Friday, October 26, 2012

Film Pairing — Elmore Leonard On Celluloid

Elmore Leonard is one of those writers whose books are regularly snatched up by Hollywood. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mickey Rourke
When I revisited the film Kill Shot, the 2008 film based on Leonard’s book, I was a bit surprised at the seriousness of the film.  True, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s powerfully agile performance as a dangerous fool offered some comic relief. Essentially, though Kill Shot is not funny. The film was intended to keep the viewer on edge as we witnessed the attempts on the lives of ordinary people Diane Lane and Thomas Jane by Gordon-Levitt’s character and the scary, professional hitman played by Mickey Rourke.  As is the case for most of Leonard’s characters, the bad guys are more interestingly drawn than the others.  My attention picked up whenever the killers were on screen whether they were killing or not.  Their interaction was well-drawn.  Rosario Dawson does a fine job as the not too bright Gordon-Levitt’s not too bright girlfriend.  The film, directed by John Madden, was released in 2008.

Dennis Farina, Scene Stealer
Unlike Kill Shot, Get Shorty, relies less on whether or not someone was going to get whacked, but on the humor surrounding the stupidity of the crooks.  This is the Elmore Leonard I enjoy most.  The story reaches a sort of believable absurdity.  The plot is convoluted, compared to Kill Shot, but it sets up a funny and clever end.  We watch a kindly, charming con man, played by a likable, laid-back John Travolta as he pits various gangsters against each other in a way that seems to right several wrongs.

For my money, as in Leonard’s books, the characters here make the movie.  And the cast is up to it.  Gene Hackman plays a shallow Hollywood director/producer.  Rene Russo is a B picture actress with ties to a major star, Danny DeVito.  The scene stealers, for me, were Dennis Farina and Delroy Lindo as gangsters with James Gandolfini who is supposed to be an enforcer, but is happily not quite up to the task. You’ll also notice Bette Midler in a small role and cameos by Harvey Keitel, Penny Marshall and Jane Fonda.  This film, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and released in 1995, is a lot of fun.

Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago, we talked about older writers.  It should be noted that the highly regarded, prolific Elmore Leonard is 86. His most recent novel, Raylan, was released earlier this year.

To accompany the movies, you might get inventive with some cocktails, moving from the serious to the light-hearted.  For inspiration visit Vince Keenan’s wonderful web site. Click on cocktails. Of course, you may wish to wander around the rest of posts as well.

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