Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Elmore Leonard tale in cinemas this week

There have been plenty of crime stories turned into films or television series, but I'm particularly excited on multiple levels about this week's general cinematic release in the United States of Life of Crime, which is based on a novel by the great Elmore Leonard (THE SWITCH). Starring Jennifer Aniston, Isla Fisher, and Tim Robbins, the film centres on the kidnapping of Aniston's character, the wife of Robbins' character, a crooked real estate developer. However the two kidnappers, looking to extort the husband with information about his corrupt business and offshore accounts, find their plan up in smoke when the developer decides he'd rather enjoy his time with his mistress (Fisher) and not pay the ransom to get his wife back.

Double-crosses and plot twists ensue, as the wife decides to join the criminals and turn the tables on her husband. From all accounts, it's classic stuff from the master Elmore Leonard. Looking at the trailer earlier this month (watch above), it certainly looks like a fun crime farce, with a great cast, also including Mos Def, and Mark Boone Jr (Bobby Munson from terrific TV show Sons of Anarchy). So I'm very hopeful about this film adaptation of a top notch crime novel by a man many consider the greatest crime writer of the last generation (I'd maybe moot James Lee Burke, but Leonard's right at the summit too). 

I'll certainly be heading along to the big screen to watch with some anticipation. 

THE SWITCH was originally published back in 1978. The Dallas Morning News said Leonard wrote the way Hammett and Chandler might today, "if they sharpened their senses of ironic humor and grew better ears for dialogue". That energy and zest has been transferred to the screen by the film-makers, with a review in The Guardian of the film's premiere at the Toronto Film Festival calling it "an unexpectedly winning take from one of the less splashy directors to have attempted Leonard". The review particularly praised the "neat plot flips, its nips and tucks and flies in the ointment", the dialogue - "neatly filleted and served up a treat", and "top notch" acting performances. From outside opinion, it certainly sounds like a very good adaptation. 

On a personal note, I'm also really looking forward to this film as its producer is an old law school buddy of mine, the marvellous Wendy Benge. I visited with Wendy while travelling in the United States last year, but didn't realise her "Jennifer Aniston film" she told me about at the time was based upon an Elmore Leonard book! Wendy has been working incredibly hard for many years carving out a great career as an entertainment lawyer and film producer in LA, and its terrific to see all her hard work and great efforts coming to fruition more and more in recent years (her credits include The Butler, Life After Beth, the George W. Bush biopic W, and the upcoming psychological thriller Broken Vows, starring Wes Bentley, which finished shooting earlier this month). Her career seems to be taking off, and I'm really proud to have such a talented and inspirational friend. She's a pretty exceptional human being too. So go watch her movie! I will be, because it looks great.

What have been some of your favourite crime novel film or television adaptations? Comments welcome.

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