There's no secret that Christian Sesma takes pride in his action work with projects like Paydirt (2020, Vigilante Diaries (2016), Take Back (2021), and The Night Crew (2015). While he appreciates franchises like Mission: Impossible and the Jason Bourne franchise, he actually gravitates more towards the everyman types like Die Hard (1988), Taken (2007) or Nobody (2021). Sesma spoke to Bleeding Cool about his latest in AMC+ and RLJE Films' Section 8, which follows Jake (Ryan Kwanten), a former soldier serving a life sentence after avenging the murder of his wife and child. He's given a shot at freedom when a shadow government agency recruits him for an off-the-books assignment, and he soon realizes Section 8 isn't what it seems.
BC: What appealed to you about Section 8?
Sesma: The project was a fun action, "bang, bang," shoot em' up. What hooked me was this everyday man and human element with Ryan Kwanten's character and the loss of his family and making sure that was what was driving the story at all times. That was something that could set this uniquely apart a little bit.
Can you break down Ryan's character Jake and the humanity he helped infused into the character?
This vet comes home trying to make a family and live a normal life. This wasn't a Jason Bourne-type character, but a soldier who's back from battle trying to be a good father and husband, pay the bills, and put food on the table like we all do. This character is drawn into this crazy, fantastical, clandestine world of Mission: Impossible and Jason Bourne-type things is what I felt let this stand apart. He wasn't Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt. He was this other guy like John McClane, who was just a cop. All of a sudden, he's saving Nakatomi Plaza. Ryan's character was just a soldier, a family man now, and he got drawn into this.
You have some major action powerhouses and screen veterans on there like Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, and Scott Adkins. Can you tell me what they add to the film?
Coolness [laughs]. It is one of these things when you have this package, and everybody had their own space to play. They weren't all mashed up into one scene and group. Scott and Mickey were playing distinct characters. [Mickey's] Earl is a father figure and mentor to Jake. That was a very emotional relationship between them, and [Mickey] wasn't playing some badass or anything like that. He was playing the owner of a garage and looking after his adopted son. Dolph plays a more complex character connected with Dermot [Mulroney]. Each had some specific role to play that was defined for this movie, not just in the script, but as characters too, and they all had fun playing it. It was great to have these, like you said, "powerhouses" come into one movie. We all had a clear collaborative endgame in mind and what to make. It was really cool, special, and came off well.
As an action film and resources as an indie film, can you break down what you had to work with as far as stunt work goes? Were there things that you want to do that you couldn't or did everything kind of went off as planned?
When you're doing an action film, there's always a lot of time, obstacles, and challenges, because you don't have all the resources the studio films do. Speaking for myself, I try to make it feel like that internally, even though there might not be the car chases and other things as fantastic or whatever. We planned the hand-to-hand fight scenes and made sure we're using practical effects as much as we possibly could with the explosions, blanks, and gun battles to try to give more production value on screen. There was a lot of great stunt work here, too. We had Luke Fontaine as a stunt coordinator coming on board and not just [organizing] casino escape things and running through that, but also the hand-to-hand fights at the end of the film were pretty cool. As far as indie action film goes, we had a big combination of not just VFX but practical effects stunts and fight coordinating. It had all the elements these type of movies would have for sure.
Was there any specific film or a project that helped influence making the film?
I don't know if it was anything more. I'm a giant fan of Ronin, and I'm a giant fan of Mission: Impossible and Jason Bourne films as well. I felt like it was this giant amalgamation of that, but there was this family element there I tried to bring it down to Jake, his family, and that connection as we went through these pieces.
AMC+ and RLJE Films Section 8 is currently available in theaters and available to stream on AMC+.