In the tense drama 211, police Officer Mike Chandler (Nic Cage) is counting down the days until his retirement. He’s sick of the present state of affairs for cops – everyone lawyers up, everyone sticks a camera in your face, you can barely do your job – he’s ready to get out. Unfortunately for him, just as he’s ready to call it quits, the action starts.

During a routine ride along, Chandler, his partner, and their young teen charge Kenny find themselves in the middle of a bank robbery. The heist is orchestrated by highly-trained men with military grade weapons. Outnumbered and outgunned, the group is woefully unprepared for the bloody, explosive firefight that ensues.

Cory Hardrict, who plays Officer Hanson, spoke with ScreenPicks about what it was like to get caught in the crosshairs in 211.

ScreenPicks: So, how was it making the film?

Hardrict: Filming was great. I mean I got out of there alive! All my body parts are still intact! [laughs] It was a lot of action and high octane stuff. I had a good time filming though, great cast and crew … and I had a great time shooting it.

ScreenPicks: Let’s talk about the cast. You play a police officer, and those guys often have strong bonds with one another; was there any of that camaraderie on set with your castmates?

Hardrict: We had a great bonding experience on set. When you’re filming together – acting out saving each other’s lives and protecting each other – you start developing a bond and a sense of brotherhood for sure that carries over into real life. I’m still close with a couple of the guys, yeah.

ScreenPicks: Did the action make it an exciting environment for you all? Is the energy on set just totally different than say, a dramatic film or a comedic one?

Hardrict: Yeah, because you’re always acting even when you’re not acting. Even if you’re in a scene and you don’t have any dialogue, you’re still reacting to gunshots and explosions … so you feel like you’re always on your toes and you always have to still be aware. You never know. Shells are flying, everything is flying all over the place! There is a certain energy that comes with it, I’ll tell you that.

ScreenPicks: When it comes to the firearms themselves, did you have to be trained to hold a weapon and make it look convincing to play an officer?

Hardrict: Yeah, we have different trainers for different things. You know, it depends how long you shoot a movie as to the duration of the training. We did a week for 211. We actually had the training inside a church – which sounds crazy – but as far as tactical movements and stuff, we did all the training inside and then shot outside.

We went to a shooting range for a couple of days. I mean, they teach you the basics: safety first, protect yourself and others around you, how to hold your gun, securing your weapon, firing. I had a lot of experience in the firing department, and I knew what was expected of me and just tried to keep it simple.

ScreenPicks: Something that is highlighted in this film is how scary it is that civilians could potentially get their hands on automatic weapons. I know this is a fun action movie, but do you think it says anything more about gun violence?

Hardrict: It’s a movie, it’s entertainment … it is a heist film … but of course, I don’t condone or agree with gun violence. I’m one of the good cops! [laughs] Hopefully it’s just a form of entertainment and you don’t take away that you should go rob banks or hold people hostage!

ScreenPicks: There are obviously some racial undertones to the movie. It’s not given a ton of time, but the dynamic between Nic Cage and Michael Rainey Jr. is there of course. It speaks a bit to the gun violence happening in this country between police officers and people of color, particularly young African American males. Thoughts on that tension either in the context of the film or the real world?

Hardrict: I think we can all have more empathy and compassion. It’s how you use your judgment as a police officer, you know? Don’t just react on instincts; think it through. This is a human being first. Everyone is not a criminal. Everyone is not a thug. We just have to have better judgment… [with] police addressing things and diffusing situations.

Things are bad, but hopefully, that changes. You do have great cops in the world, and you have the not so great ones, and the not so great ones … they just need to do better or not be police officers.

ScreenPicks: Thank you for that. Luckily you get to play one of the good ones! Now, if you had to sum up the film for people considering seeing it, what would you say?

Hardrict: Grab your popcorn and just be in for a ride! If you love those heist-types of films and you love a lot of action, cops and robbers, this is the movie for you! Just don’t try this at home.

Catch Cory Hardrict and the rest of the 211 cast in theaters and on VOD today, June 8th.