No time to chat. Busy putting together the Top 100 loglines. Announcement will be made tomorrow (Monday) at 12:00pm noon Pacific Time. Here’s Roger with today’s review!
Genre: Thriller, Crime Noir
Premise: A serial killer nicknamed “Blitz” is targeting cops in different beats around London, inciting the ire of the sociopathic Detective Sergeant Brant and his notorious anti-87th Precinct Unit.
About: The screenplay comes from Nathan Parker (“Moon”), adapted from the novel of the same name by Irish noir writer, Ken Bruen. Jason Statham has agreed to play Brant, a crude, sociopathic cop while Paddy Considine will be playing Sergeant Porter Nash, an openly gay cop that works with the homophobic Brant. The director is Elliot Lester (“Love is a Drug”). Bruen also struck cinematic gold with “London Boulevard”, which is being adapted by Oscar winner William Monahan.
Writer: Nathan Parker (based on the novel by Ken Bruen)
To continue along this crime and noir vein without looking at a Ken Bruen project would be a disservice to all you readers jonesing for a crime fix. After all, ask any modern crime writer who they’re paying attention to in the world of crime fiction, and they’ll all point their fingers across the Atlantic at Ken Bruen.
If you like journeying to the Jim Thompson dark-side every now and then (and believe me, you’ll want to space ‘em out, these babies are grim ), look no further than his Jack Taylor novels.
But if you want a hit of pulp mayhem followed by rails of dysfunction, casual violence, and black humour, then may I suggest the anti-87th Precinct (did you know that Shane Black sustained himself on a diet of Ed McBain novels) Tom Brant novels?
Because “Blitz” is an adaptation of the novel of the same name, just one in a series of short ammo-clip novels that all started with Bruen’s “White Trilogy”.
So what’s the skinny on Brant?
Detective Sergeant Tom Brant is the UK’s answer to Vic Mackey. Or maybe it’s the other way around, because Brant was created four or five years before Mackey, and he sort of makes Vic look tame and unstylish in comparison.
When we first meet Brant, the Southeast London police shrink is attempting to counsel him about his “violent urges”. As a matter of principle, Brant suggests the doctor is gay, physically assaults him, gains the psychological edge, and rubs salt in the wound by ratting out the alcoholic doctor to a Detective Inspector (whilst impersonating the nebbish constable, PC McDonald).
All this he does with brutish style and Celtic panache. Brant is the type of good bad cop (or bad good cop) who sleeps with prostitutes turned informer, murders criminals who escape the system, drugs fellow police officers for sport, and isn’t above watching pitbulls tear apart a man for the purpose of revenge. In other words, Brant is just undiluted, sociopathic fun.
Did I also mention that Brant’s breakfast is always two Club Milks and a tea with two sugars, which he calls a Sid Vicious because in “Sid and Nancy” there’s “this scene where Gary Oldman, wrecked on every chemical known to man, shouts at his record company rep, who’d asked him what he wanted to drink, ‘Cup a tea, yah cunt, and two sugars.’”?
The Bad Lieutenant could take lessons from a man like Brant.
And more importantly, Jason Statham now has a role to sink his teeth into where he doesn’t have to take off his fucking shirt. I’m sorry I’m not sorry, ladies.
The 87th Precinct has an ensemble cast. Who are the rest of our London players?
There’s Chief Inspector Roberts, whose wife dies in a car accident at the beginning of our story. One of the things that Bruen seems to do so easily, and which Parker captures perfectly in the script adaptation, is that he smudges the lines between comedy and tragedy. How many writers can take a sequence where a man whose wife of decades has just died and capture the blunt shock, pity, sadness and humour that humans are privy to in the face of life trauma?
Just look at the scene where someone steals his wife’s urn. It’s fucking brutal, but you can’t help but laugh.
This script shifts and weaves and paints in so many emotional tones you can’t help but marvel at the deft character brush-strokes. A master has been at work, and we know it because it all seems so effortless.
Porter Nash is the handsome, openly gay sergeant who takes the reins from Brant. He’s a new arrival, but he earns the respect of the men and Brant because he’s just that good. There’s an uneasy partnership of necessity and respect between the two men, and it’s cool to watch them work together.
There’s WPC Falls, a black female investigator who is trying to find her place in the unit. She’s failed to make sergeant, and she copes by drinking hard and relapsing into substance abuse. Her favorite past-time in the hellish third act is robbing dealers. Ironically, she’s protective of a teenage punk with the British National Party, AKA Hitler Youth.
PC McDonald is the Superintendent’s star pupil, but more entertainingly, he’s the squad’s scapegoat. It’s fun to watch him blunder. It could also be argued that it’s fun to watch his sanity and resolve disappear as he struggles to stay above water in the real world of cops and murderers.
When The Blitz crashes the party, our notorious unit is cast further into limbo and they all must embrace their personal demons if they want to stop him.
Who is The Blitz?
He’s a hammer-wielding serial killer that targets cops.
It’s bad business, killing cops. Not only are you going to incite the ire of an entire police force, but you’ll have to go toe-to-toe with Brant, and you better be fucking committed to your art if you have to deal with a wild Celt with a badge.
Yet this is the perfect recipe for entertainment, as there aren’t many things more entertaining than watching two psychopaths drunkenly chase each other around London with bullets and hammers.
Add Brant’s seriously disturbed co-workers to the mix, and well, if the resulting “investigation” doesn’t entertain you than I don’t know what will.
How’s it go down, Rog?
Like a shot of Jameson, straight up.
These are good characters, and they have a combustive family dynamic where they support each other’s addictions and bad behavior. They take care of their own, and you can’t help but bond to these people when their life outside of police work crumbles around them.
Or maybe all they have is their police work, their job, and when threatened with “leave”, “time off”, or “vacation” (which any normal person would take considering the personal circumstances), they snarl their way back onto the beat or the chase because life outside of their job is too rough.
It’s too scary to have to face those demons alone.
And capturing The Blitz is exorcism, it’s a grail that justifies their loneliness, their anger, their sadness. Their brokenness.
Brant suffers from some old-fashioned Tennessee Williams blackouts. There’s a scene in the script where he does nothing but stare at a blank wall, his mind and heart numb.
A human being whose fuse has burned down on both ends and in this rare moment of vulnerability, where we see something other than the sociopathic bull, we realize that Brant really is human.
He’s paying a price for his sins, and he pays it gladly.
If “Blitz” can be criticized, it’s that at its heart, the plot is pretty familiar territory. This coupled with its ensemble cast makes it feel like an arc or storyline off “The Shield” (or the novel and movie, “Red Dragon”) or any other television procedural.
But this baby is about the characters. It’ll be Jason Statham’s best role and it should appeal to the “Layer Cake” and crime noir crowd. It plays like a crime procedural force-fed through a wood-chipper with a stack of pulpy Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson and Ed McBain novels.
Simply put, it’s lethal stuff.
[ ]What the hell did I just read?
[ ] barely kept my interest
[xx] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Shoot for ironic relationships between your characters. Blitz is full of ‘em. The most noticeable are the twin satellites of Brant and Nash. Brant is homophobic; Nash is openly gay. They have to work together. Instant conflict. PC Falls is black; yet she looks after a teenage Nazi. Instant depth. Brant kills with a badge; Blitz kills outside of the law. Instant battle of wills. Ironic relationships: They kick things up a notch.