What if even the testosterone levels supplied by Sean Penn and Javier Bardem aren't even high enough for your movie? Cast Idris Elba! That's what director Pierre Morel and producer Joel Silver obviously thought when deciding to cast the Golden Globe-winning Luther star in their upcoming film The Gunman, based on the novel Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette.
Elba will be playing a cloak-and-dagger agent named Dupont who tangles with Sean Penn, who also plays an agent for a clandestine operations outfit who is betrayed by his organization, forcing him on the run across Europe. It could be the kind of role for Elba that adds fuel to those 007 rumor fires that he may be positioned as the next James Bond.
A release date for The Gunman hasn't been set yet, but Joel Silver apparently thinks it has franchise potential. As for Elba, he can next be seen in July's Pacific Rim and November's Thor: The Dark World.
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Those who know Pierre Morel know him as a mild-mannered filmmaker, the creative force behind such action-filled jaunts as Taken, District B13, and From Paris with Love. Just your average director of screens big and small, and definitely not the catalyst of some diabolical, top secret government ploy. After all, just because Morel is reportedly in talks with Sean Penn for a new high adrenaline picture Prone Gunman, it'd be totally ridiculous to assume that the helmer is on a classified mission to transform all of Hollywood's leading men into methodical killing machines. That in the guise of blockbuster flicks, he's sending them off, one by one, onto savage quests throughout Europe, until every last SAG member is a drone of the agency with superhuman capabilities for fending off entire armies barehanded.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that Penn is in discussions for the lead role of Prone Gunman, an adaptation of the eponymous Jean-Patrick Manchette novel that sets its special ops main character off on an international chase sequence, evading and fighting back against the very agency for which he used to work. It could just be that Morel is finding the basic backdrop of his hit Taken fruitful enough to explore new avenues for exciting storytelling... or maybe, his formula for turning everyday actor Liam Neeson into a boda fide crime ring-defeating, daughter-saving hero. So now that Penn is his newest subject, who else might Morel transform? Leonardo DiCaprio? Denzel Washington? Chad Michael Murray?
[Photo Credit: Wenn]
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WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
It’s Paris 1936 and the winds of war are circling. The depression has created hard economic times and the Chansonia Music Hall just to north of the city has closed down leaving three show biz workers out of a job. Stage hand Pigoil is worried he could lose custody of his 12-year-old son. Milou is a hot-headed electrician and a ladies' man who is determined to have his voice heard. Jacky sold sandwiches there but has his own dreams of starring on stage. When fate intervenes the three get the chance to produce a show that could save the theater and change their lives forever.
WHO’S IN IT?
A superlative French cast is led by veteran Gerard Jugnot as Pigoil who brings gravitas and warmth to the central role. Kad Merad steals all his scenes as the hapless Jacky whose talent for imitation leaves something to be desired. Comedy legend Pierre Richard returns as the mysterious Monsieur TSF who makes the dream possible while Clovis Cornillac gets all the nuances of Milou down pat. Best of all as Douce a young girl hired for the big show is first-timer Nora Arnezeder a major new talent who bewitches with dual acting and singing abilities that make her one to watch.
Co-writer and director Christophe Barratier more than confirms the promise he showed in his first directorial effort The Chorus another music-heavy project for which he received two Oscar nominations. With the help of a first-rate production team he has created a part of Paris that may never have really existed but personifies the romantic ideal we have of the City of Lights. His purely delectable and visually enchanting film is a throwback to the kind of musicals we don’t see anymore. And the song numbers all in French are just sensational.
There’s a little bit too much emphasis on French politics of the time but overall this is a wonderful cinematic valentine to an era long gone.
A Busby Berkeley-style song and dance number is lots of fun to watch and recalls the best of the Warner Bros. musicals of the '30s.
Top Bejing cop Liu Jian (Jet Li) conveniently called "Johnny" for us Americans is called by French police to capture a Chinese druglord hiding out in Paris. Johnny teams with a devious and dishonest French cop Richard (Tcheky Karyo) who double-crosses him leaving him framed for a murder and on the lam. Not only is Richard head of the Parisian police he happens to be the City of Lights' leading pimp and he's forced ex-junkie Jessica (Bridget Fonda) into cheap whoredom by holding her young daughter hostage. Johnny befriends Jessica and together they go after Richard armed with her street smarts and his--acupuncture needle bracelet? No kidding it's Johnny's secret weapon that he uses to put his enemies out of action.
Let's face it Jet Li's way better at kung fu than tongue fu--the poor guy couldn't act his way out of a paper bag. But like his character Johnny Li is just a good guy trying to do the best job he can and you have to give him some credit for trying hard. Besides he's a damn good martial artist. Karyo is way over the top chewing the scenery like it was his last meal--he is impossibly vile killing and maiming just 'cause. But Fonda takes the cake for worst performance as--would you believe--a whiny melodramatic "farmer's daughter from North Dakota" turned out against her will. (Honestly what's her track record lately? Monkeybone? Lake Placid? Somebody call John Travolta--they've found his next leading lady!)
Director Chris Nahon known for making commercials begs borrows and steals from Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita starring none other than Bridget Fonda)--ooh guess what? Besson is KOD's co-writer and producer. Well at least the Nahon-Besson team could have connected the dots before trying to make the audience do it for them. Nothing's explained; even the most obvious questions go unanswered. Why is the bad guy so bad? Where are the cops as a fight rages on and on in the police headquarters? Not to mention these martial arts scenes (why else would you watch this? Certainly not for Li's "acting") lack creative flowing choreography and instead are choppily cut gratuitously vicious and sometimes downright gross (like a guy gets two chopsticks to the throat) acts of violence.