Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bruen's "Blitz" on screen

I was apprehensive when I heard Ken Bruen's 2002 novel Blitz was being made into a movie. The book's centerpiece, Southeast London police officer Tom Brant, is a feral, funny wild man, maybe Bruen's best creation, and I thought it would take a gifted actor and daring filmmakers to manage the transfer to a new medium, if the transfer were possible at all.

The movie, directed by Elliott Lester, released last year, and featuring Jason Statham as Brant and the excellent Paddy Considine as Porter Nash, could have been worse. It drops at least one major subplot and adds a narrative element that's not obtrusive but not necessary either.  It softens Brant's character, notably in the opening scene. The pruning results in a character a bit more believable but also a bit more conventional, a bit less maniacal, and a bit less funny, and a world not quite as dark as the novel's.

The movie also tones down Nash's reaction to the flak he gets from fellow officers because he's gay.  In the movie, he's a tough, righteous cop. In the book, he's a tough, righteous cop with jaw-droppingly funny chutzpah. And that's the movie, really: a milder version of a highly spicy book. Oh, and Bruen has a cameo role — as a priest.

(I discuss the appeal of the Brant and Roberts novels here.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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26 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

I saw BLITZ about a year ago; haven't read the book. I liked the movie, though, having read several of Bruen's books, I can see where things were probably watered down. Still, this is a much better film than an American studio would have made with the same material.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The first three Brant and Roberts novels are available in an omnibus volume. That might be a good place to start. Or else begin with "Blitz." One need not read them in order.

Search Detectives Beyond Borders for "Bruen" or "Brant." I've written about a number of the books, and I'd be pleased to serve as a guide to your shopping.

May 15, 2012  
Anonymous solo said...

I haven't seen Blitz, Peter, but I was amused at the Guardian review of the movie which described Statham as doling out justice with a hockey stick, despite the fact that Statham is gentlemanly enough to point out to the feckers whose heads he is about to smash in that he is using a hurley. I mean, WTF.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I recognized it as a hurley, and the movie makes makes it clear that that's what it is, even quoting Bruen's line abouthurling being a cross between hockey and murder. But someone in the movie, maybe one of the superior police officers (an English character, of ocurse) does refer to the instrument as a hockey stick.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If the movie's reference to the hurley as a hockey stick was a jab at English parochialism, the Guardian unwittingly proved that the joke was true. Either that, or the reviewer was not paying attention.

May 15, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I thought the novel was careless. It's miles from the quality of the Taylor novels.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., the Brant novels generally are more careless than the Taylor books, less carefully plotted, more id-driven, and just plain wilder. But that sort of thing can be fun.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I should add that while the Gardian reviewer may not know his or her stick sports, the observation about the movie's formula of surrounding an international action hero with "the best of Brit acting" is dead on. Paddy Considine and Aidan Gillen, both cited in the review, are outstanding, though Gillen is only debtably British. (He was born and grew up in Dublin before moving to London.)

May 15, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

The 'it could have been worse' sort of backhanded compliment about movies from books is pretty much why I've recently become resistant to the idea of film adaptations.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, the movie is worth seeing. It's just quite what the novel was.

The Guardian review to which solo linked struck the right note, I think.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I know I will swing away from this point of view eventually, but I am not sure right now what the purpose of seeing a movie that is not quite what the novel was is. Unless, for some reason, it's better than the novel, which happens.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Idle curiosity is one reason, if one has read the book. Another is if one is choosing from a selection as severely limited as Netflix's is.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Well, yes, those are good reasons. I am just wondering lately why I want to blot out the images I've formed on my own of a story with those someone else has dreamt up.

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wanted to see how the images matched my own. And the rock and roll soundtrack was not a bad choice, either.

May 15, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I thought the novel was careless. It's miles from the quality of the Taylor novels.

I, on the other hand, with the exception of the first 2 Taylors, like all of Bruen's non-Taylor novels (I think I've read them all) far better than those. Talk about self-reference, self-consciousness (yesterday's discussion). And Taylor's incessant wallowing in self pity, his "woe is me, I'm a worthless pile of shit(e) and a hazardous substance to all those I love" -- crikey! Enough already.

Matters of taste do indeed vary widely. And that's OK, huh?

May 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Brant and Roberts novels tend to be more fun that the Jack Taylor books, that's for sure. So do the novels Brien wrote with Jason Starr -- or two of three, anyhow.

May 15, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Yes, ok, the Taylor novels do go on without sufficient change. However, such characters do indeed exist and on the whole, I like to see some self-awareness and signs of growth of character. Jack Taylor is a mess, but he invariably tries, and his guilt is also his salvation.

I just don't like the characters in the police procedurals. On the whole they are self-centered. So are Bruen's crooks. I know there is a whole genre that looks at crime as essentially funny and endearing, but I fail to do so.

May 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J.: None of Bruen's characters, in any of his several series or various standalones that I've read, views crime as essentially endearing and funny.

But what the hell do I know? My favorite among the Taylor novels I've read is Priest, and I think I read somewhere that Bruen had to let himself be talked by his publisher or some other outside party into writing a book that long.

May 16, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Growth and change isn't necessarily what we want from series characters, though, I think.

May 16, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not out of Brant, at any rate. And I expect Jack Taylor's partisans would say that his attraction is that he doesn't change -- he keeps screwing up all the time.

May 16, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Oh, I absolutely want growth and change. A character-driven novel depends on that.

Now if you mean that readers prefer to get what they are used to, then, yes, that is probably true. At the same time, many readers also complain that some series grow old and should be abandoned.

In any case, I don't work with static characters.

And Peter, I meant that some readers like crime novels to be amusing. Bruen writes about gangsters and emphasizes humor in some of his books.

May 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

Adrian's made the point lately, perhaps here, perhaps on his blog or both, that people do not really grow and change all that much in real life. I am not sure how that fits into the story arc of a novel, but I think that there is a grain of truth in this.

May 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I think I've cited Bust, which Bruen wrote with Jason Starr, as one of the funniest crime novels ever. But the humor I like in crime novels is that of Bruen or Charlie Stella -- sometimes rueful, sometimes a reminder that people do say funny things at the most surprising times. This is not, however, the same as making crime "essentially funny and endearing." I know of no crime novel that does that. An odd criminal may have an attractive trait or two, but their acts -- that is, crime itself? Not in anything I've read.

As for growth and change, notably in noir from the 1940 and '40s, the lack of growth or change, or else a journey that winds up precisely where it started, is precisely the point. And that, I suspect, is part of why you don't like that kind of crime writing much.

May 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, Adrian's comments have come to mind during this discussion. He was writing about movies and television, I think. Movies, he said, ring hollow when growth or change is the end of their stories. He contrasted this unfavorably with television, which recreates the universe anew each week.

Have the characters grown in the crime novels I like? Their circumstances may have changed. but have the characters themselves changed? I'm not sure about this.

May 17, 2012  
Blogger seana said...

I haven't been reading to see which kind of protagonist author's I've read are trying to write, but I think another way of looking at it is that a story may work to reveal more fully the character that is already there.

Of course people do sometimes change too.

May 17, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My views on the subject may be informed by my recent reading of American nor melodrama from the 1940s and '50s, in which the point is that, while circumstances may change, character does not.

And then there's Emile Zola, who takes great care in the preface to Therese Racquin to point out that he writes not about character but rather about temperament.

May 17, 2012  

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