Director Christian Sesma Discusses Action-Thriller Section 8 | YTS YIFY

ytsfreeSeptember 20, 2022

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Filmmaker Christian Sesma has been quietly but relentlessly building a catalog of fun action thrillers, first coming to some prominence with the initially crowdfunded Vigilante Diaries, which was the first real hint that Sesma knows how to balance a great ensemble cast. That film starred co-writer Paul Sloan, Michael Jai White, Michael Madsen, Danny Trejo, and Jason Mewes (of Jay & Silent Bob), and since then Sesma has continued to collaborate with big names like Val Kilmer, Richard Dreyfuss, and Mickey Rourke.


Now, the director and producer has arranged another great cast for the new thriller Section 8 — Ryan Kwanten leads the pack alongside Dolph Lundgren, Dermot Mulroney, Scott Adkins, and the aforementioned Rourke. The film follows Jake, a former soldier who is imprisoned after a violent act of revenge. He’s offered a deal and is able to leave prison if he joins the titular shadowy government organization, a clandestine group of assassins. Ahead of the theatrical release of Section 8 (and its subsequent streaming on AMC+), Sesma spoke with MovieWeb about his film, its cast, and its connections to contemporary culture.

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Christian Sesma Finds the Heart of Section 8

Section 8 surprisingly takes its time, beginning the film by establishing Jake’s military past, his current working-class job, and his small family. While the film has its fair share of strong fight sequences and thrills, Sesma and Kwanten were committed to forming an emotional core at the center of the action.

“When I got the script,” said Sesma, “with this kind of movie, we’ve seen these a million times, and I thought that before we get into the full-on, bang-bang-shoot-em-up, Mission Impossible-style flick, I really had to kind of dig into the character stuff. I had to make sure that we feel like why he’s on a revenge mission.” Sesma continued:

I really wanted to have those tender moments of family with his kid with his wife, so that I can recall them all the time throughout the movie. That reminds us that, yeah, we’re having these cool action sequences. Yeah, here’s Dolph, here’s Mickey, here’s Scott, and it’s a great cast, but I always tried to bring it back to the family. We never forget that he’s not just mindlessly going on a revenge mission. There’s a deep loss that I think anybody would be massively traumatized by.

The Great Cast of Section 8

As Sesma said, Section 8 does have a great cast, and while Kwanten is the emotional and narrative center around which every tangential character orbits, the film gives ample time for each actor in its ensemble cast to shine, even if they’re often isolated from each other. Mickey Rourke, especially, gives an emotional performance that’s unique and a little odd; one could imagine a whole film with his character, the owner of a struggling small body shop in a bad neighborhood, something like The Wrestler.

“I felt like Mickey was pretty sharp, and he gave me a lot. He kind of gave it his all,” said Sesma, who had worked with Rourke on the movie Take Back. “But every character had their own little piece [even if] they’re not necessarily connected as a whole. Ryan is the only guy that technically interacts with everybody as a whole. Mickey’s his own standalone, Adkins is his own standalone, Dermot kind of interacts with Dolph a little bit, but Jake is the thread, and I think that’s what I feel is pretty strong in this. We’re tracking his journey.”

Related: Exclusive: Ryan Kwanten on Section 8 and Acting After True Blood

“It was great working with everybody, they were all pros,” continued Sesma. “Like I said, even though they know that they’ve done this genre here and there before, I think everybody felt that this could be something a little cooler, a little more emotional sometimes, and this was trying to do that. We all tried to bring it that way.”

Sesma’s ’80s Action Movie Influences

Sesma clearly knows the action genre, and how easy it would be to sleepily recreate the same story “we’ve seen a million times,” as he said. It’s his wheelhouse and the sandpit he’s chosen to play in, and Section 8 continues his love for the genre even if it is more emotional and serious at times.

“I’m an ’80s kid, so I grew up with that. That’s kind of what my movie nerd DNA is,” said Sesma. “I grew up with Spielberg, Lucas, Cameron, John McTiernan, all these kinds of guys; Predator, Die Hard, all these movies just make up my movie knowledge, and it’s kind of what really made me fall in love with movies in the first place, the popcorn flicks of that time.”

There is a definite difference in pacing and plot between today’s “popcorn flicks” and those from the ’80s, and Sesma’s work in Section 8 and other films often harkens back to that more traditionalist, classic style. “I think that has always been something that excites me, and I think it’s also a lot of fun to shoot. It’s dynamic, it’s paced, and even when I get into the thriller genre with things like Abandonment or other movies that I’ve got coming up, I can still take the pacing of an action movie and make sure that I know how to drive the story forward with the beats and the rhythm of it all.”

Politics and Conspiracies in Section 8

Section 8 uses that pacing well, building off its patient beginning and into a rhythm of emotional moments, fight sequences, and conspiratorial exposition. Throughout it all, there is a subtle reflection of contemporary politics and the cultural moment. With one in five Americans believing in QAnon conspiracies and even more believing in a vast ‘deep state’ that runs everything (not to mention the fact that only 9% of Republicans trust the government, and less than a third of Democrats), the covert government organization in Section 8 feels timely.

“It didn’t feel dated, that’s for sure,” laughed Sesma. The film’s elite government killers, use and abuse of soldiers and agents, and slightly political subtext all feel relevant in a country where many Democrats hate the police, many Republicans hate the FBI, and almost everybody hated politicians. Even the title of Section 8 has political meaning, referring to the Housing Choice Voucher from HUD, which uses government money to assist low-income, elderly, and disabled people with rent and housing. While not explained in the film, Sesma developed an interesting backstory for the title and the organization.

Related: These Are Some of the Best Movies About Class Consciousness

“We were talking about that from the beginning, and I always wondered,” mused Sesma, “what if this clandestine operation is kind of covertly funded by the Section Eight housing initiatives? I was trying to find some sort of connection where this covert Black Ops thing is secretly funded by this low-income housing initiative.” The idea of politicians secretly transferring funds intended for the poorest of citizens over to an elite kill squad is not as ridiculous as it sounds.

Section 8 is Eerily Prescient and Streaming on AMC+

In fact, just recently, former quarterback Brett Favre and several politicians in Mississippi (the poorest American state) were revealed to have been diverting millions of dollars from welfare programs that were intended for the 200,000 children below the poverty line. “The state auditor uncovered $77 million in misspent welfare funds in February 2020,” according to NBC News, as 38 different people lined their pockets and Favre got a volleyball stadium built for his daughter. It looks like Sesma might actually be onto something, unfortunately.

“I think that, with these Senator assassinations and this, that, and the other, there’s a lot of politics in play,” concluded Sesma, but for him, that’s ultimately just the backdrop. “Really, I think as macro as it went throughout, I just always tried to bring it right back down to Jake and his son and his wife.” The result is an emotionally driven action thriller about a man mourning a great loss, and one that feels eerily prescient.

From Firebrand and RLJE Films, Section 8 will be available in theaters and will stream on AMC+ on September 23.

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