A literary and Hollywood titan was lost on Tuesday when Elmore “Dutch” Leonard died at the age of 87. Originally the author of western novels, he ultimately became the undisputed master of crime fiction. His streetwise, slang ridden and super cool dialogue, quirky characters and violence paired with unexpected humor elevated crime stories to a new level and gave them a style all their own. Film adaptations of his stories and novels include the must-see titles below.
“3:10 to Yuma” (1957, 2007) – Glen Ford gives a quietly menacing yet charming performance as western outlaw Ben Wade. Van Heflin solidly portrays the everyman forced into action rancher Dan Evans. Evans stands alone against Wade’s gang holding him in a railroad town until they can catch the title train to justice. The also very good 2007 remake starring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale is bigger and noisier than the original and pumps up the action to modern standards.
“Mr. Majestyk” (1974) – Laconic action star Charles Bronson plays the titular doesn’t-back-down-from-anybody watermelon famer who finds himself the very personal target of a nasty mobster. Al Lettieri, a frequent seventies screen bad guy, gives us somebody you definitely want Bronson to rid us of. Overlook the annoying score and the clumsy seventies romance moments with Bronson and Linda Cristal and you’ve got a solid action flick directed by Richard Fleischer.
“Get Shorty” (1995) – What happens when hip, leather jacketed mob collector Chili Palmer goes to Hollywood? He gets into the movie business of course. This Barry Sonnenfeld directed gem stars John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, a hilarious Danny DeVito, Delroy Lindo and the recently deceased Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini. It’s terrific stylish fun.
“Jackie Brown” (1997) – taken from Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch,” Quentin Tarantino directed this homage to 1970’s blaxploitation pictures that’s as funny as it is violent. Pam Grier stars as a flight attendant mixed up with bad dude Samuel L. Jackson and a whacked out stoner played by Robert DeNiro. Robert Forster is particularly good in an Oscar nominated performance as bail bondsman Max Cherry.
“Out of Sight” (1998) – Steven Soderbergh directed this stylish, romantic and violent tale of a bank robber (George Clooney) and the U.S. Marshall (Jennifer Lopez) who’s hot on his tail in more ways than one. Albert Brooks is terrific as an embezzler and Dennis Farina plays J-Lo’s father.