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Rob Cohen to Direct $100 Million Action-Thriller ‘Speedhunters’ for China’s Jiaflix and 1905

Variety logo Variety 4/5/2017 Patrick Frater
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Jiaflix Pictures and 1905 Pictures, part of state-owned China Movie Channel, have hitched up with Lorenzo di Bonaventura to produce car-racing action-thriller “Speedhunters.” Rob Cohen, who previously made “Fast and Furious,” will direct.

The film, which has a budget pegged at about $100 million, is set to shoot in Shanghai and Berlin’s Babelsberg Studios from July. Theatrical release is expected in summer 2018.

The film is set in the near future and rooted in the world of Formula racing. A colorful team of racers and crew gets drawn into high intrigue around a revolutionary technology that threatens to change the world.

“‘Speedhunters’ has all the tenets of a global franchise with its action sequences, visual effects, relatable characters and a storyline that takes ordinary people through a journey of extraordinary circumstances,” said di Bonaventura (“G.I. Joe,” “Transformers”), the lead producer.

Cohen, who is currently in post-production on Foresight Unlimited’s “Category 5,” is expected to make “Speedhunters” his next directing venture. “Opportunities to capture speed and action in a new way, using new filmic techniques, are rare and valuable to me. So it was with Josh Parkinson’s script. It told a story on which I could build a tapestry of break-the-limit speed, adrenaline, and a core group of great characters,” said Cohen, whose credits also include “xXx” and China-themed “The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.”

Like “Furious” before it, “Speedhunters” will boast an ensemble cast. Of its four principal roles, two have been written as Chinese and are expected to be filled by Chinese talent. The film will be presented predominantly in English, with some Chinese dialog.

Producers are aiming for a major studio to handle a global release in all territories except China. Distribution in the Middle Kingdom is likely to be handled by the Chinese producers and local partners. The picture’s status as a Chinese co-production is currently being finalized.

In addition to producers Jiaflix and 1905, HuaHua Media is also an investor in the project.

Jiaflix, 1905 and China Movie Channel were all heavily involved in “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which shot partly in China and was preceded by a reality TV show that doubled as a casting call. The film earned $320 million in China, making it the country’s highest-grossing film of all time before it was overtaken by “Furious 7.” HuaHua was also an investor in “Transformers.”

“This venture is a reflection of the growing interest and strength of China-U.S. partnerships in bringing excellent films to the international market,” said Jiaflix founder Kenneth Huang, who is chairman of HuaHua and an independent board member of Shanghai Film Group.

1905 was previously an investor in “Terminator Genisys,” “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation,” and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water.” It was also involved in the China marketing and distribution of “Spectre,” “The Angry Birds Movie” and this year’s top foreign movie in China, “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.” Founded by Huang, Marc Ganis and Sid Ganis, Jiaflix is a U.S.-China company that straddles co-productions, assisted productions and digital streaming.

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