Caffeinated Clint : Fires a Killshot

Killshot has quite a few things in common with Joel & Ethan Coen’s No Country For Old Men. For one, it’s about a killer, seemingly unaware that what he does for a living is considered a no-no by most, who’ll stop at nothing to get his guy (or in this case, guy and girl). It’s also a very atmospheric film – with the terrain playing just as much a part as the lead performers. And as far as heroes concerned, it’s the most unlikely guy in town that ultimately proves he can hold his own. What it doesn’t share with the Oscar Winning film is a release pattern – in fact, Killshot’s lucky to have seen the light of day at all.

Buried by the Weinstein Company (like so many other great films of theirs of late), the film’s been ready since 2007- and since postponed for release ten times. It was scheduled for a release a couple of times, but at the last minute, Bob and Harvey, for some frivolous reason, yanked it. Whatever their reason – we know they have financial woes, but they’re not exactly down to their last buck, so that can’t be it? – It’s a shame because the film, only now emerging (and in less markets than a Jamie Kennedy comedy), is quite a goodie. And with Mickey Rourke hotter than heel after his Award-nominated turn in The Wrestler, you’d think there’d be a place for this at the local multiplex (especially considering Quentin Tarantino’s a producer on it). Tell me some leggy marketing chick with a pushy phone manner couldn’t sell this thing!? “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” is safe to release, but this ain’t? Sheesh, Grope my left one!

The film adaptations of author Elmore Leonard’s work have not been consistent. There have been some absolute rippers, like Out of Sight, Get Shorty and 3:10 to Yuma, but on the other hand, there’s shit like Be Cool, Stick and The Big Bounce. Had Killshot had been more Be Cool than Get Shorty you’d agree with The Weinstein’s inclination to hide the movie from the public, but since it’s the complete opposite, you’ll only scratch your friggin’ noggin til it bleeds trying to work out what they’re thinking by hiding it like a bag of skunk in an old Cadillac.

Writer Leonard actually likes the film. He told The Detroit News that the only person that seemed to loathe it was big Harv. The best-selling author, who says “Killshot” is one of his favorite books among his 40-plus offerings, was buried by the Weinstein Co., then re-edited, un-re-edited, and reburied because Harvey Weinstein didn’t like it. It’s opening on “a few screens, but not enough that we’ll have to give the writer more money” chuckles a dead-serious Leonard. (Ironically, it isn’t showing in Detroit, where Leonard lives).

Quentin Tarantino was as excited as an eighteen-year-old in a Vegas stripclub to be doing this film. “I want it to be as much Elmore Leonard as it possibly can be”, he told MTV in 2005. ”I’m a big fan of the book, and the screenwriter did a terrific job of adapting it. I’ve owned this property for a while, so a lot of people have tried to adapt this script, and [Hossein Amini] just nailed it. I think it’s going to be another in a long line of wonderful Elmore Leonard adaptations.”

Gotta wonder whether QT’s going to be in bed with Harvey and Bob for much longer?

Mickey Rourke, typically brilliant as the cold-blooded Indian (yes, Indian – sounds like woeful casting, I know, but it fuckin’ works; Rourke makes it work!) assassin Blackbird, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, suitably maniacal as his small time sidekick, are intent on silencing an innocent couple, Carmen and Wayne (Diane Lane and Thomas Jane), after the woman saw the assassin’s face (“She saw my face. You don’t ever leave things undone” Blackbird tells his new partner) during an attempted hit. To escape them, Carmen and Wayne – who are actually separated but are now forced back together- have to move to another city, and take on new identities, but the rogues aren’t far behind.  As you’d expect, the bad guys do eventually catch up with them – but the victimized couple are ready.

This a pretty disturbing film in parts. Like “No Country”, quite a few people get it who don’t deserve to (Rosario Dawson has a small role as Gordon-Levitt’s Elvis-loving housemate and her story doesn’t have a happy ending), and there isn’t a warm-and-fuzzy conclusion for our heroes either. Diane Lane’s character also has to endure a fair bit of nasty stuff – like Naomi Watts’s character in the similarly-themed (but far more shocking) “Funny Games”), she’s forced to undress. And no, those nipples aren’t hard because she’s excited to be around such hunks.

A lot of scenes ended up being chopped from the original version (they say test audiences found the plot too confusing) which has left the film with a rather squat 84 minute running time. Scenes to go involved some stuff shot at Cape Girardeau and a subplot involving Johnny Knoxville’s role as a deputy.

This is a brilliantly-performed (Viggo Mortensen was originally supposed to play Jane’s part – but the former “Punisher” does good!), exquisitely shot (Caleb Deschanel’s cinematography is breathtaking; John Madden’s direction well-crafted) and very gripping thriller. It’s not the best film of it’s type, and in some respects, does feel a little tired (we have seen it all before – the Coen’s bet them to the punch), but with such divine performances, and divine dialogue (I believe Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella both worked on the script prior to the deaths), most’ll find it hard to turn from. Really a shame this’ll only be seen by most on DVD. But if it’s good enough for the twelve other genuinely-good flicks that the House of B&H have produced (hello “Fanboys”!), it’s got enough for this, right?