Last column I wrote about “Ninja 2,” its director Isaac Florentine and its co-star Kane Kosugi. I think both are talented in their respective fields, and I wondered when each might get their own “Jeremy Lin moment” that would allow them to step out of the low-budget genre movie status and get their chance to show their capabilities in bigger-budgeted Hollywood movies.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with making an honest living shooting B-pictures outside the confines of Hollywood’s big studios. But when there are lame, so-called action movies and so-called action stars getting paid big bucks to make inferior products when there are talents like Kosugi who could do it better, well, that’s just flawed.
While the following examples may not be the best since the movies weren’t that great, did either big-studio release “Ninja Assassin” (2009, Warner Bros. Pictures) or “The Green Hornet” (2011, Columbia Pictures) benefit from the presence of, respectively, South Korean pop star Rain or Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou? Have either of them done squat in movies since? Is there some big demand to get Rain or Chou into another Hollywood movie? Those two pics’ castings were simply pandering to the Asian movie market to get someone with name recognition to sucker Korean and Taiwanese moviegoers into seeing those movies, despite an utter absence of acting, not to mention action, bona fides from the respective pop stars.
As I said, those two aforementioned pieces of big-budget, high-gloss Hollywood junk may not be the best examples — but having Kosugi in either of them would have raised the profile of the California-born Asian American talent with native English speaking ability and amazing physical and martial arts talent, who could have been cultivated into stardom. Turns out cultivating (or at least promoting) stars is something Hollywood is actually quite good at.
Back to “Ninja 2” and Kosugi, I recently managed to speak with him briefly via Skype (sadly it was a bit of a spotty connection) while he was on location shooting a new movie in Bangkok, Thailand. It was during our conversation that I learned he had also been in Thailand in 2013 to shoot “Ninja 2” with Florentine and co-star Scott Adkins.
He said he had a great time working with Florentine on “Ninja 2”and that it was a pleasure shooting the fight scenes with Adkins since he too is a very talented martial artist.
One fact I found a bit funny was that Kosugi himself hadn’t yet seen “Ninja 2”! He’s been busy, of course, so it’s understandable.
At the time of our conversation, he had been on location in Thailand for about a week. Ironically, after writing last column that Hollywood needs to put Kosugi in a starring role, it’s possible that this current project may finally do that.
Some of the details of Kosugi’s current movie are, to say the least, a bit murky. Its Thai director is known for action pics, but Kosugi could only say it was a new action movie. The website IMDbPro, however, still lists it as “Tekken: A Man Called X,” a prequel to the 2010 movie “Tekken,” based on the video game.
Kosugi’s website, however, issued a correction to say that it is not a “Tekken” prequel and that it’s tentatively titled “Agent X.” It also said this would be his first starring role in a Hollywood movie.
The producer is Steven Paul of Crystal Sky Pictures. I attempted to contact the company for clarification, but its phone system just sent me to an extension that rang and rang after the initial voicemail greeting. My email to the listed address bounced back.
I can only speculate about what might be happening, but I’m sure the story will come out in the wash. Regardless, I hope this is the project that finally puts Kosugi on Hollywood’s radar to give him the chance to be the Asian American action star he deserves to be.
Until next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
George Toshio Johnston has written this column since 1992 and can be reached at [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect policies of this newspaper or any organization or business. Copyright © 2014 by George T. Johnston. All rights reserved.