Last summer, I read Elmore Leonard’s crime novel “Killshot” and enjoyed it. Then weeks later I read that shooting of a feature film based on the book had wrapped and I got excited. Not simply because I was eager to see the movie, but because after years of listening to my more intellectual friends complaining about how Hollywood movies ruined books they had enjoyed, I was FINALLY going to get to stroke my own intellectual beard and utter those words that gave them so much smug satisfaction: “the book was much better.” Then the movie essentially made the argument for me by going strait-to-DVD.
But upon further inspection, the movie had a pretty high pedigree. It was directed by John Madden (not the football icon) who also made the Best Picture winning “Shakespeare In Love.” It also had a pretty good cast, including Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke, who after a high profile comeback in “The Wrestler” is one of the hottest names in Hollywood. So, with all this going for it, could the movie really be so bad it wasn’t even worthy of theatrical release?
The movie tells the story of Wayne and Carmen Colson, a divorcing couple, who accidentally get involved in a violent shakedown at the real estate company where Carmen works. After escaping, the couple is placed in the witness protection program, as the killers, Armand “Blackbird” Degas and Richie Nix attempt to hunt them down.
I will begin my review by saying this isn’t a terrible movie. It isn’t necessarily even a bad one. For the most part, it is a fairly faithful adaptation of Leonard’s novel, and a pretty well made one at that. I would not have thought Madden, who has never handled a suspense picture before, would have been a good choice to adapt this material, but he does an adequate job making the movie at least mildly suspenseful. Despite this, there are various areas in where the film falls short of the book.
For one, most characters are seriously lacking in development. The reason the Colson’s (played by Lane and Thomas Jane) are getting divorced (if memory serves, in the book they were still together) are touched upon but never explored deeply enough to grasp why their marriage fell apart. Another under developed character is Rosario Dawson as Donna, Richie’s girlfriend. She has a great scene where she gushes about her love of Elvis Presley, but spends the rest of the movie just sort of wallowing and being subservient. Had Donna been explored further, I think Dawson could have given a great performance, but as it stands, her character becomes forgettable.
The main problem I had with the movie is the lead performances are not what they should be. In the book, “Blackbird,” the Native American contract killer has a cool aura that almost reminded me of “No Country For Old Men” killer Anton Chigurh. In the movie, Rourke looks like a white guy playing an Indian and talks like a guy who, if you heard him speak in real life, you would think he was trying to emulate a movie tough guy. Had this movie made it to theaters, Rourke’s “Wrestler” Oscar buzz would not have repeated itself.
The films worst performance comes from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Richie. Levitt has done good work in good (“The Lookout”) and great (“Angles In The Outfield”) films, but his performance here is so over-the-top it feels like it’s coming from another movie. I know Richie is supposed to be annoying, but he plays like a Saturday Night Live sketch character more than a menacing thriller villain.
I should be happy, since after years of waiting, I finally read a book prior to its release as a film and liked it better. But seeing as how my booming declarations of superiority were made sitting alone in my apartment as opposed to a crowded multiplex lobby, it feels like a hollow victory.
I will defend the movie to a point, though, as while it’s not good it was at least good enough for a theatrical release. When I think of strait-to-DVD movies, I think along the lines of recent Steven Seagal claptrap like “Belly Of The Beast” and “Mercenary for Justice,” and this movie is nowhere near as awful as those. But in a way, it may have been more endearing if it had been that bad. But as it stands, it’s really about as middle-of-the-road as it gets. Not a waste of your time, but not worth it either.
- A few suspenseful scenes
- Acting ranges from average to poor
- Lack of character development
- Book was better (I only hope I can one day say this about a movie someone has actually heard of. Note to the makers of “Where The Wild Things Are.” If your movie sucks, I will pounce on you with a tenacity so fierce it will leave emotional scars that will never heal.)
Final Score: 5.2/10
Character Development: 4/10