Guilty Choices

One of my favorite movies is Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

It is a small film.  But a couple aspects of the work ring true: one is that for a long time I was the Downey character. No, I mean yes, I once lived in LA, though I wasn’t trying to get into the movies. And no, I never stole stuff. But it wasn’t like I found the concept objectionable, should the need arise…it just never did.

Mostly what I identified with was Downey’s portrayal of a clueless schmuck; I once stalked unrequited love the way that idiotic Ice Age squirrel chased nuts.

Wait, that doesn’t quite capture the spirit: I once adored a warped ’50s ideal of romantic love (as misinterpreted by frustrated middle-aged movie censors); cashmere sweaters will still sometimes produce a world class woody. As will, I’m sorry to say, Haley Mills or Doris Day. 1

I blame this naivete on both Disney 2 and the fact that I cracked open my first Travis McGee novel at 13, then stumbled into puberty just as self aware bra-burning women everywhere set fire to the 60s.

For the longest time afterward if there was a guaranteed no-shot, way out of my league gal nearby, a single random wink was enough to pump my ol’ lad-in-waiting heart a-tripping. Example: while living in Spokane I spent a summer sparking an ex-Speaker of the House’s niece to sporadic avail, though much hilarity among my friends.

Yes, I did finally find my groove…but it was a bumpy ride, Ernie.  I mean I was earnest.

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The other, more compelling reason 3 to dote on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is that both Downey and Kilmer act up a fuckin’ storm.

Yes,  Downey was typecast: the director was obviously aware Jr’s natural self-absorbed eccentricism was a perfect fit for Kilmer’s rigidly moral gay detective. But so what – that’s a bad thing? No, the actors worked beautifully together, handily transmigrating a moribund
whodunnit into an engaging bit of film-making.

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I mentioned John D. MacDonald’s McGee series: I had read every published book in the series by the end of high school. 4 The same goes for all fifteen of Flemming’s Bond novels. Later came Block’s Scudder and Granger’s November Man; Pronzini’s Nameless Detective…

Before all those were Marlowe and Spade, naturellement.

Great reads, one and all.

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Once a new friend (and hard core sci-fi fan) browsed my bookshelves, bypassing the Gardner, Amis, Theroux, Bellow, Crais, Kerouac, McCarthy, Calvino, Lem, Connelly, Updike, Dick, DFW, Mailer, and PD James et alis, even an ultra rare King 5, instead fingering Thomas’ Voodoo, Ltd out of the stacks as she commented, “Ah…these are your guilty pleasures then?”

I suppose that might be…if one accepted the concept.

I reject the notion for adults, though it is apt for teens and younger; I first understood it at 13, seeing anew all my female classmates after perusing my father’s Playboy the evening before. 6 But after about 18 such things cease – one makes choices and lives with the consequences. There’s nothing to fret over, bemoan or hide. There are things one enjoys and then there is everything else. There are things that can and should be done, and things that should never be done.

Books you enjoy and ones you don’t.

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One of my more recent reading pleasures is the Lee Child Jack Reacher series. Totally unbelieveable, totally fun: Reacher is this 6′ 5″, ex-Army Major MP who got DX’d in the 80s when the military started downsizing. Since then he’s been traveling around the country, living off savings and the occasional odd job. And of course trouble finds him and he deals with it, usually fairly spectacularly, always with a certain finality.

Though Reacher reasons his way through the mysteries, he’s pretty much all superego and let’s his gorilla frame and military training beat the utter living snot out of the bad guys. When he doesn’t simply shoot them.

What makes this work is pacing, taut writing and the conceit of Reacher’s size combined with his military police training/background.

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Some of the above authors’ works get filmed from time to time. Perhaps you’ve heard of one or two of them: The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, The Long Goodbye, every Bond book written (plus some he didn’t pen). Leonardo DiCaprio has a McGee novel in development; Block’s Eight Million Ways to Die got transposed to the West coast; Pierce Brosnan is set to star in Granger’s There Are No More Spies. 7

Each film boasted an actor  – Bogey , Bridges, Connery – who became synonymous with the central protagonist, an actor so fitting that it’s nigh impossible to envision anyone else in the role.

There’s a Reacher novel being filmed as I write.

So I asked myself: which of the current crop of thespians is large enough, menacing enough, intelligent enough to pull off the Reacher character. Liam Neeson is nearly tall enough and his fight scenes of late have shown some credibility; Liev Schreiber should also be considered, he’s large and bulky and can do fight scenes with the best of them; both Clive Owen and Hugh Jackman are a couple inches shy of 6’5″, but not enough to make a difeerence – and they’re both excellent actors; hell, even Ben Affleck is 6’2.5″ and no stranger to action movies;Vince Vaugh and Eric Bana both run in the 6’4″ range… There’s a handful of other actors (Chris Hemsworth, Armie Hammer and Joe Manganiello all come to mind) who seem outside the right age range, but are all physically imposing. 8

But…maybe, within this general group, it doesn’t really matter; the actor selected will never match up with the image in your head, right? Besides, the right actor will become the role.

So which of these gentlemen do you think will be Jack Reacher?

Tom Cruise, of course.

I may be out of line here, but casting 5′ 7″ 9 Tom Crusie as a 6′ 5″ muscle bound, military police trained bruiser is asking me to suspend my disbelief much too far.

In fact, Cruise getting this role strikes me as one of those things that should never be done. 10

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Show 10 footnotes

  1. Yes, I’m in therapy for this.
  2. Bad, baaad mouse!
  3. Well, for you…
  4. The first nine of an eventual twenty one  books.
  5. A signed, 1st deluxe edition of the Grant published The Dark Tower.
  6. Yes, I actually was reading the articles. Told you I was earnest.
  7. As of yet no one’s adopted a Nameless book for the screen; sad waste, IMO.
  8. And of course there’s makeup…
  9. On a good day…
  10. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck! I haven’t been this disappointed in a casting decision since Matt Damon got the John Grady Cole part. Fuck!

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