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Tony Jaa, the Thai action star of "Ong Bak" and "The Protector," is about to make his English-language and studio debut in "Fast and Furious 7," the next installment in the high-octane Universal franchise. It's unknown what role Jaa will play, but it will undoubtedly require him to kick and hit people repeatedly in the face and chest.
Not a whole lot is known about "Fast and Furious 7," except that it's being written by series vet Chris Morgan and directed by "The Conjuring" filmmaker James Wan, with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker currently scheduled to return and Jason Statham penciled in as the chief villain (he was introduced during "Fast and Furious 6"'s credits cookie).
"I have been a big fan of the 'Fast and Furious' franchise," Jaa gushed in an email to The Hollywood Reporter. "The films are fast-paced, fun, and keep the audience involved. There is a great mix of humor and action, something I really appreciate. There is no better film to be involved in for a first U.S. studio production."
When asked if he was looking forward to fighting Diesel or Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (who hasn't been confirmed to return), Jaa said, "Having a chance to work with Vin Diesel and The Rock already makes me a winner."
Jaa is an international star and a talented performer whose credibility skyrockets when you realize he does all of his own stunts. If you are a fan of martial arts movies and haven't seen "Ong Bak" or "The Protector," then you're doing yourself a disservice. "The Protector," in particular, is beautifully shot (almost hypnotically so) and features stunt work that you simply cannot believe actual humans are responsible for.
The movie is scheduled to start shooting in September, and will have to really race to make its July 11, 2014, release date, just a little over a year after "Fast and Furious 6" hit theaters. "Fast and Furious 6" has grossed almost $800 million worldwide, which is pretty impressive for a franchise that many thought had run out of gas long ago. Instead, each successive sequel has grossed more than the previous entry. That'll get your motor running.