Vanquish is the 2021 action thriller movie that stars Ruby Rose as Victoria, a retired drug courier forced back into doing one last night of deliveries by a retired cop, Damon (Morgan Freeman) because he's holding her daughter hostage.
In a recent Q&A with Borrowing Tape, we spoke with Vanquish filmmaker George Gallo (writer of the Bad Boys movies) on directing and co-writing the movie with screenwriter Sam Bartlett. Vanquish is now available to watch via Amazon, Apple TV, Everywhere You Rent Movies, and on Blu-ray and DVD.
How did you find the process of collaborating with Screenwriter Samuel Bartlett?
Sam is a wonderful writer who wrote a solid script. Once we began to put the film together, I allowed the actors to help shape the characters they were going to play — they had a lot of input.
What was the casting like for Vanquish — how was Morgan Freeman brought on?
Morgan is a friend, and this is our third movie together. I described to him how I wanted to make the film, and he was intrigued. I also expressed that I wanted a lot of input from the actors to help shape their roles. I had never worked with Ruby before. She is an incredibly smart and gifted actor and had phenomenal instincts. Upon our first meeting, I could tell that she could play both hard and tough as well as vulnerable all at once.
Can you tell us about your experience working with Actor Morgan Freeman?
What is there to say about Morgan Freeman that everyone doesn’t already know? He’s not only one of the greatest actors of our time, [but] he's also a dear friend. You don’t really direct Morgan, you just say, “Action!” and “Cut!” He takes care of the rest!
There’s a vibrant use of color and lighting in Vanquish, in contrast to the film’s events taking place mainly during the night.
What was it like collaborating with Cinematographer Anastas N. Michos?
How did you reach the aesthetic for Vanquish?
Anastas and I discussed finding different color palettes for all of the different worlds that inhabit the movie. Morgan’s world was cold and calculating, so we used blue for his color palette. We shot Morgan’s scenes in 8k to make them look razor-sharp. The cops were crooked and nocturnal, so we shot them with a look that felt like night-vision green. Each stop Ruby’s character goes to have specific color schemes to enhance the story. We also used a wide variety of lens choices, using increasingly wide-angle lenses to help distort the images as the night went on. Our production designer Joe Lemmon did a terrific job finding great-looking locations to help tell the story. He also thought out of the box, which was very helpful. Some of the locations he found were not in the original script, and we adapted the story to include them.
How did you approach directing "Vanquish"?
Which scenes were your favorite — from both on-set and the final edit?
What I enjoyed about directing “Vanquish” was that there are long silences in the film. In the comedies I’ve made, the films are usually driven by dialogue. Here, I had to find ways to allow the visuals to drive the story and use them to help push the narrative. I don’t really have a favorite scene, although I do like the end with Morgan and Ruby saying their goodbyes.
How were the stunts executed in Vanquish?
The stunts were choreographed by myself, Johnny Martin, and Nate Adams. Together we tried to come up with something that felt cool but not over the top. The concept was to always keep the chases feeling real. Crystal Hooks did an amazing job riding the motorcycle. She was a joy to work with and never ceased to amaze us!
How long did production last? Where was the movie filmed?
Production was shortened because of COVID-19 and the threat of two hurricanes. I’m not sure what the final amount of days ended up being, but the movie was shot in and around Biloxi, Mississippi. We purposely never say what city the story takes place in. The hope was to make the location feel more like an impression as opposed to an actual place.
Which films/directors have influenced you as a filmmaker, including Vanquish? What are some of your favorite movies from the past decade?
I’ve always wanted to do a film like this. “Vanquish” was influenced by many films that I like, from Walter Hill action movies to criminal dramas like, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” I have a tendency to like movies from the ’70s. I also love films of the French New Wave. I’m also a big fan of Korean gangster movies. I sometimes find the more obscure B movies of the ’50s through the ’70s to be more interesting than the overproduced studio films.
Which themes and subject matters interest you as a filmmaker?
The theme that I seem to be attracted to over and over is that of redemption. I have an interest in telling stories about people who regret having made terrible decisions and then getting a chance to turn things around. “Vanquish” is certainly an example of that.