Raven Banner Entertainment continues to rack up sales for Richard V. Somes’ action spectacle “Topakk.”
“Topakk”(“Trigger”) has been sold to Aud (South Korea), Superfine Films (India), Kinologistika (CIS and the Baltics) and Lighthouse (German-speaking Europe).
It’s not the end of good news, as the film – debuting its trailer and produced by Fusee, with Strawdogs Studio Production and Nathan Studios co-producing – is also set to bow at Locarno next week.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I have never imagined it,” admits the director.
In “Topakk,” which he co-wrote with Jim Flores and Will Fredo, Somes shows a man struggling with PTSD. Discharged from the army, he finds himself in the middle of a different kind of conflict when a drug peddler seeks his protection against a vigilante death squad.
“I am really inspired by the 1980s action films. It all started with ‘First Blood’ or even [Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer] ‘Commando.’ I was also thinking of that whole ‘reluctant hero’ subgenre, of ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Lethal Weapon’,” lists Somes.
“In my films, I always want this kind of character too. Someone who is very flawed, very human. Not invincible at all. When it came to Miguel, I created him also based on the people I actually met, here in the Philippines. There are so many security guards who once wanted to be decorated soldiers. Now, they are just trying to survive.”
Just like his protagonists, desperate to make ends meet and already used to violence.
“In the Philippines, we are living in a very gritty, very challenging environment. You always meet people with a mysterious past, which makes you wonder: ‘What happened to them?!’ They are all scarred. It could be war or some personal demons.”
While his home country has been seeing its fair share of conflict, including the infamous Philippine drug war, Somes wants to pay homage to “all soldiers of the world,” he says.
“We’ve had a whole decade of wars. A whole lot of casualties, a whole lot of bloodshed. One reason why I wrote this script was because I was really questioning what’s happening to the world these days. War is everywhere – in Ukraine and here, in South Asian territories.”
He adds: “We tend to forget that when these soldiers come back home, part of their life has already changed. We have people in our country that need to be taken care of. They deserve our respect.”
While Arjo Atayde stars as Miguel, Sid Lucero, Enchong Dee, Kokoy De Santos and Paolo Paraiso are also in the cast, as well as Julia Montes – playing a street-smart woman who has seen it all.
“I always pay homage to women, also in my previous films. My female characters aren’t victims, they are not oppressed. They have bled, they have been hurt, but they survived. And now, they fight. It’s personal for me, because I was raised by a single mother,” states Somes, who also gushes about his lead man.
“Arjo Atayde is one of the best dramatic actors we have. When he said yes, I told him we won’t have this usual ‘macho’ action hero. I wanted him to be someone who is strong on the inside, not necessarily on the outside,” he explains.
“He asked me if he should bulk up. I said: ‘Just watch Travis Bickle in ‘Taxi Driver.’ This weight he is carrying? It will make you seem larger than life’.”
“Miguel doesn’t see himself as a hero, he is not there to save the day. He can just promise her that if they go down, at least they are going to take someone with them. It sounds unforgiving and very cynical, but I wanted to be brutally honest.”
While he decided to keep his characters grounded, the action in “Topakk” is larger than life.
“We wanted to make it more visceral, raw. Given our constraints, we cannot approach action the same way Hollywood does. But what we can do is give the viewers something they will feel. We are doing it the old-school way,” he says, admitting he would like to continue the story in the future.
“We don’t often get to do action films in the Philippines. So when we do, why not go all the way back to that heyday of action? Also, we had a consultant on set and he would always say: ‘The sound, the smells, the blood – it all feels elevated when you are in the middle of it.’”
“When you are in the war zone, nothing feels normal anymore.”