It was a pleasure to talk to director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Doom, Maximum Impact). His latest feature Dead Reckoning features K.J. Apa as Niko, an immigrant who is torn between assimilating in America and honoring the plans of his family (Scott Adkins plays his brother). During our interview, Bartowiak discussed how he was able to bring a ton of production value to an indie feature
From his years working as a cinematographer (most notably, he had a fruitful collaboration with director Sidney Lumet) and director, Andrzej Bartkowiak has crafted lifelong friendships and connections that would aid him in getting Dead Reckoning off the ground. Scott Adkins is Marco, a man who is bent on retribution after his father’s death at the hands of an agent (James Remar). Marco’s brother Niko (K.J. Apa) is conflicted about the mission, as he falls in love during a random meeting with a girl named Tillie (India Eisley).
The interview with Bartkowiak, especially since I’m a huge Sidney Lumet fan, was a total goldmine. Bartkowiak was very engaging and insightful during our talk, but due to a technological mishap (our chat disconnected and my phone didn’t record the second call), all I have is seven minutes of our twenty minute conversation.
That said, Dead Reckoning was an engaging watch just to see Bartowiak pull off some impressive sequences (including an explosion) without a big budget at his disposal. Scott Adkins, James Remar, as well as cameos from John Shea and Frances Fisher are also a huge reason to check this movie out. I have yet to check out Riverdale, but obviously Apa enthusiasts should also check out his work in Dead Reckoning.
You’re a prolific artist. I’m assuming you have you been keeping busy as a filmmaker during this state of sheltering in place?
Yes. I’ve been working on a script and developing it. Johnny Mack wrote (the screenplay). It’s an action comedy. I’ve been busy casting. The movie has 68 speaking parts and it’s quite bit of work!
But it is funny, we are together but we are in different rooms with a computer. My son is following my footsteps and he started working a month ago. He did a big Geico campaign/commercial. They COVID tested everybody in LA and they hired a 737 to fly them to Montana. After testing, they couldn’t go commercial – they had to go private.
It’s incredible. The tasks and dollars that go into making a movie now is harder with all the safety rules. Which is very important of course but it’s a challenge and I’m getting used to it. And I’m getting used to Zoom!!
You’ve worked with so much diverse talent in your career. What was it like having K.J. Apa and India Eisley topline your movie? Getting Scott Adkins was also a coup.
I was very lucky. I knew Scott Adkins. We went to dinner. We had no money, by the way, to make this f**king movie. It was an independent movie. I’m used to studio movies. I’m an immigrant and it was a movie of passion and love for me. The immigrant story really took me and when we developed the script, a lot of my experiences went into it.
My casting director, she said ‘This kid (K.J. Apa), I met him in a reading and he’s amazing. He’s a young kid, unknown from New Zealand.’
India is incredibly innocent and I wanted the chemistry to work. The chemistry between the two of them – they did a beautiful job together. And K.J. was just . . . it was a dream. I had no time like I did in a studio movie to rehearse the movie or have table readings. We just started shooting it in a very short time.
Actors had to deliver instantly and we didn’t have time for 50 takes. Some movies you end up doing 1-3 takes and they delivered incredibly. I must say I’m delighted that it’s done and the movie is going to be released. It took a long time to finish it but finally it’s here and it’s out!
Watching Scott Adkins and James Remar work together was one of my favorite aspects of Dead Reckoning.
Listen, thank God I was friends with both of them and Scott has always wanted to be a dramatic actor since he was young. He, of course, is an incredible martial artist. We had no money, his agents didn’t want to do it. I flew to London and had dinner and told him the story and he said ‘I’m in.’
James wanted to do the movie and he’s just fantastic in it. With production values, I love wall to wall music starting with Romeo Must Die. We had no money for music on this film and I’m casting in Boston and I’m casting this woman, Devon Diep, and she had a great audition. She said ‘I also write and perform music.’ I said ‘Send me all your music.” She wrote and performed all the music in the movie for free.
Unbelievable. And Sean Murray. I called Sean and said “Sean, I’ve got no money.” His father is Don Murray, I’ve known Don since the ‘70s and I’ve known Sean since he was six years old. I said “Sean, can you do me a favor and write this f**king music for nothing?”
Dead Reckoining is now available on VOD and Digital via Shout! Studios.
On the latest episode of Find Your Film, we review the flicks The Life Ahead and Fatman. Our movie recommendations are The China Syndrome, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, Dementia, and Piercing: