Lt. Kojak is one of those iconic figures of pop culture yore whose name carries enough familiarity, and attitude, to suggest revival possibility, but who doesn't quite have the timeless appeal to automatically connect with newer audiences. It's likely that most younger film and television viewers of today have, at one time or another, heard of Kojak. And it's just as likely that they've never actually seen him in action, or even really wanted to.
This theory is abetted by the short-lived return the character (originated by actor Telly Savalas) made to the television screen in 2005, embodied this time around by Ving Rhames. The post-millennium USA show only lasted 10 episodes, failing to muster up the allure that Kojak warranted back in the '70s. But this doesn't mean there's no hope for a character like the New York City-based police lieutenant. His reincarnation needs simply to be handled delicately and ingeniously. In short, make him a movie: Deadline reports that Universal has set forth a film adaptation of the Kojak character to star Vin Diesel. The studio is handing scripting responsibilities to Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, who have written the last five James Bond movies, including this year's excellent Skyfall. Hollywood.com reached out to Vin Diesel's reps, but they were not immediately available for comment.
At first glance, we seem to be gearing up for a pretty action-heavy interpretation of the concept, with Diesel dueling mustachioed criminals atop speeding trucks. But the original Kojak series, while not devoid of action, was built more upon the foundations of the drama and tension of criminal activity and the legal process — it would better be called a precursor to Law & Order than to Diesel's big screen work.
But this collection of creative forces might not be a bad choice for a Kojak movie. Aside from bearing a striking resemblance to Savalas (you can say that they're both just tan bald dudes, but there's more to it than that!), a now 45-year-old Diesel could be looking to take slower-paced roles with a bit more weight — we have seen a decrease in frequency of his cinematic output over the past couple of years. And as we saw in Skyfall, Purvis and Wade are adept, not only at crafting fight scenes, but also booming drama. Kojak purists, however many of them there might be out there, shouldn't be deterred. Fans of Diesel will be happy to hear about him headlining another cop picture, and perhaps delighted to see him take on a bit more gravitas with this one. And everyone who liked Skyfall — which is everyone, ever — should be encouraged by the screenwriters' reunion for a new non-Bond movie.
[Photo Illustration by Hollywood.com; Photo Credit: WENN; Ana Ulin/flickr]
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After making a sparkling debut in 2004 with his first feature film the slacker comedy Napoleon Dynamite offbeat writer-director Jared Hess seemed poised for a fruitful career as an earnest more accessible alternative to hipster auteur Wes Anderson. But he stumbled a bit with his sophomore effort the uneven Mexican wrestling flick Nacho Libre despite Jack Black’s desperate mugging for laughs. And he falls apart completely with his latest comedy the crude maddeningly insipid Gentlemen Broncos.
It’s a shame too because Gentlemen Broncos held so much potential. Its trailers promised a lively battle of wits between a pompous sci-fi author played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and the teenage protege (Michael Angarano) from whom he plagiarized his latest bestselling novel. It could have been Hess’s Rushmore. But what the trailers don’t tell you is that Clement plays merely a supporting role in Gentlemen Broncos and that his character Dr. Ronald Chevalier virtually disappears after the film’s splendid setup. Clement is by far the best part of the film and when he isn’t on the screen the story devolves into an increasingly irksome blend of manufactured quirk and lame sight gags. Hess’s sense of humor has regressed to sub-adolescent levels with Gentlemen Broncos. Defecating snakes breast-puncturing blowdarts and jars of human testicles are just a few of the lowbrow delights that await the brave soul who attempts to make it through a viewing. When Clement returns at the end of the film and mounts a quixotic attempt to rescue it from the mire his heroic effort is sadly for naught: The disastrous fate of Gentleman Broncos was sealed long before.
Although the film's title suggests there might be some deeply relevant British national allegory in the film post-colonialist comedy fans shouldn't get their hopes up. The plot of Johnny English such as it is goes something like this: The title character a bumbling junior-level spy (Rowan Atkinson) is suddenly thrust into active duty when every other agent in the British Secret Service is blown to smithereens during a bombing at a fellow agent's funeral. When the Crown Jewels are stolen it's up to English to discover the culprit and in the process he unearths a plot to replace the Queen of England with a French entrepreneur who has some pretty nasty real estate development plans for Merry Olde Blighty. It's a sorry excuse for a story sure but such paltry fare as plot character development and dialogue don't matter much when you connect the bits with U.K. fave Atkinson hamming it up in his trademark blundering way. And he really is funny in this movie--maybe not pee-your-pants funny but certainly hoot-out-loud funny. As with any spy spoof some of the shtick works and some doesn't but on the whole Atkinson and Co. do a good job in spite of the contrived script and pithy lines writers Neal Purvis Robert Wade and William Davies have pieced together for them.
If Cervantes' Don Quixote were a modern-day spy this would be his story. Atkinson tilts at Johnny English's windmills with the vigor and extravagance fans of the comedian's trademarked physical comedy have come to expect. Whether he's crashing a funeral pantomiming to ABBA in front of his bathroom mirror invading a hospital with guns blazing or getting his tie caught in a sushi bar conveyor belt Atkinson gives this movie's hackneyed scenes personality they probably wouldn't have had in any other actor's hands. Comedian and fellow Brit Ben Miller takes his first strokes across the pond as English's sidekick Bough playing Sancho Panza to Atkinson's Quixote to fairly good effect. The real "straight man" in this farce however is Natalie Imbruglia as love interest Lorna Campbell. The girl can't act her way out of a paper bag but when you look the way she does in leather pants and stilettos talent is beside the point. John Malkovich is underutilized as the villain Pascal Sauvage whose anti-English (that's the nation not the spy) sentiments have driven him to lay claim to the throne of England which he plans to use for nefarious purposes.
Based as it is on a character Atkinson created for a TV commercial for a major British credit card it's not surprising that the characters in Johnny English are far more entertaining when they're improvising 60-second physical comedy scenes than when they're attempting to further the so-called plot. What is surprising is that such pedigreed moviemakers as director Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors) production company Working Title Films (producers of Elizabeth Fargo and Billy Elliot) and producer Mark Huffam (The Hours) are attached to such a silly film. Then again everybody needs to let loose sometime; maybe this is their idea of a vacation.