Profile: Isaac Florentine

Posted in Profiles by - July 10, 2020
Profile: Isaac Florentine

Date of birth: 28 July, 1958 (Israel)

Real name: Yitzhak Florentin

Style: Karate

Occupation: Director, stunt coordinator, fight choreographer.

Biography: Isaac Florentine in an Israeli filmmaker who works in the martial arts genre, directing mostly for the direct-to-video market. Isaac is the son of Greek parents and Holocaust survivors. His earliest film memories involve watching Bruce Lee and Sergio Leone films in Israel. He made his own films at high-school using his dad’s Super 8 camera. Upon graduating, he completed his mandatory service in the Israeli army for three years before studying Film & Television at Tel Aviv University.

He began training in martial arts from the age of 13. His first discipline was Judo, before taking up karate after watching the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice (1967). He began teaching karate in 1978 while still in the Israeli army, teaching cadets in the Air Force Technical School. After eight years, he achieved a black belt, opening his first karate school in 1979 and becoming known as one of Israel’s best karate practitioners. Following his military service, he trained for a time in Stockholm, Sweden, where he first met Dolph Lundgren.

His first film was an adaptation of Jacques Prevere’s poem, ‘Dejeuner Du Matin’. His graduation project was a short film called Farewell, Terminator, made in 1987. The film was awarded the Grand Prize at the Mograbee Film Festival and picked up many other awards, including prizes for directing, editing and cinematography. It was selected as the Israeli entry into the short foreign-student film category at the 1988 Academy Awards.

In 1988, he relocated with his wife, Barbara, to America to pursue a career as a filmmaker, working as a fight choreographer and a second unit director. Florentine made his directorial debut in 1992 for producer Menahem Golan – founder of The Cannon Group – on the martial arts film, Desert Kickboxer. The film had a very low budget and a 16-day shooting schedule, but it impressed HBO enough for the company to buy the film for distribution.

His big break came as a stunt coordinator, second unit director and director on the TV series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, for the producers Ronnie Hadar and Jonathan Tzachor. Isaac was responsible for bringing the Japanese stunt coordinator Koichi Sakamoto – founder of Alpha Stunts – onto the show after working with him on the film, Savate (1994). Isaac would continue to work with Alpha Stunts and, particularly, the fight choreographer Akihiro ‘Yuji’ Noguchi on a number of his following projects, including his TV series, WMAC Masters (1996), and the films Cold Harvest (1999) and Ninja (2009). It was while working on Power Rangers that Isaac would start to develop his own unique style of filming action – moving the camera in synchronisation with the choreography, and using close-ups and wide-shots to capture the full expression of movement.

In 2003, Florentine started his long-running working relationship with the UK martial artist, Scott Adkins, who was cast in a supporting role in Special Forces (2003) after Isaac received his showreel on a VHS tape. He has worked with Scott Adkins on nine films so far. Isaac moved into the mainstream in 2006 working with New Line Cinema on the martial arts sequel, Undisputed II: Last Man Standing, starring Michael Jai White. The film introduced the character of Russian prisoner and MMA fighter, Yuri Boyka, played by Scott Adkins.

Isaac was preparing to direct Boyka: Undisputed in 2016 – the fourth film in the Undisputed franchise – when his wife, Barbara, was diagnosed with cancer. She died in 2017. Together they have four children. Isaac lives in Florida, USA.

Speech! 

Click here to listen to KFMG Podcast S06 Episode 67 with Isaac Florentine.

Filmography (as director): 1987 Farewell, Terminator (short; + scr.); 1992 Desert Kickboxer (+ action dir.); 1994 Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills (TV); 1995 Savate (+ scr.); 1996 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (TV); Power Rangers Zeo: Zeo Quest; Power Rangers Zeo (TV); WMAC Masters (TV); 1997 High Voltage; 1998 Power Rangers in Space (TV); 1999 Cold Harvest; Bridge of Dragons; 2000 Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (TV); 2001 U.S. Seals II: The Ultimate Force; Power Rangers Time Force (TV); Power Rangers Time Force – Quantum Ranger: Clash for Control; 2003 The Life and Legend of Bob Wall; Special Forces; 2004 Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon; 2005 Battleground: The Art of War (TV); 2006 Undisputed II: Last Man Standing; 2008 The Shepherd: Border Patrol; 2009 Ninja; 2010 Undisputed III: Redemption; 2012 Assassin’s Bullet; 2013 Ninja: Shadow of a Tear; 2015 Close Range; 2017 Acts of Vengeance; 2020 Seized.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a keyboard in London, UK.

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