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Rourke adds to the pantheon of great Leonard cinematic villains

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Elmore Leonard movies—Killshot

Elmore Leonard movies—Killshot

In honour of the passing of Elmore Leonard, I’ve embarked on a mission to watch 10 movies based on the writer’s books. In the first entry, I reviewed 52 Pick-Up, a 1986 film directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret. Today I’m reviewing Killshot (2008) and Jackie Brown (1997). 

I’d already seen Killshot. But the 2008 movie was no less pleasurable a second time—it might even have been better. There’s nary a false move in John Madden‘s direction. And Hossein Amini‘s screenplay captures Leonard’s spare, drily humorous tone. (Amini also wrote the screenplay for Drive.)

Killshot features some stock Leonard types. These include a well-meaning but ultimately disposable doxie (Rosie Perez; see also Bridget Fonda in Jackie Brown) and a not-at-all-well-meaning wannabe career criminal (Joseph Gordon Levitt). The latter teams up with a much cooler and scarier customer, a Native American hitman named Blackbird (Mickey Rourke). Diane Lane and Thomas Jane play the salt-of-the-earth (she’s a real estate agent, he’s a beer-drinking steel worker and hunter) American couple who suddenly find themselves up against two serious criminals.

Killshot Elmore Leonard movies
Diane Lane and Thomas Jane are in it.

Like Leonard’s best stories, Killshot stays one step ahead of the audience. There is a point in the story where any sane viewer will be going, “Where are the police in all this?” In a lesser movie, this question might go unanswered. Not in Killshot—and the arrival of the local gendarmes further complicates matters.

It’s a pleasure to watch the plot develop under the sure hands of Madden and Amini. And to watch Rourke.

Elmore Leonard movies Killshot
Mickey Rourke in Killshot (2008).

His Blackbird is not only cool and menacing but also sympathetic. The actor brings a depth to the role it’s hard to imagine anyone else capable of. Jane and Lane are fine as a couple going through a hard time (a divorce) that gets much harder. It’s one those rare adaptations where everyone involved wanted to do right by the source material, and succeeds.

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