"Go huntin'. Have a good time. Do what you do. But you cannot bring them in. Do it the old way and settle it out there. King's X."
-Captain Jack Wander
Captain Jack Wander is a larger-than-life figure who has gradually accumulated a great deal of power within the ranks of the LAPD. He is known as a man who gets results and his unit has the track record to show for it. He leads his men with fierce confidence and serves up an intense psychology to his followers.
A palpable brotherhood exists within his unit where his men find unwavering loyalty, protection and a sense of family. Although Ad Vice knowingly goes outside the limits of the law to get the job done, the men are unwavering in their dedication to their leader, who they lovingly refer to as "King Wander".
"In developing these characters, I always saw Wander as the father of a dysfunctional family," explains David Ayer. "In dysfunctional families you're often handed your reality by Dad who tells you how ugly the world is outside the house but that inside the house there's love. He makes them believe that what they're doing is for their own good and uses that sort of abusive psychology."
To bring the role of Jack Wander to life, the filmmakers would need a powerful actor to flesh out this intense and charismatic man who is capable of leading men into harm's way with unflappable dedication. They got their wish in Academy Award winning actor Forest Whitaker, who was attracted to the character's strength and unwavering confidence.
"To me, Wander is a guy whose trying to take care of what he considers his family," explains Forest Whitaker. "He lives by a code and feels like he's justified in acquiring power."
In the film, Wander is an LAPD captain in a specialized unit on his way to becoming Commander. His career trajectory seems unstoppable and dreams of taking it all the way. When Captain Biggs from Internal Affairs starts sniffing around asking questions about protocol and the methods used within Wander's department, Ludlow relents to protect his mentor and family against anyone who threatens it. While Wander and his men are working outside the confines of the law, they are looking into the face of darkness going head to head with society's ugly truths.
When Ludlow begins investigating the murder his former partner, Detective Terrence Washington, he begins to discover corruption within the force and begins to view Wander and his brethren with new eyes. Whitaker argues "After looking into the face of darkness coupled with the death of his wife, I think Ludlow's been numb for a while. When he is implicated in Washington's murder, he really begins to investigate his own life which is intertwined with mine and I have to make sure he stands strong to keep my world in place."
Wander's methods of achieving his version of justice are unforgiving and Ludlow serves as his personal enforcer and favorite son. Whitaker notes, "Ludlow is the family member Wander is closest to and if he falls, the whole house of cards could come down."
In his illustrious career, Forest Whitaker has played numerous cops on both the big and small screen and came into the project with an extensive amount of knowledge of the inner-workings of law enforcement. For this material, Whitaker also draws from his own experiences growing up on the streets of Los Angeles. "I played a cop on 'The Shield' for a year and have been on many drive-alongs and had extensive weapons training so I've done that research. In my personal experience, growing up in Los Angeles, I know about cops from the other side. I know how they throw people on the ground and shine lights on them because I've dealt with them. I know what they say to you when you're arrested, so I feel I probably have more research than most."
Forest Whitaker and Keanu Reeves worked with David Ayer before production to flesh out the dynamics between these two connected souls. "When we did rehearsals, I was privileged to see Forest and Keanu together for the first time and witness first hand the incredible chemistry. You never know when putting actors together how they are going to click because at the end of the day we're all real people and we're all complex. The second they sat down together and started riffing on the material, it was obvious that they would be a believable combination."
"I think Keanu is great in the film and is an actor that people want to walk with," comments Whitaker. "Audiences can journey through some really dark places with Keanu because he's the kind of actor you can follow and trust."
"To me, the movie is really about the relationship between these two characters and Forest and Keanu have been very compelling and amazing to watch," says Lucas Foster. "They feed off each other and I think we captured a lot of surprising magic between these two actors who are very much their characters in the moment."