Writer and Director, Dallas Jackson, Talks About His New Film “The System.”
Updated: Nov 8
This System is a brave production, executive produced by Tyrese Gibson, Peter Jákl, and Bryan Lord (starring Tyrese Gibson Terrence Howard, Jeremy Piven and Lil Yachty), written and directed, by Dallas Jackson, that reinforces the missives, that shape the identity for the film, which are both fictionalized, and inspired by real life events.
Jackson tells this story in gripping sequence about corruption in the private prisons through the experiences of Terry Savage (Tyrese Gibson), and how these immoralities have gone unchanged for centuries.
In 2021 President Joe Biden, signed an executive order to phase out contracts with private federal prisons, to stop corporations from profiting off of demoralizing incarceration of men and women; however, in 2016, The Department of Justice, while under the Obama administration declared its intentions of phasing out its use of private prison systems, with no headway in sight till this day.
Speaking to Dallas Jackson about the film, he said he was inspired to do the story after reading a news article about an incident that had taken place… “I read an article about prisoners being made to fight to the death in a private prison; so, I went down this rabbit hole of researching private prisons, and realizing that they were now being controlled by corporations, and the corporations bottom line is profit; and, so, in order to fulfill and justify these private prisons being made, they have to have bodies inside of them-- and usually those bodies are black and brown. They come from our communities, and so I wanted to kinda pull back, not only the curtain on some of these things that are going on with the private prisons but the conditions inside-- and, I started to read more about things of free labor, and slavery type conditions in these private prisons—And, wanting to wrap it in an action movie package, so that it could be presented as a movie with a message.
That was the beginning of the script, and me wanting to tell the story and, it turned into something much bigger and more... fantastic than I could’ve set out to do. You know, sometimes God is bigger than your own dreams, and in this case, coming with a mission and a message, I think it snowballed into something bigger and better than I expected particularly with this cast, and us being blessed to be able to shoot inside a real prison. You can’t build a real prison.”
While the facts of the movie are true in many regards, the story is also filled with thrilling action, where Terry Savage kicks major butt, from the start of the film.
The System launches the first scene at a tumbledown drug house, where dealers are counting money and bagging up narcotics, completely unaware that they are being stalked by a tall figure cloaked in a hoodie, who is seen lurking in the bushes just outside.
The person comes across as a burglar; but as the story kicks off, it’s obvious that he’s not just any thief coming to raid the house. It’s a showdown immediately from jump, where once the veil is lifted, and viewers see the face of Terry Savage (Tyrese Gibson).
Savage burst through the door, toting a Glock; but he doesn’t use the weapon, and instead, kicks azz from the front door all the way to the money stash.
He disarms the bad guys, using martial arts as his weapon of choice, which is a critical observation of just how lethal he is without even trying. That crucial métier kindles more drama for him as the story goes on.
The turn of events is pleasantly feral, watching Tyrese get his hands dirty in a serious back-to back bout, that’s graver than his character on Atlantis (Modern Officer & Gentleman).
Terry Savage is enigmatic, whose persona is fixed and intense like the behaviors of Rambo in the 1982 film called First Blood (Sylvester Stallone). Jackson wanted the character to say less, but do more with facial expressions and action.
Jackson said that the character is an extension of himself, in addition to his experiences growing up… “I was a kid that used to go to the video store, rent eight or nine movies, at Blockbusters. We remember Blockbuster, RIP; and study them (the movies).
I wanted to write this prison action movie, and infuse what I love into it, which is martial arts. I’m a huge martial arts and Bruce Lee (fan) movie; I used to go to the video store, and rent Enter the Dragon, over and over, five fingers of Death, and the Kid with Golden Arm.
So, in the heart of this movie, it’s a martial arts setting, even Tyrese being this kinda, rogue warrior who’s sent inside this mission, and he finds a master, which is Terrance (Howard); and Terrance being a teacher to him, and also a mentor to him, and explaining to him, what’s going on inside this place, inside the system, and that they were gonna have to fight together.
Um, so, there’s a lot of my own personal inspiration inside this genre movie, and genre being an action movie. Then also an idea of wanting to include a message into it, but not hit you in the head. You know-- have it become a part organically of the story, and I think, that’s what we were able to do with this fantastic cast that came along, and decided to rock with me on it.”
Dallas Jackson wrote the Screen Play for Uncle Pete (2007), Shady Talez (2017), and in 2018, after shadowing veteran director, John Singleton, while filming BET’s Rebel (written by Jackson’s wife for the 2017 pilot), Jackson tried his hand at not just writing, but directing the horror film for Blumhouse Productions/ Divide Conquer, called “Thriller.”
By 2020, Jackson had grown shrewder in his ability to direct and cast for movies although he didn’t consider the idea until the late veteran, John Singleton convinced him that he could. Jackson wrote and directed the reboot of 1995 classic, “Sudden Death” with “The Sudden Death (Michael Jai White and Gary Owen).”
The System has been in the works since 2018, but productions for the film didn’t commence until 2020.
“The first person I wanted for this movie was Tyrese,” explained Jackson when asked how he selected the cast… “We are friends. We are bonded through John Singleton, who’s a mentor and big brother to both of us—And, so, he was this linchpin to start it—And Terrance (Howard) was a personal call from the producers, and Tyrese.
There was another actor that was supposed to fulfill that roll, who wanted a lot of more money in the 24th hour, and Terrence read the script. We made him an offer and he swooped in literally, within a day.
And God is great--And, sometimes, he’s greater than what you’re thinking. When I went to the first day to set, there’s Tyrese in one trailer—Went to the next trailer, there’s Terrence in there. We talked the first time we met, 45 minutes. We talked about Singleton. I go to the next trailer, and there’s, Jeremy Piven in there—And I had stepped out to get my head together-- And I realized, cause now I have to do my thing, and go make this movie with these guys, cause they’re all superstars, and all awesome in their own right—And you can make a movie with just one of these guys, and be good. So, to have all three was, you know/? It’s no pressure.”
SYNOPSIS: Following a drug bust, a former marine (Tyrese Gibson) is recruited by the authorities to go undercover in a notoriously dangerous private prison. After discovering an underground fight ring, he must fight to stay alive and take down the corrupt system.
Watch entire interview below: