the process of filming on location as being great. The Bulgarian city “was definitely built for filmmaking, and a lot of good action movies have been shot there. You can look at the little towns that are built on the sets, and realize how greatly they were built. That made it feel as though we were in a real city, which brought a lot to the movie. Taking in that whole environment was something special.”

Photo ofCory Hardict and Michael Rainey Jr.
Cory Hardict and Michael Rainey Jr.
Job Title
Actors in writer-director York Shackleton's action=thriller, '211'

By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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