Hollywood's weapon of mass authentic destruction — Frank Grillo-turned 52 years young today, but don't tell his heart that. The actor's most vital organ is his greatest asset and acts like it's 22, powering Grillo into domination in nearly every facet of the entertainment business.
In the past year, Grillo has been successful in the theatrical release department, television series arena and will soon dominate the streaming device juggernaut known as Netflix. Last summer's "Purge: Election Year" was a huge hit at the box office, grossing $79 million on a modest $10 million budget. The bare-bones, old-school thriller thrived on Grillo's star power, with James DeMonaco's screenplay deftly mirroring the current state of affairs in Washington D.C.
Grillo's AT&T Original series, "Kingdom", is in the midst of its third and strongest season to date, garnering what seems like a new set of eyes on a daily basis. He used to be that actor you'd point to your dad during the movie and go, "that guy is something else". Well, people are finally watching the MMA drama and doing the same thing, alerting their friends that a masterpiece is slithering through their Wednesday prime time schedules like a snake in the woods.
It's deliciously vivid content, and the heart and soul of the show is Grillo. He spins Alvey Kulina like a broken record intent on playing one single track: heartbreak and in disrepair. Alvey's loss has always been Grillo's gain, allowing the actor to roll around on the mat of his own acting talent, pushing and gaining new ground that seemed like a distant dream a decade ago.
Later this year, Jeremy Rush's "Wheelman" will stream on Netflix, and soak up your entire weekend. One of these hotter than appropriate Saturday nights will turn your living room into a movie theater, with Grillo's driver at the head of the action, seeking redemption and feeling the need to impose his will on guys that have no idea what is coming down on them. Rush is one of the hottest young filmmakers in the land of make believe, and he hooked up his first muscle car to Grillo's speed wagon for good reason. Great action scenes need true men of action, and you won't find a more authentic, granite-jawed vessel of justice than the New York native.
All of this newfound success comes from some good fortune, but more directly from Grillo's real life determination to train like a warrior when he's not making magic in front of the camera. He boxes 12 rounds every day and doesn't miss a workout. You could drop this man in the amazon without a scent of help, and he'd fight an animal to fight for his dinner.
What seems animalistic to some settles in as a ritual that certain men desire to feel whole and sane. If Grillo doesn't dedicate himself completely to his craft and climb into the ring every day, his work would suffer, and the fans that look forward to his work would be disappointed. There are actors that arrive on set and do their job, and then there are guys like Grillo who arrive on set with an intent to challenge, push harder than everyone else, and make a dent. Coming from a background of supporting roles and hard scrapping, Grillo doesn't let opportunities fall by the wayside.
This summer, he is traveling around the world with co-executive producer and creator Colin Moniz, training in different gyms with some of the most dangerous fighters on the planet. What started in Bangkok has continued in Myanmar as Grillo trains and learns the different philosophies and ways of fighters around the globe. The Netflix series is tentatively called Fight World according to Grillo's Instagram posts, and Moniz is the author behind the madness. As Grillo told me last September, "it's like Anthony Bourdain's cooking show, but with fighting instead of cooking." Count me in. Are you coming?
This season, on "Kingdom's" final round, Grillo's Alvey is returning to the ring after ten years away, training his sons and other prizefighters. In a Legends fight against Matt Hughes that will more than likely be the highlight of the season, Grillo will step into the ring and tussle with one of MMA's finest warriors. It's a moment that has been teased since Kulina disposed of a couple street thugs in the pilot back in October 2014. In "becoming who he was", Alvey is fulfilling that need one last time.
"Purge". "Kingdom". "Wheelman". "Fight World". "Beyond Skyline" later this summer as well. A remake of "The Raid" with friend an action-adventure junkie Joe Carnahan as the first method of goods from their joint production company, War Party. Don't let the age fool you, because no one makes it feel like a mere state of mind more so than Grillo.
He's a fighter for life, and someone I truly admire. If you follow me on social media and have read my pieces over the past three years, it's easy to tell that I am a fan of the man's work. It's more than that: I am a fan of the man himself. Through four interviews and communication outside of those discussions, I have grown an immense amount of respect for the actor and person. He treats his fans like family and connects with them every day. He doesn't post a picture on Instagram and run away. He responds and appreciates. That's Frank. While he may look like a piece of barbed wire built from human scrap metal, he's a gracious dude. Hollywood needs more renegade family men like Frank Grillo.
Of course, the main reason I admire Grillo's work is because he's a fighter for life. Everything he does in life revolves around getting into a ring and testing himself. He's not just the entertainment on the tube; Grillo is a guy who inspires you get off the couch and run a mile. Rise and grind, as he says at least twice a week. From doing his own stunts on film to doing what he does best all year long, Grillo is the epitome of what happens when hard work and talent merge on the highway to "doing something with your life".
So please, stop reading this article, and go watch "Purge Anarchy" or "Election Year". Take a ride to Navy Street, and watch Alvey Kulina wrestle with the demon that no human being can defeat: a ritualistic desire to hurt yourself. Wait for "Wheelman" and "Fight World" to take over your week. It's coming for you. Are you ready? It's the no nonsense train of authenticity coming your way. Like I tell my friends, it's time to Grillo Up.
I'm glad Hollywood finally let Frank out of the cage and run wild. He's truly the real deal. Happy birthday, Frank. Let's make 2017 a year to remember.
After all, he can fight a superhero with his bare hands.