Written by / 8/23/2013 / 2 Comments / , , , , , ,

EIGHT BY ELMORE LEONARD

1) JACKIE BROWN (PAM GRIER, ROBERT FORSTER... QUENTIN TARANTINO) BULLETS: *****
After RESERVOIR DOGS opened doors and PULP FICTION made him an A-list writer/director, Quentin Tarantino chose to go, as he puts it, “under” PULP FICTION with this mellow caper based on Elmore Leonard’s book RUM PUNCH… 

Changing the film’s title, and the name and color of the leading lady, Tarantino made a celebration of the Blaxploitation genre that became, arguably, his best work to date… Not only that, but in using a story by Elmore Leonard, Tarantino showed off one of his biggest influences via collaboration... 

Pam Grier is Jackie Brown, a forty-something stewardess busted for smuggling cocaine and then, reluctantly at first, working alongside two cops and nice guy bail bondsman Max Cherry, played by an Oscar nominated Robert Forster, to land lethal Ordell Robbie in jail before he puts her in the bone yard – and if you thought Sam Jackson was tough in PULP FICTION… 
Robert Forster as Max Cherry in JACKIE BROWN
2) MR. MAJESTYK (CHARLES BRONSON, AL LETTIERI... RICHARD FLEISCHER) BULLETS: ****1/2
Charles Bronson with sarcasm, and his name is Vince Majestyk, and the strangest thing is he’s a watermelon farmer who, after being thrown in jail for protecting his business from instigative punk Bobby Koppas, played by Paul Koslo, he meets and clashes with Al Lettieri's famous hit man Frank Renda, who eventually comes after Majestyk in his own territory, the backwoods, and the chase is on…  

Although there are gun fights, fist fights and plenty of action, this is a different kind of Charles Bronson vehicle – given that he’s somewhat of a smartass and only gets tough when completely necessary. Much of the film has creative dialog and character-development, thanks to Leonard's writing... 
Paul Koslo as Bobby Koppas in MR. MAJESTYK
3) OUT OF SIGHT (GEORGE CLOONEY, JENNIFER LOPEZ... STEVEN SODERBERGH) BULLETS: ****
Both George Clooney, fresh from TV stardom, and Jennifer Lopez, famous for her music and ass (not in the order), OUT OF SIGHT, based on Leonard’s novel, is a supercool vehicle for both actors to shine...

Although directed by Steven Soderbergh, there’s a lotta Tarantino inspiration as the story goes back and forth in time, showing Clooney’s Jack Foley inside and outside of prison and even breaking out of prison, partnered with a quiet-tough Ving Rhames and comic relief Steve Zahn, eventually joining the villainous Don Cheadle for a diamond heist… 
George Clooney quits his job right off the bat in OUT OF SIGHT
4) GET SHORTY (JOHN TRAVOLTA, GENE HACKMAN... BARRY SONNENFELD) BULLETS: ****
Fast-paced and clever, this was the first adaptation to, as Elmore Leonard himself put it, finally get it right, GET SHORTY provides John Travolta, fresh from his PULP FICTION comeback, a similar character but with much more depth and layers…

Florida mobster Chili Palmer travels to Hollywood where he gets mixed up with, and eventually influences, an ecclectic lot of movie folk including a quirky Gene Hackman (surprisingly wimpy), Danny DeVito (not surprisingly short aka SHORTY), sexy Rene Russo and a cut-throat villain (Delroy Lindo) in the Leonard tradition…

There’s archive footage of Orson Welle’s Noir masterpiece TOUCH OF EVIL, and James Gandolfini plays a hired-hand stuntman named Bear, who provides a great scene with Travolta beginning with a fistfight and ending with a meaningful conversation…  And another great actor who recently departed, Dennis Farina, plays a Florida mob boss both funny and lethal, a combination not all actors could successfully pull off… 
The late James Gandolfini as Bear in GET SHORTY
5) STICK (BURT REYNOLDS, CHARLES DURNING, JOSE PEREZ... BURT REYNOLDS) BULLETS: ***1/2
After the disastrous CANNONBALL RUN 2 and STROKER ACE, Burt Reynolds leading man status was in big trouble, but few people know his mid to late 1980’s action films are quite good, including HEAT, MALONE and this crime caper STICK, based on Elmore Leonard’s novel, about an ex convict who, after a drug deal gone very bad, goes inside the lair of a seedy millionaire for revenge…

But the vengeance here, like other Leonard tales, doesn’t merely involve guns blasting and bombs exploding, at least not right off the bat… 

Famous for a stunt involving the villain falling from a super-high building, Reynolds, as director, probably had the initial cut more to the Leonard standard, but was told in post-production to add action scenes to make it more mainstream… Either way it’s a pretty good film, and underrated… 
Burt Reynolds dons a pink Members Only Jacket but is still tough
6) 52 PICK-UP (ROY SCHEIDER, JOHN GLOVER... JOHN FRANKENHEIMER) BULLETS: ***
Roy Scheider plays Harry Mitchell, who has just about everything until he’s blackmailed by gangsters and eventually tracks them down, and, in the Leonard fashion, plays them against each other…

Although Scheider, best known for chasing a big shark, provides a cool slow burn character, it’s John Glover’s over-the-top performance as the blabbering lead goon who really steals the show… 
John Glover goes wonderfully overboard in 52 PICK-UP
7) THE BIG BOUNCE (RYAN O'NEAL, LEIGH TAYLOR-YOUNG... ALEX MARCH) BULLETS: ***
Having met and fallen in love during their nighttime TV soap opera PEYTON PLACE, the at-that-time real life married couple Ryan O’Neal and Leigh Taylor-Young starred in this balmy Neo Noir about a, like many Elmore Leonard stories, ex convict, also a Vietnam vet, who, in the typical Noir fashion, falls helplessly in love with a wicked double-crossing beauty…

O’Neal does an effective job in the lead role, but it’s Leigh’s femme fatalle who wields the real power, manipulating everyone around her... 
Ryan O'Neal hits a homey during the opening game of THE BIG BOUNCE
8) JOE KIDD (CLINT EASTWOOD, ROBERT DUVALL, DON STROUD... JOHN STURGES) BULLETS: **1/2
Reading this post you’d think Elmore Leonard was a crime writer, but he started out writing dime novel Westerns during the 1950’s… And in the early ‘70’s he gave it another shot…

Although the movie itself is somewhat of a disappointment, Clint Eastwood's good in the title role, but it’s the group of rugged villains played by Robert Duvall, Don Stroud and soon to be MR. MAJESTYK co-star Paul Koslo providing the Leonard-touch as bad guys who talk up a storm, distinguishing KIDD from other Eastwood 1970’s Westerns… 
Paul Koslo watches Don Stroud roust a local girl in JOE KIDD
FAREWELL ELMORE LEONARD... OCTOBER 1925-AUGUST 2013
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2 comments:

  1. Good little post here. Very nice. Jackie Brown is still growing on me even after all this time. Most of my friends who are Tarantino fans love Jackie Brown the most, hence my push back. I like it a little bit more every time I watch it. Heat has always been my favorite Burt Reynolds movie. Now don't get me wrong, I dig Michael Mann's movie Heat, but when it came out I raised my fist in righteous anger, "Hey! What about the Burt Reynolds film?? Damn you Michael Mann!"

    Oh well.

    Very cool write up sir.

    RIP Leonard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was thinking about Rene Russo the other day in fact. For a couple years she was pretty popular: Lethal Weapon 3, Get Shorty, etc.etc. What ever happened to her?

      I always thought that she was the most plain looking but somehow sexy actress there was. She's not cute or beautiful by any definition that I hold, but sexy definitely. I dig her.

      It was something I was thinking about the other day as I was riding my bike. I hadn't thought about her for years, not that I ever thought about her in any way even when she was popular. Just popped in my head.

      Delete

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