We all dealt with the pandemic in different ways. Leonard Waldner spent a part of this historic time doing what he has always done, making movies. The determination he communicates in so many of his roles emanates from within him and is inseparable from the man himself. He is charismatic and powerful on camera, these are also prominent reasons for why famed writer and director George Gallo (of Bad Boys – Michael Bays film starring Oscar Winner Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, Midnight Run – starring the iconic Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin, and Middle Men) cast him in the film Vanquish alongside such talent as Morgan Freeman (as Damo)
Ruby Rose (as Victoria), and Patrick Muldoon (as Agent Monroe). The intensity of the film is perfectly paired with the cast, including Leonard as the combat master Michael Weathers. Producer Daniel Lupi (Lincoln, Catch Me If You Can, West Side Story, Ready Player One) recommended Leonard to Gallo as an addition to this remarkable cast which necessitated the pairing of great acting and demanding physicality.
Vanquish is a film about the blurring of moral lines. In a highly intriguing manner, intentions are indistinguishable throughout much of the story. The greatest clarity in this regard comes from Victoria (Ruby Rose), caregiver to retired cop Damon (Morgan Freeman). Dying of cancer and with little left to lose, Damon kidnaps Victoria’s daughter to blackmail her into a series of dangerous “collection” tasks which make use of her skillset as a former drug courier. Action and deception are at the heart of this film, a style firmly rooted in performances by Ruby Rose and Leonard Waldner. As a former Army Ranger turned bodyguard, Michael Weathers (Waldner) is a master of hand to hand combat, attributes made use of in some of the most powerful scenes of Vanquish. Waldner’s character is key to two of the most pivotal scenes in the film: when Victoria (Ruby Rose) convinces Michael to trust her to be alone with Governor Ann Driscoll (played by Juli Lott) which results in an assassination, as well as one in which Michael makes an attempt on Damon’s (Freeman) life. A quiet torrent emanates from Waldner’s performance as Michael, communicating the lethal potentiality of both his physical and emotional state.
There is a unique undertone of tension in Vanquish. While the storyline, performances, and cinematography certainly are the major contributors to this sense, there’s something intangible which forebodes desperation. The fact that this production was created during the Covid pandemic hints that its ghost has attached its mood to Vanquish. Waldner confirms that it was a highly unusual scenario, one which he chose to use to his advantage for his work on the film. He relates, “Filming during Covid required a very different manner of conducting our work on set. Not being able to openly communicate with the other actors and crew as I normally would, it certainly placed a large silent elephant in the room. We all felt it but we kept about our work. It was always at the front of my thoughts that I needed to be cautious, I didn’t want to be the one with a positive test which would shut down the set. Even during my downtime, I found myself taking in the sites of Gulfport, Mississippi alone. I can tell you that this experience reinforced my love for being able to do what I love and for being part of such a talented cast. It was a joy to interact and improvise with them on Vanquish.” With this statement, Leonard Waldner expresses the fact that we would all do well to gain an appreciation for what we have rather than focus on what we’ve lost.
Writer: Coleman Haan