Why “Jackpot” with John Cena and Awkwafina is the Jackie Chan movie Paul Feig ‘always wished’ to make

Entertainment Weekly has your first look at the movie, starring Awkwafina, John Cena, and Simu Liu

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Paul Feig has seen your pleas for Spy 2, and while there are currently no plans for a follow-up to the 2015 movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Jude Law, he is ready to make audiences laugh with a new action comedy.

Jackpot, which hits Prime Video on Aug. 15, sounds more like a comedic take on Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery than an espionage yarn, but it maintains the key element of Spy's fish-out-of-water scenario.

<p>Dan McFadden/Prime Video</p> John Cena and Awkwafina in 'Jackpot'

Dan McFadden/Prime Video

John Cena and Awkwafina in 'Jackpot'

The film follows new Los Angeles transplant Katie (Awkwafina), who accidentally finds herself with a winning lottery ticket that makes her a target in the Grand Lottery, a new contest in an economically challenged California that allows others to seize the ticket (and its prize) if they kill the winner by sundown.

When Katie joins forces with Noel (John Cena), an amateur jackpot protector, they try to survive the day, facing off against random adversaries and Louis Lewis (Simu Liu), a rival jackpot protector who wants the commission from Katie’s win for himself.

<p>Dan McFadden/Prime Video</p> Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and John Cena in 'Jackpot'

Dan McFadden/Prime Video

Simu Liu, Awkwafina, and John Cena in 'Jackpot'

“This is the Jackie Chan movie I always wished I could make,” Feig tells Entertainment Weekly. “What I love about Jackie Chan movies is that he's a real, everyman caught in a situation he doesn't want to be in. He’s the master of panicked fighting versus ‘I'm cool, and I'm going to take you on.’ It's not Bruce Lee. It's the ‘Get away from me, get away from me’ type of action. I don't like mayhem and action for action's sake. It always has to advance the plot, be character-driven, and find the humor in people who aren't normally in these situations getting in these situations — and how they get themselves out of it.”

Awkafina’s Katie is meant to represent all of us watching. "She is the audience,” explains Feig. “When you're watching this movie, you’re in her shoes of suddenly being caught in this situation where literally the entire world wants to kill you.” Her everyday qualities stand in contrast to Cena and Liu, who bring more action-star energy to their roles, albeit with quirks to underscore the script’s humor.

<p>Dan McFadden/Prime Video</p> Awkwafina and John Cena in 'Jackpot'

Dan McFadden/Prime Video

Awkwafina and John Cena in 'Jackpot'

“John brings such a grounded, lovely presence to what could have been a very macho, '80s action-star thing,” notes Feig. “The role was written to be slightly nerdy, and the first time I talked to him, he said, ‘Now, don't think you got to try to make me cool or anything.’ So he’s this very sweet, nerdy, giant guy whose only goal in life is to protect his clients.”

EW can exclusively debut the first images from the film, including one featuring Katie fighting off attackers while on Noel's back. Katie ends up with the winning lottery ticket after having to borrow clothes from her terrible Airbnb host. “This is when she first gets attacked,” Feig says of the scenario. “She's at an audition because she's a struggling actor, and everything blows up. As she's trying to escape, she finds herself running into a karate studio with a class of karate experts who all want to kill her. That's when John's character shows up, and he does everything in his power to protect her from the hoard of martial arts experts.”

<p>Dan McFadden/Prime Video</p> John Cena and Awkwafina in 'Jackpot'

Dan McFadden/Prime Video

John Cena and Awkwafina in 'Jackpot'

Jackpot offers Feig an opportunity to combine his signature blend of action, comedy, and a hint of something classy and refined. When it comes to the latter, the fact that the rules of the Grand Lottery prohibit the use of guns was massively appealing to the director. ”If it were just anybody could kill anybody, I wouldn't have been drawn to it,” he says. “If it's a lot of shooting, I have no interest in those movies. I don't like all that gunplay and stuff. This is really primal survival, but it's not toxically aggressive. It is not ugly.

“It is very fun and ridiculous, but you're still worried for them because the stakes are real,” he continues. “But you're never going, like, ‘That's upsetting.’ I want to keep an elegance about it all and make it fun, but at the same time, I don't like action comedies where the villain is silly, and everybody is silly. The stakes have to be real. There has to be real danger. It has to be very believable characters, and then you put them in an extreme situation.”

<p>Dan McFadden/Prime Video</p> Director Paul Feig with stars John Cena and Simu Liu on the set of 'Jackpot'

Dan McFadden/Prime Video

Director Paul Feig with stars John Cena and Simu Liu on the set of 'Jackpot'

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