Frank Grillo is the real deal, but don't go telling him that. It's not like the 52 year old renegade doesn't like to hear kudos sent his way; it's just he has a goal, and that's work as hard as you can, and never sit on results. He's the leading man that we need and may not deserve; the breed that dominated the streets of Hollywood long before prima donna's started lurking around pop culture.
Like a boxer evading jabs in the middle of the ring, Grillo doesn't have time these days to register the impact he is having on the make believe game and his fans. In case you haven't noticed, Grillo isn't just the guy who gave Chris Evans' Captain America a run for his money back in 2012. The star of television shows, mainstream films by land and sea, Grillo is everywhere, and for good reason.
Take Jeremy Rush's Wheelman for example. The Netflix Original film is 82 minutes long, and Grillo is featured in every single frame of the film. For 61 minutes of the movie, it is the iron-jawed actor, a fast car, and a temper inside the camera frame. That's all Rush needed to put the fuel in his bare-boned gritty getaway driver thriller: a reliable movie star. A man of action.
Confession: Grillo isn't just an action star. That was so three years ago, so please keep up. These days, Grillo can hold the screen without throwing a punch. His work over three seasons of DirecTV's Kingdom proved that the man has a depth few even know about. The MMA drama wasn't Grillo fighting 24/7, but more about the interactions of an aging fighter with his kids and how they represented his grip on the sport. Also, in Rush's film, Grillo's Wheelman doesn't get into one fist fight. When you have a distinct form of gravitas that they don't teach in Julliard, the film doesn't need extra blood.
Wheelman and Kingdom are just the tip of the iceberg for Grillo, who just got done filming Donnybrook, a sinister sister to Fight Club, where he plays a guy named Chainsaw Angus and battles it out with the likes of James Badge Dale and Jamie Bell. He also finished a thriller with Bruce Willis called Reprisal and will soon embark on a reunion with The Grey director-and producing partner-Joe Carnahan on Boss Level, sharing the screen with the intense Mel Gibson. I don't care what you think about Gibson, because seeing Grillo and Carnahan attached as star and director is a true delight.
Remember The Grey? That seemed like so long ago, but it was another precursor of the amount of talent Grillo had in store for film fans. It wasn't just the head to head battle with the esteemed Liam Neeson; it was the quieter moments like Grillo's last scene in the film that resonated with me. Playing an imperfect man who fought harder than most to stay away from a world of crime, John Diaz fought everyone else he could in order to make the pain go away. It's an underrated film to this day, so Carnahan and Grillo teaming up is exciting news.
Their production company launched with Wheelman, which has been a resounding success for Netflix. Stars, athletes, and actors have talked about it on social media, and the movie is easy to love. In a land of comic book team-up movies and remakes swelling the cinema, a 1970's throwback to real tension and car adoration is required viewing for entertainment fans.
When Carnahan asked Rush what he thought about Frank Grillo, Rush's answer was immediate: "You know what I think about Frank!" Their partnership should produce another Wheelman adventure and possibly other films.
That is not all. Do you know who Jing Wu is? Well, he directed a film that approximately 27 people saw in the United States, but has become a legendary hit in China. Wolf Warrior 2 is the second highest domestic film (in any country) of all time. Grillo channels his old friend Crossbones in playing a mercenary called Big Daddy who is sent over to drop a world of hurt on Chinese civilians, triggering action scenes that border on the berserk.
People love Grillo in China. In a recent appearance on Conan, Grillo said he is "huge" over there and has a clothing line set up. You see, they get it. They need more Grillo like we need more cowbell. It's that simple.
Did I mention he's fighting one of cinema's greatest fighters in Iko Kwais in Liam O'Donnell's upcoming Beyond Skyline? Filmed last year, this movie looks like pure escapism, a throwback to action films that didn't worry about staying within the guard of realism, only promoting lots of fun.
While those are intriguing projects, the thing I am looking forward to the most is the tentatively titled Fight World, a Netflix documentary series directed by Colin Moniz, which will follow Grillo around the world as he fights-and spends days with-true fighters. We are talking about true warriors. Grillo described it to me last year as similar to Anthony Bourdain's travel show about food, but about "fighters" instead of food. If there is a guy who can walk into any gym in the world and hang, it's Grillo. He's a fighter for life. Expect the series sometime in 2018 via the streaming device giant.
Like I said, Grillo doesn't rest these days. There's not enough time to take a day off for this beast. He's the kind of guy who thinks sleep is overrated and hatred is for the weak. He shadow boxes in his sleep and trains for hours everyday in the boxing ring with the likes of Chris Van Heerden, a South African boxing champion. If you asked Grillo if he'd prefer a hangout with actors or fighters, he'd choose the latter before you could finish the sentence.
Outside of all of that, he's a good dude who treats his fans like family. Most celebrities tell a listening soul that they are nothing without their fans, but never really show it. Grillo allows his fan base to come along for the ride, constantly updating his journey on Instagram and Facebook. When it comes to this guy, hard work and passion tromps everything else. Those are the ingredients that fuel his desire to be great, and he shares that with his fans.
Grillo is also a pillar for inspiration in these troubling times of Hollywood sexual abuse magnets and despicable characters. When he is done filming and fighting, Grillo goes home to his beautiful wife, Wendy (whom he's acted in three projects with), and his three sons. He doesn't get caught on TMZ doing anything obnoxious or get slapped with assault charges on Hollywood Reporter. He's a family man who works hard. With the likes of Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. mucking up the good name of actors, Grillo is a welcome dose of relief. Again, the leading man we need right now in these misguided times.
Do you think I'm kidding? When the world goes to ruins, you'll want Grillo leading the charge. When you need a good guy who will also shoot you straight with opinion, he's your guy.
I've written about the guy for the past four years and I am asked constantly why I do, and the answer is simple: Grillo is a good guy who does great work and cares about his fans. Hollywood needs more of that. They need all of that. I think we all want to be like Frank. At the end of it all, he's a pure entertainer and the most authentic actor I know.
Frank Grillo is taking over, slowly but surely. He has six projects in the works, finished, or scheduled for release. Get ready, because this next dose of Grillo should be the best.
Again, don't tell him how great he is. Not yet. Not that often. Like Al Pacino said in the classic film, Heat, Grillo needs that edge to keep him going. He's the real deal. Just watch him work.
*Wheelman is currently streaming on Netflix. Kingdom and his many films are available where excuses don't live, such as stores or Amazon. Go find them immediately. Stop waiting. Just act.