Will the movie be good enough for such a great cast?
Hollywood’s predilection for crime dramas is insatiable, but at least the genre almost always attracts good talent. These movies ought to break more conventions than they do, but when crime movies manage to work, they can end up being particularly effective pieces of dramatic fiction.
Per The Hollywood Reporter, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ansel Elgort, and Zendaya have been cast in a new drama titled Finest Kind. Writer-director Brian Helgeland, who penned the films Mystic River and L.A. Confidential is behind the project. Notably, L.A. Confidential earned him numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Finest Kind centers on two half-brothers, to be played by Gyllenhaal and Elgort, who were raised by different fathers. The men manage to reunite in adulthood and one of them realizes that his estranged father is terminally ill, somehow strikes a deal with a syndicate in the Boston underworld for whatever reason (money issues perhaps?), and puts himself and his sibling at risk. We don’t know what part Zendaya is going to play in all of this just yet.
That is not the most promising synopsis. It’s easy to picture a lot of melodrama and slightly implausible situations playing out in Finest Kind. But this cast, though!
Gyllenhaal is one of the greatest yet oft-overlooked talents of his generation by way of his lack of awards recognition, but he’s always out there working on something that could be great. Gyllenhaal’s filmography ranges from iconic and intriguing performances in equally individualistic films (Nightcrawler, Okja) to more generic fare that still manages to be dramatically challenging for him as an actor (Everest, Stronger).
Any guesses as to which category Finest Kind could fall into based on what we know about the movie so far? I mean, it sounds rather run-of-the-mill. Will the film end up as shockingly intense as Prisoners was? I’m inclined to say no because that would require a certain attention to detail that not many filmmakers have.
Of Helgeland’s recent directorial efforts, 42 is a great, if straightforward, biopic, while Legend isn’t really much of a film outside from Tom Hardy’s dual performances. With the crime genre being as oversaturated as it is, I have more of an inclination to doubt it based on the plot.
A movie like Finest Kind definitely banks on these high-profile actors to even be particularly noticeable. The film probably has more value to younger actors like Elgort and Zendaya, who have yet to really delve into different genres of filmmaking this early on in their careers. Gyllenhaal, a seasoned actor in crime movies, is pretty much the perfect leader of the troupe. Elgort has been acting alongside some veterans as of late and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. After receiving a considerable boost in profile from Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver last year, Elgort continues to break the law, signing on to The Goldfinch and now this.
I’m mostly worried about what role Zendaya will have in the film. It definitely makes sense for her to continue stepping out of her comfort zone when looking for roles, having recently left the Disney Channel behind for good. She starred in discernibly family friendly hits in 2017, The Greatest Showman and Spider-Man: Homecoming. The former became a sleeper hit, making for a blockbuster double feature that pushed Zendaya into the spotlight even more than she already was. Not that she necessarily needed that boost.
Zendaya has also cultivated a particularly relatable image on social media and — rightfully so — many kids look up to her. So, Finest Kind is actually very different for her, but I’m wary of the kinds of roles that women in crime dramas tend to fill in general. Zendaya is worth so much more than playing a worried partner or sibling who could very well end up hurt. That’s a trope that just feeds into the culture of having women suffer for “character,” and we need to be done with it.
Overall, Finest Kind has the right pieces of the puzzle to make it work. Yet admittedly, it’s one of those movies that doesn’t sound great on paper, so it’s hard to be super excited about it unless you’re a huge fan of any of these actors. I personally am, but is that enough for me to sit through the umpteenth crime drama? I’m not sure. Perhaps the expectation that Finest Kind appears to be such a generic crime drama is the best thing for the film. Maybe it’ll be that surprising once it plays out on the big screen. But I’m not holding my breath.