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May 1st, 2006:
Carmen Colson (Diane Lane
) is a real estate agent happily married to the unemployed Wayne (Thomas Jane
). She successfully convinces her stubborn, blue-collar husband into an interview with her own firm. When Wayne shows up for his appointment, he is surprised to find a couple of criminals instead of managers in shirts and ties. Days earlier, the over-the-hill Armand "The Blackbird" Degas (Mickey Rourke
) and the unstable, irrational, and quite foolish Richie Nix (Joseph Gordon-Levitt
) agreed to become partners in Richieís plan to extort money from a real estate agency. Obviously they didnít plan on Wayne to walk in on them. He foils the plot and escapes in the process, leaving the two at the mercy of a witness. Armand and Richie are actually hit men and it doesnít take them very long to track down Wayne and his wife. After a failed attempt on their lives, Wayne and Carmen enter the Witness Protection Program. Aided by FBI agent Ferris Britton (Johnny Knoxville
) they relocate to a different part of the country, but the two hit men are both determined to erase any living evidence linking them to the crime scene.What to Expect:
The film is based on a 1989 novel written by fashionable Hollywood favorite, Elmore Leonard. Leonardís intricate and often amusing, character driven storylines have spawned several superior motion picture adaptations. Steven Soderbergh
ís Out of Sight, Quentin Tarantino
ís Jackie Brown, and Barry Sonnenfeld
ís Get Shorty are all based on one of his books. On the other hand, Leonardís trendy style tends to draw too much attention from Hollywood, resulting in some unnecessary and less-than-satisfying projects like the very recent The Big Bounce and Be Cool (a sequel to Get Shorty). Article continues below
Killshot has actually been in development for quite some time. At one point, Quentin Tarantino was interested in directing and supposedly even wrote a script, which had him slated to play the impulsive Richie Nix and Robert De Niro
in the role of the weary Armand Degas. Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote The Usual Suspects and The Way of the Gun, was also rumored to be involved in a completely different version of the screenplay, but nothing ever quite panned out. Still, Tarantino retained the rights and remains an executive producer on the film, which means that Killshot will carry the flimsy ďQuentin Tarantino PresentsĒ tag.
Hossein Amini, whose last script for The Four Feathers resulted in a movie that was poorly reviewed and never really found an audience, wrote the current screenplay for Killshot. Somehow, it has found its way onto director John Madden
ís lap. With expertly crafted dramas like Mrs. Brown, Proof, and the Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love to his credit, the British director seems to clash with this material, which is an unusual follow-up to his last project to say the least. Itís possible that he could be totally out of his element with Killshot, a bit a la multi-Oscar nominee writer-director Lawrence Kasdan
(Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado) when he decided to abandon his character dramas to venture into Stephen King territory with the grossly miscalculated Dreamcatcher. On the other hand, Madden could prove to be an inspired choice, bringing an additional level of sophistication to Leonardís novel. I tend to think his effort will fall somewhere in between, having little impact on the filmís overall style and direction.
The cast that has been assembled for Killshot is actually quite good, for the most part. Diane Lane was so impressive in her emotionally devastating Academy Award nominated performance in Unfaithful that I feel she can pull anything off. The outstanding Mickey Rourke (Man on Fire, Sin City
) can reach performance levels so intense that it can seem distracting, but Iíll accept that any day over boring. Heís a naturally gifted artist and his return to acting on a consistent basis is a positive for the industry. Certainly, he should have plenty to draw from to play the worn down veteran criminal. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an interesting choice for the volatile sidekick, Richie. The 25-year old is probably best known for his role as Tommy on ď3rd Rock from the Sun,Ē but a surprising recent turn in the modern-noir Brick, may prove to be a turning point in his career. Rosario Dawson
(25th Hour, Alexander, Clerks II
) will play Richieís 55-year old girlfriend Donna, an Elvis-obsessed woman who surrounds herself with a spectacular collection of stuffed animals. Reportedly, Dawson will not wear any special make up for the part so it should be quite a feat if she can convincingly play a 55-year old. Thomas Jane, on the other hand, is a disappointing choice as Wayne, especially after Viggo Mortensen
almost accepted the offer. Jane failed to leave any lasting impression on me after seeing him in The Sweetest Thing and The Punisher
, the two titles on his resume that are probably most recognizable. Additionally, by casting Johnny Knoxville as an FBI agent, the filmmakers are sending out a troublesome vibe that takes away from the movieís credibility. Knoxville has a good-natured, frat boy personality that is quite appealing and could help him in his quest to become a Hollywood movie star, but after seeing him in the appalling The Dukes of Hazzard, I decided I might like him best if he only did Jackass. Then again, his involvement in Killshot is not quite as undermining as when Justin Timberlake
was in negotiations to play Richie Nix.
Apparently, the screenplay for the film is highly entertaining, but also understandably clichťd. After all, there have already been so many treatments of Elmore Leonardís novels that itís difficult to accept another one of his assortments of quirky characters as innovative material. Stories about victims that hide out from their hit men have also graced the silver screen in the past on more than one occasion. However, the film should have its share of colorful moments. For example, the Wayne character is so infatuated with deer hunting that he likes to put deer pee on himself. Itís an odd little nugget of information, but Wayneís constant rambling about deer hunting is likely to play a role in the movie. Like all of the films based on Leonardís writing, Killshot should have the trademark snappy dialogue, but essentially, director Madden may lack the flair of a Quentin Tarantino that would give it the same type of zest and appeal.In Conclusion:
To all fans of Elmore Leonard stories, Killshot should be an above average adaptation of his book, but not quite on par with the phenomenal Jackie Brown or Out of Sight. The film is likely to feature a mixture of genres, blending comedy with crime-thriller elements. The cast is only 67% good and director Madden may not be the most appropriate choice for the material, but itís an interesting assortment of professionals. Although I believe that there is a decent film here, I donít think audiences will respond to this cast. Thomas Jane is not really a household name at this point yet and while Diane Lane is a fine actress, she doesnít have the same mass appeal that a Julia Roberts
or a Charlize Theron
has. And Mickey Rourke could seem to some like a has-been as opposed to a fine actor making a comeback. Naturally, the fans will know better and they will come for the wry humor, the colorful characters, and the trademark thriller elements.Similar Titles: Get Shorty
, Suicide Kings