Road to Pernicious

March 17th, 2015 by Max Allan Collins

A while back, I commented on JOHN WICK and how I thought I detected my fingerprints on it. Didn’t bother me, and (unless I was just being typically self-deluded) I even felt a little flattered. It’s nice to move out of the “being-influenced” category and into the “influence” one.

But I had a very different reaction to RUN ALL NIGHT, the Liam Neeson crime drama that co-stars Joel Kinnaman (of the American KILLING), whose presence is what got Barb and me there, since we are both fans of that series and in particular Kinnaman’s work. This is where I would normally give you a review, but I wasn’t able to tell much about the movie, other than the direction was distractingly flashy and that Ed Harris delivered another one of his strange over-acting and under-acting at the same time performances. Neeson was just doing his patented middle-aged-good-guy-who’s-depressed-he’s-been-a-killer-most-of-his-life turns.

Why I can’t discuss this film rationally is because it lifts so outrageously and shamelessly from both the film and graphic novel of ROAD TO PERDITION. There are differences – Kinnamon plays a grown son with a killer father, with whom he’s fallen out because daddy used to kill people…oh, and it’s present day. But almost every major story beat is PERDITION. Neeson is Michael O’Sullivan, Kinnamon is Michael O’Sullivan, Jr. (even named Michael!), Ed Harris is Paul Newman, and the conflict initiates when an innocent kid witnesses a vicious murder by Harris’ homicidal worthless son. The critics haven’t noticed this blatant borrowing (that I know of), but Barb and I picked up on it almost immediately. Maybe ten minutes in, I said to her, “I guess this is kind of a compliment, but it seems wrong that I should have to pay to see this.”

Barb would lean over and point out the parallels: “Now they’re doing the church scene,” “This is Newman calling Jude Law,” “This is Jude Law getting his face messed up so he can appear later ravaged-looking” (which he does – at a cabin on a lake, in the fucking kitchen!).

Some scenes from the graphic novel appear that weren’t in the Sam Mendes film – including one that I wish had been included, where Michael O’Sullivan takes a meeting with the top gangster (here Ed Harris as an amalgam of Looney/Rooney and Frank Nitti) in their stronghold and then shoots his way out.

Much of what I did in ROAD TO PERDITION drew upon novels and books I read as a kid and of course John Woo and LONE WOLF AND CUB (though there’s more Richard Stark in there than anything Japanese). There’s also some GUN CRAZY and BONNIE & CLYDE, because I wanted to merge the classic gangster story with the outlaw saga. My own Quarry was in the mix, and Nolan and Jon, and even MOMMY. But I didn’t lift, not even from myself. I wasn’t lazy. I put together something of my own, or at least I think I did.

I’m not shouting plagiarism, understand. But I am crying shamelessly lazy screenwriting that is an even bigger insult to the audience than it is to me.

* * *

Here’s a write-up that appeared on Mickey Spillane’s birthday a week ago, with a brief review of KILL ME, DARLING.

And if you scroll down to the bottom review here, you’ll find a nice one on KILL ME, DARLING (amusing referred to, at one point, as KILL ME, DEADLY).


Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses to “Road to Pernicious”

  1. Tom Zappe/St. Louis says:

    Plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. Or, as “The Thief of Badgags” Milton Berle once quipped, “I wish I’d said that, and I’m sure I will”.

  2. Mark Lambert says:

    I saw an extended movie review of Run All Night Monday morning on a local “morning show” tv program in Des Moines, and I turned to my fiancée and said, “Oh my gosh, this is just a rip-off of Max’s Road to Perdition.” Ok, the lawyer in me says, “Sue the thieves” but I don’t know enough about copyright law to have a real legal opinion on the matter. So, well, congrats on having your story made into a movie a second time! :-)