Perhaps emboldened by the A.V. Club’s recent re-evaluation of Iron Man 3 (bumping that grade from C+ to B-), Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr. are getting the (kiss kiss bang) band back together. They are collaborating on a new series of movies and TV shows based on Donald E. Westlake’s Parker series, starring Downey and directed by Black.
Per Variety, the Parker-verse is coming to Amazon Prime, with the movie Play Dirty being the first project to come out of the deal. Black will write Play Dirty with Charles Mondry and Anthony Bagarozzi. Joel Silver and Susan Downey will join the pair as producers, making it even more of a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang reunion.
Donald E. Westlake’s Parker is a series of novels about a ruthless thief known for his cold-blooded, robotic style. He’s the consummate professional killer. But it’s unclear if one of Westlake’s novels is the basis for the film.
As collaborators, Downey and Black first wowed the world with the actor’s motormouth asides in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Since then, they’ve worked together on the aforementioned Iron Man 3. Aftward, Black remained in the Blockbuster cycle, directing The Predator, which has a good movie somewhere in it, but like Downey, this will be his first in some time. In Downey’s last film, of course, the actor played another one of our great heroes, a brilliant scientist and skilled adventurer. That’s right. We’re talking about Dr. Dolittle from Dolittle.
Parker undoubtedly gets them away from the blockbuster ambitions of Marvel or even Predator, returning Black to his comfort zone: pulpy, 1970s-inspired thrillers.
There haven’t been many adaptations of Parker over the last half-century. The Mel Gibson-vehicle Payback is probably the most famous, while Jason Statham’s Parker is the most recent. However, one adaptation is particularly Blackian: John Boorman’s Point Blank.
Granted, the movie doesn’t have the frenetic dialogue Black is known for, but it operates in the same nonchalant style that makes its extreme violence funny. For instance, take this scene where Lee Marvin as “Walker” interrogates a car dealer by repeatedly driving into the concrete foundations of an overpass. Black’s The Nice Guys feels very indebted to this movie (particularly this scene).