Raúl Castillo Jr.’s passion for films was fostered at Cinemark Hollywood theater in McAllen, his go-to movie house growing up. And on Friday, his latest film, “Wrath of Man,” premiered there, as it did in thousands of other theaters in the country.
“That was my movie theater as a kid, it was built when I was a kid,” the award-winning actor and playwright said. “So now that a project like this on this scale that I worked on is going to be playing back home, and to think that my tios and tias and primos and everyone else is going to be able to see the movie and have a fun time is a really great feeling.”
Castillo, who graduated from McAllen High School in 1995, plays the supporting character Sam in “Wrath of Man,” an action-packed revenge thriller film directed by Guy Ritchie. This is the first movie superstar Jason Statham and Ritchie collaborated on in more than 15 years.
The film centers on a string of deadly heists of cash truck security guards in Los Angeles, and the security company hires mysterious new employee Patrick Hill (played by Statham), who goes by “H” and gives off a reserved front. H, however, surprises the team with expert combat skills in the face of ambushes — skills too sharp to believe they’re being used for good.
They wonder how he developed those skills and what his true motivations are.
Castillo plays one of H’s coworkers.
“My character in particular is a little bit of a dark horse,” Castillo said. “He’s got this really wry sense of humor that I really like.”
The film’s narrative takes many unexpected turns, evolving into a story about much more than stolen money.
Castillo hopes viewers not only watch and enjoy the film, but get so engrossed in the action and special effects that it serves as a break from a tumultuous year.
“After a really difficult year for a lot of people, this is kind of like a fun, escapist joyride,” he said. “To go to the movie theaters and watch a really fun film.”
Some of the films Castillo has worked on in the past include “Knives Out” directed by Rian Johnson, “Bless Me, Ultima” directed by Carl Franklin, “El Chicano” directed by Ben Bray, and “We the Animals” directed by Jeremiah Zagar, for which he received an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
Castillo’s work is not limited to feature films; he’s also acted in short films and TV shows. For his role in the show “Looking,” Castillo won Best Comedic Actor from the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications. He also earned the Lupe Award from the National Association of Latino Independent Producer.
“I started acting because I enjoyed entertaining my family,” he said. “And now to be at this stage at this point of my career, to not only continue to do it but to do it on such a grand scale is really exciting for me.”
Castillo said his love for the stage began when he played bass for a band through middle school, and his drive to join the entertainment field was sparked by his first theater teacher at McAllen’s Nikki Rowe High School, Rosie Solis.
A freshman, Castillo took her theater class without much thought, not knowing how it would change the rest of his life.
“She was the one who told me I could have a future in this field, she was the first one who said I could pursue this,” he recalled. “I think she recognized that I found great joy in using my imagination to create characters.”
Castillo was very active in the theater clubs at Nikki Rowe and later at McAllen High, taking part in the school’s UIL one-act play competitive team. He also competed in other events such as speech and debate, and prose and poetry.
Castillo says he owes the success he has found in acting to Solis.
“I think that her as an adult believing in me and recognizing my value was pivotal,” he said. “I don’t think many kids experience that unless you are scoring touchdowns or doing something popular like that. Theater was where the kooky kids went to, and her recognizing and vocalizing and saying that I should pursue acting stuck and changed my life.”
After graduating from McAllen High, Castillo attended Boston University’s School of Fine Arts. His advice for aspiring artists is to identify their passions and hustle to become the best at it.
“If you want to be famous, then work on being famous; but if you want to work to be an actress or musician or any craft, learn that craft,” Castillo said. “Become the best at that you can be, then never stop striving to be better.”