After appearing in such action movie classics as The Fast and the Furious and Black Hawk Down, actor Johnny Strong walked away from Hollywood to pursue other interests, but he’s making an explosive return to the action genre with the release of Sinners and Saints, available today on Blu-Ray and DVD from Anchor Bay entertainment.
Strong portrays Sean Riley, a tough-as-nails street cop from New Orleans that has a reputation for doing things his own way, sometimes with deadly results. Riley reluctantly finds himself teamed with straitlaced detective Will Ganz (Kevin Phillips) to investigate a string of violent murders, which may or may not be connected to the sudden reappearance of an old friend from Riley’s past (Sean Patrick Flanery).
So what prompted a return to the big screen after a nine-year hiatus? Strong jokingly tells us that he has no control over these sort of choices. “My brain becomes consumed with whatever I’m working on at the moment,” he says. “I really don’t intend to take time off from one thing to do another, but if my phone rings and someone says ‘Dude, you wanna go make a record’ I’m like ‘yeah, let’s go.” And then it’s six months or a year of making a record.”
Strong’s music career played an active part in landing him the leading role in Sinners and Saints. “The director, Will Kaufman, called me up and said ‘hey man, check this script out, I wanna use your music in it.’ I was on tour at the time, promoting my record, and I was like ‘dude, I wanna act in this,’ and that became my new focus. I also scored the film, as well.”
As a street cop, the character of Sean Riley required a tremendous amount of physicality, a challenge that Strong was eager to meet head-on, drawing on his own martial arts background. A martial arts enthusiast since the age of seven, Strong holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and pushed for as much authenticity as possible for the film’s fight sequences.
“We tried to push it as far as we could,” he recalls. “When we were developing the fight scenes, we talked to the director about whether or not we could wear MMA gloves that were painted green, so we could actually hit each other for the fight scenes, do it for real and make it more authentic.”
Unfortunately, the special effects team vetoed the idea, pointing out the it would be impossible to remove the gloves via CGI without also making the hands invisible. But this didn’t stop the filmmakers from trying to make the fight scenes as brutal as possible, particularly when Strong squares off against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Bas Rutten, who plays one of the film’s villains.
“Bas is a gnarly, gnarly dude,” Strong says excitedly. “During the scene where he’s punching me in the head, I took three or four good shots to the face. I stopped him during one take and I was like ‘dude, are you having some flashbacks?”
The ending of the film certainly leaves the door open for another installment, but Strong says that there are currently no plans for a follow-up. “That wasn’t really our intention,” he insists. “It was meant to be a standalone film that brought back the French Connection or Dirty Harry kind of gritty, dirty cop movies that people aren’t making anymore. But if the guys at Anchor Bay are excited and Will wanted to do it, I’m sure we could figure something out.”
Sinners and Saints is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray from the links below. Visit our Facebook page or join the discussion thread below for a chance to win a FREE copy of the film on Blu-Ray!