Scott Frank is now working on the adaptation of Don Winslow’s best-selling novel.
James Mangold‘s next directorial project is an adaptation of Don Winslow‘s novel about the blurring of crime and justice in New York City. A cop realizes he might be the baddie but still feels an obligation to help his city out of a jam. Deadline reports that Scott Frank, one of Mangold’s Oscar-nominated writing partners for Logan, has signed on to rewrite the script for The Force (previously handled by David Mamet). And he has the right background to turn a dose of reality into an enjoyable chunk of time at your local movie theater.
Frank has a way with these types of morally confusing or deeply conflicted characters. This past year, aside from Logan, he also wrote, directed, and produced Netflix’s Western series Godless. The common element? Mostly, he remembers people are people. Things like good and evil and right and wrong usually only feel so starkly different in retrospect. In the present, it all gets fucked up.
Mangold and Frank earned Academy Award nominations for their last writing team up with Logan. The very human sendoff to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine rocked a lot of people’s worlds. The Wolverine can be angry forever, but Logan is just a man at the end of it all. His body catching up with his world-weariness was haunting. But, Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) deterioration was crushing. The character work earned every bit of the popular and critical acclaim and accolades the film received.
Aside from Logan, Frank has a history of popular adaptations of novels. He co-wrote Steven Spielberg’s theatrical version of Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report.” Do you remember Barry Sonnenfeld’s version of Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty”? Yeah, you do. Frank wrote that as well. He also wrote Out of Sight, which earned him his first Oscar nomination.
Mangold also previously adapted a Leonard story in 3:10 to Yuma. Which, my goodness, talk about grey characters. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is stubborn to a fault and Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is an amoral thief and murderer who finds something fascinating in the immutability of Evans’ will. Throw in the impressionable son of Evans and the psychopathy of Wade’s lieutenant Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), and you’ve got yourself a nasty little western you can’t look away from.
Do you see a pattern? These two guys have a history of taking complicated situations filled with morally ambiguous characters and heroes who are fallible and turning it into extremely satisfying cinema. They’ve both proven they excel at working with this type of story.
Winslow’s novel “The Force” was a best seller. As much as people dug it, it’s a gritty story featuring dirty cops, corrupt politicians, racial tensions, and gangsters. The book has that Leonard feel to it. Turning these kinds of stories into movies that don’t feel like an emotional trudge through the reality of our times is a challenge. The American Dream as pursued by cops gone criminal is a major downer.
However, it turns out our line between distaste and entertainment is alarmingly thin. All it takes to sell those tickets is to give those all too real stories an Elmore Leonard-esque punch-up with some memorable characters. I suppose that would work for anything, though. Still, all it takes is the right bit of writing and some nuanced character work. When it’s done right, we can find a connection with even the maddest of cocaine kingpins or corrupt cops.