"Alright, let's put the dead guys in place," yells a man wearing a headset. Obviously, this isn't your typical visit to the showroom floor.
It's not often you're asked to enter a car dealership where a bomb just went off, but that's just what a small group of journalists did on a rainy April day at Vancouver's Ballantyne Pier, the set of Focus Features' latest action film "Rogue" starring Jet Li and Jason Statham.
Inside the fictional Yamagawa Motors, smoke hangs in the air alongside the classical banners reading "True Power" and "High Performance" overhead. Below, high-end cars like the Ferrari, Lamborghini and the Spyker C8 Spyders sit among broken bits of plaster, cement, glass and even black-hilted swords.
In the Philip G. Atwell-directed film, Li plays the titular assassin who has set off a bloody crime war between two Asian mobs: the Chinese Triad led by Chang (John Lone) and Japan's Yakuza headed by Shiro (Ryo Ishibashi). In this climactic scene, Rogue has made a special delivery to the second floor of Shiro's dealership.
"They drag Rogue down[stairs] to do something with him, and he has a remote detonator, and four guys blow out of the second floor here, landing on the ground," explains producer Steven Chasman. "Shiro happens to stay alive, so he crawls out from under the guys with a sword. Then Rogue and Shiro face off sword to sword. Shiro is an amazing swordsman, a master swordsman."
Li, a practicing Buddhist, had to struggle with his pacifist beliefs and the violent character he portrays.
"I don't know whether he's good or bad. I only know this character is very violent, has a reason," says Li. "It's quite difficult. I made a few movies, one is 'Hero,' one is 'Danny the Dog' [aka 'Unleashed'], one is 'Fearless.' I think these movies continue to talk about my personal belief that violence is not the only solution. When I suddenly go back to this very violent character, I'm struggling. Even though I don't agree with what this guy is doing, I need to do it best. When I go to the set, I forget I'm Jet Li first. It's not me, it's somebody else."
While Li comes to terms with Rogue's bloodthirsty side, his co-star Statham embraces film's brutal nature. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) has a score to settle with the assassin, who killed his partner Tom Wynne (Terry Chen) and his family three years ago.
"It's no good to use martial arts against a master like Jet Li. I would look stupid," says Statham. "But more to the point, Crawford's like a very sort of angry man. He's very emotional with his action, so it's not so controlled. For me it's great because the past action movies that I've done, it's always, to me, been a little diluted because of the PG rating. My favorite action movies have always been an R.
"I'm not addicted to violence or anything like that," he adds. "I just think sometimes if there's a fight that takes place, violence is unavoidable. Let's show it in its true form. Phil is particularly keen on having the fights be very real: no wires, no flying around, no exaggerated sort of fancy movements."
Although fans of Statham's "Transporter" movies will be excited that he's once again in a film with flashy modes of transportation, he's not the one driving the fancy cars. Instead, Li is the one who jumps behind the wheel of the pricey rides and even takes a spin on a Confederate Hellcat motorcycle.
"Rogue loves it. Jet Li doesn't," says Li dryly. "Jet Li when he was 20-years-old [would have] loved it."
"Rogue" is the possible beginning of an action trilogy by writers Greg Bradley and Lee Anthony Smith. Famed fight choreographer Corey Yuen designs the martial arts action, while Devon Aoki, Luiz Guzman and Nadine Velazquez co-star.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times