Chris Pratt has had both a great and questionable 2018. There is no doubt that he proves to be an extremely profitable commodity in Hollywood after Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom struck gold. Both movies ended up grossing more than $1 billion apiece at the worldwide box office.
But on the flip side, two of Pratt’s upcoming feature projects have been put on hold by their respective studios. Universal took Cowboy Ninja Viking off its release schedule in August. At least the movie isn’t axed entirely and Pratt, co-star Priyanka Chopra, and director Michelle MacLaren are still on board. Yet, we also know that the Guardians of the Galaxy are kind of struggling at Marvel headquarters for the time being. The third installment of one of the MCU’s most distinctive series remains in limbo.
Regardless of this sudden sizable gap in Pratt’s filming schedule, he is definitely not short on leading man roles. Frankly, he could be landing another acting jackpot now that Variety announced he could star in Taylor Sheridan‘s next directorial effort.
Sheridan, famous for penning the screenplays for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario and David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, will write and direct the movie, which currently has the working title Fast. This news comes a year after he displayed his chops as a director, too, debuting with Wind River.
As far as synopses go, Fast sounds exactly like the kind of film Sheridan would make. The project tracks a former special forces commando (Pratt) who is tasked to lead a covert team of DEA agents on the hunt for drug dealers who are protected by the CIA.
Honestly, there is comfort and trepidation in an announcement like this. For Pratt, Fast could take him back to a time before his blockbuster successes. In the days before The Lego Movie, when he was most well-known as a bumbling regular in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, a dramatic side was slowly blooming with some exceptional big-screen projects. Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty, and Her provide small but memorable roles for Pratt to cut his teeth with. Maybe he is earnest or cocky or just plain bizarre (but still kind of endearing) in each of them, but he showcases a knack for scene-stealing even when he isn’t playing Andy Dwyer.
Since the film industry realized Pratt’s value as a protagonist, he has taken his likable onscreen persona across numerous franchises. As evidenced in the Jurassic World films, Pratt lends considerable weight to a leading role that could have lacked concrete characterization. Owen Grady is one of his more straightforward characters, but Pratt is cheeky and charismatic enough to give him depth. Furthermore, Pratt gets the best of both worlds whenever he traverses the galaxy with the rest of the Guardians. Those Marvel ventures give him the right amount of room to be quirky and courageous thanks to a hero (and asshole) like Peter Quill.
Knowing that Sheridan has penned and directed consistently acclaimed work in the past is also promising. Sicario is a masterclass of suspense, Hell or High Water knows the ins and outs of a high-stakes Western, and the chill of Wind River is undeniable. Overall, Sheridan has an aptitude for crafting naturalistic and engaging dialogue, elevating deceptively generic premises into noteworthy vehicles for actors to chew scenery in great ways.
Besides that, my primary concern about Fast‘s potential comes from the fact that Sheridan’s writing often reveals glaring limitations as well. This qualm especially has to do with how women and people of color tend to be portrayed in his movies; that is, they can either be side-lined or are just non-existent. While Sheridan seems to want to tell stories that include a variety of perspectives, his approach to diversity centers heavily on the white, male viewpoints in those narratives.
For example, Hell or High Water doesn’t do one of its best characters — played to perfection by Gil Birmingham — any justice when he’s merely left to react to the casual racism of Jeff Bridges’ main character. Plus, women don’t get an opportunity to drive the Hell or High Water story forward at all. Meanwhile, Wind River demonstrates Sheridan’s ability to craft a visually stunning movie. It even has a vital story to tell about violence against Native American women. Nevertheless, the narrative falls short of being totally impactful when its female characters aren’t well-developed and its protagonist is a white man.
Full disclosure, I admit to enjoying and engaging with Sheridan’s work, warts and all. On technical achievement alone, he has the talent to direct Pratt to glory in a film that’s importantly different from the latter’s typical tentpole fare. That said, Sheridan’s projects desperately need to improve on his inclusivity in order to avoid becoming stale. After all, Fast does appear rather like Sicario from its summary. There’s certainly an even bigger impetus for Sheridan to challenge himself with this one.