So once again we have survived.

Pronto

tn_prontoI always enjoy Elmore Leonard, and I got no excuse for why I haven’t read his book Pronto . But I did just check out Jim McBride’s Showtime TV movie version of this book that introduced Raylan Givens, the cowboy-hat-wearing U.S. marshal that Tim Olyphant plays on the show ‘Justified.’ It’s a very different take on the character and feels very TV-movie, but I thought it was an enjoyable one with a funny, laid back Leonard feel.

mp_prontoPeter Falk plays Harry Arno, a goofball Miami bookie who gets into some deep shit with mobsters and can’t understand why, insisting he’s completely innocent of anything they know about. When a dude comes after him he kills in self defense and then he decides to take off for Rome, but he gets tracked there by the mobsters. Luckily Givens decides to follow him there too and protects him and his girlfriend (Glenne Headly, BABE: PIG IN THE CITY).

James LeGros plays Givens and I’m guessing his version is closer to the book. The magic of his Raylan is that he just seems like a doofus, so everybody underestimates him. But actually he’s really good at what he does. When he first approaches Harry he says hey, remember me, I’m the marshall who was transporting you six years ago but stopped to get an ice cream cone and you got away, ha ha ha. Shortly after that, Harry looks outside and sees Givens eating an ice cream cone. It’s like he deliberately looks stupid to fuck with him. But then he proves himself in shootouts, under the table draws and tough-talking showdowns. You definitely want this hick on your side, even if he wears a cowboy hat in Rome. In my opinion that’s not a good way to fit in.

The villains are very Leonard too. There’s the fat slob boss (warning: you have to see him naked) who’s more interested in seeing the butterflies at the museum than going after Givens. There’s his bodybuilder henchman who keeps getting outsmarted but is clearly one of those characters whose stupidity makes him more dangerous. He just seethes with bitterness toward his boss and the Italians he has to work with, and at times I sort of agreed with him.

Falk is a pretty standard Falk character, with an eccentricity that hovers on the line between charming and annoying. I liked him but wanted his girlfriend to leave him. Also Luis Guzman is in there in a supporting role, the year before he joined the greater ElmoreLeonardverse in OUT OF SIGHT.

But it’s Raylan’s movie. Here he is flying around the world on his own accord, putting himself on the line to help this dude who fucked him over one time. Why? Maybe because he likes him, I’m not sure. And he always seems like he’s in over his head, but rarely actually is. He’s like a walking trap. He’s so tempting for tough guys to fuck with, but he turns out to be a guy you really shouldn’t fuck with. He’ll make you sorry, then he’ll smile about it. Good shot, too.

The climax of the movie is actually the beginning of ‘Justified.’ He gives a guy 24 hours to get out of Miami and when the guy doesn’t he goes to enforce it. This led into the short story “Fire in the Hole,” which was the basis for the ‘Justified’ pilot. LeGros is great in the role, really funny and convincing. His version would’ve made a good TV series too. Too bad for him he’ll be overshadowed by Olyphant’s more traditionally badass (but hilariously fallible) Raylan. But maybe it’s just karma for replacing A. Michael Baldwin in PHANTASM II.

‘Justified’ just keeps getting better, by the way. That episode where he has to play hostage negotiator to the escaped prisoner was maybe my favorite. A likable bad guy, a nice rapport between the two sides, camaraderie between the sheriff’s department, the D.A. and the SWAT team even though they’re all kind of in conflict. They get mad at each other but have a professional respect for each other too. Just a great story, then it seems to be wrapped up and I realize there’s 15 minutes left for even more to happen.

But then last week’s episode “Hatless” was even better. A genuinely scary villain, tension that keeps getting thicker and thicker, a theme of everybody who tries to be a tough guy (including Raylan and another character we like) getting their asses kicked. And everything Raylan does is out of love for either his hat or his ex-wife. I love this show.

Anyway, the PRONTO movie is directed by Jim McBride, who did the weird post-apocalypse movie GLEN AND RANDA and the remake of BREATHLESS that a friend of mine claims is good. The script was adapted by Michael Butler, the writer of CODE OF SILENCE and THE GAUNTLET.

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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 at 12:35 am and is filed under Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

43 Responses to “Pronto”

  1. for any Elmore Leonard fans, what are some books you would suggest for a noob like me?

  2. 52 PICK UP is pretty good. MR MAJESTYK is pretty bad-ass too. Lot of them, though, and few of ’em fail to grab the attention.

  3. Nice end to the season. I’m glad that (spoiler) he got his hat back.

  4. I’ve read so many Elmore Leonard books that I honestly couldn’t recommend one over the other. You can’t really go wrong, in my opinion. A good rule of thumb is that the skinnier ones are older, which means they’re dryer and more serious than the fatter, funnier more recent ones, which have more of the Leonard tone you’d probably be familiar with from the film adaptations.

    I think I prefer the older ones, though. They’re a little tougher and meaner. Obviously, I have a soft spot for MR. MAJESTYK, but SWAG and CITY PRIMEVAL stick out for me, too, although I can’t really say why.

  5. Justified is getting better on an episode by episode basis, and according to Herc over at AICN, tonight’s is the best one yet. I’m pumped.

  6. Jareth Cutestory

    May 18th, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Griff: RUM PUNCH is the Leonard book that JACKIE BROWN is based on. I’m not a huge Leonard fan, but I enjoyed that one.

  7. I’ve been in the tank for Elmore Leonard for a long time, an Raylan Givens may be my favorite Leonard character. (Him or Chili Palmer.) PRONTO is one of my favorite Leonard books, though that list is pretty long.

    JUSTIFIED does keep getting better; it’s good to see it’s been renewed for next year. I like how that version of Raylan is smooth, but not quite as smart as he thinks he is at the time, but has enough self-awareness to realize later he screwed up. Great show.

    Leonard’s earlier crime books have a grittier feel to them. As noted above, SWAG and CITY PRIMEVAL are excellent. MAXIMUM BOB is also very good. His best, and most badass book, might be HOMBRE, from which the Paul Newman movie was based. It’s short, not a wasted word, but as powerful an anything Leonard ever wrote. Maybe the best Western ever.

  8. It seems like the folks behind JUSTIFIED are getting better each week at figuring out the show. It started off really good, but is getting pretty great at this point the more it finds its way.

    I have a weird feeling that the show is turning out rather differently than originally envisioned. For one, the first couple episodes made a point of establishing Raylan’s coworkers, giving both the black lady and the white dude episodes highlighting them. Since then… they’ve essentially been forgotten, relegated to props in the background. I wonder if they will disappear entirely by the second season?

    Likewise, Walter Goggins started off as a guest star, and has now been announced as a starring cast member for the second season. Seems like each week the shift the focus from being a procedural about the Marshall’s office to being more of a complicated crime comedy/drama about Raylan and his messy personal life.

  9. I really like that they got the dude that played Tom on Lost to play Boyd Crowders dad on that show. Something about that actor just draws me into whatever he’s doing. I just looked him up and his name’s M.C. Gainey, been in a bunch of shit. Anyway I was allready hooked on that show and then they threw him into the mix, it just keeps getting better every week in my opinion.

    If you can find the time to work Justified into your television viewing I would highly suggest getting into Breaking Bad. Easily the best drama on TV right now(sorry Mr. Olyphant).

  10. I was suprised that (spoiler) they only gave the ex-football player a beating. As soon as he agreed to help out you knew it wasn’t going to turn out well but I was expecting a slaughter. He even got his ring back.

  11. Oh, and VALDEZ IS COMING is another good western one, turned into a film with Burt Lancaster.

  12. I’d love to see Vern dip his toes into more TV shows.

    I’m sure he can sniff out some badassery on the small screen easily enough.

  13. Speaking of small-screen badassery, I was talking with some of you dudes about the first season of THE SHIELD on some long-forgotten thread. At the time, I said it still hadn’t grown on me, but I’m happy to report that that changed. The characters have started showing a little more personality, and the uberplot about the corrupt police captain sucked me in. The last scene, with Vic all alone in his trashed house with nothing but his badge for company, made me ready to start the next season immediately. So thanks for encouraging me to stick with it, guys. I think I’m in for the duration.

  14. One Guy From Andromeda

    May 18th, 2010 at 10:51 am

    the shield just keeps getting better and better (only season four sucks a tiny bit because of the uninteresting glenn close character). but as the show wraps up it’s basically shakespearan drama on a level that can only be pulled off with a tv show that has been going for years, where you really, really know these characters – and watch them disintegrate. i love how the tone of the show changed a lot from the first season to the last, yet every bit of the finale is foreshadowed in the first episodes. it’s the logical conclusion. shit, the shield is just one of the best tv shows ever made in my opinion. check it out vern!

  15. Wait a second? Are there more episodes to come? Sweet! I figured the episode nine ended that it was the last of the season. I’m in the UK where we’re lucky if a series lasts six episodes.

  16. I grew up reading Leonard. When I was about 10 years old, I purchased a copy of “City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit” mainly because I wanted a “grown up” book and it had Detroit in the title (which is where I grew up). Even though it would be considered one of Dutch’s “lesser” novels, it led to (now) a quarter century of reading his stuff. Justified is pretty much perfect, in my opinion. I’ve liked Timothy Olyphant before, but never this much. I feel like he’s doing a great Clint Eastwood homage in the way he plays the character. I love that it feels like an homage, by the way, and not an imitation. I also think that the writers are nailing the Elmore Leonard feel. I was worried at first because of the pilot really being the only episode based directly on something written by Leonard, but if anything, the writing just keeps getting stronger. I just have one complaint: I don’t feel like there’s really any reason for him to keep hooking up with that one girl (can’t remember her name at the moment). I hope he’s moved on with that one.

  17. “I don’t feel like there’s really any reason for him to keep hooking up with that one girl (can’t remember her name at the moment). I hope he’s moved on with that one.”

    Because she’s smoking ass hot?

  18. Mr. M, I’m glad you dig it. It only gets better. I started The Wire the other day and am really liking it.

  19. CrustaceanHate

    May 18th, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Majestyk: I was in exactly the same position as you a few weeks ago. I really didn’t like the first few eps of THE SHIELD. I didn’t really care for Vic Mackey and his crew and having recently watched THE WIRE it seemed pretty phony. As the series progressed however, the characters became more fleshed out and the morality got a bit more muddy and interesting. I immediately went out and bought the rest of the series and now I love it.

  20. Jim McBride’s Breathless IS great, but will always be overlooked due to the legendary status of Godard’s original. Two other things you should check out from McBride if you haven’t: 1) his wildly over-the-top Jerry Lee Lewis bio-pic “Great Balls of Fire” featuring a never-more kooky and charismatic Dennis Quaid and a never-cuter Winona Ryder as Jerry’s teenaged cousin turned wife; 2) one of my fave flicks of the 80’s, his modern noir potboiler “The Big Easy” starring Quaid (again) and Ellen Barkin! Must-see flicks for sure!
    I love the book “Pronto”, BTW. I still need to see this flick.

  21. Jareth Cutestory

    May 18th, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    dieselboy: I didn’t think the second season of BREAKING BAD was as good as the first, but man that ending to season two was phenomenal.

  22. BREAKING BAD S2 no doubt suffered from over decompression but last 3 eps kicked serious ass, and S3 is zipping along like a cat coated in vaseline . . . keeping in mind the nature and style of the show, obviously.

    JUSTIFIED is the solid, no doubt.

    Watching THE WIRE at the moment, and about 1/2 way through S4; shit is WMD.

    JACKIE BROWN is still that guy’s best movie. That may not sound like much praise but as I watch Hollywood writers in particular (and American screenwriters in general) lose all ability to tell a coherent story, it stands ever more high on my list of “under the radar” gems. It’s a flick with character and, more importantly, *characters*.

    And Grier was hell-hawt. If you’re into that. Which I am.

  23. vern, since you really like parker, have you read “the hunter” the comic?
    http://darwyncooke.blogspot.com/
    http://www.idwpublishing.com/previews/parker/

  24. Read Pronto a long time ago and liked it a lot. Movie sounds pretty faithful except that Raylan was always written as a much older guy. I always pictured Michael Parks in the part, probably because he looks and acts a helluva lot like Raylan as Earl MacGraw in the Tarantino/Rodriguez pictures. Which might not be a coincidence. On a similar note, I remember there’s a bit in Riding The Rap, the Raylan-centric follow-up to Pronto, where Raylan tells a guy (in not so many words) that he really likes Reservoir Dogs.

    Also McBride’s Breathless is fucking great. It gets a bad rap because it didn’t reinvent cinema the way Godard’s movie did, but if you can get past that baggage it is an entirely badass entity unto itself, and the only time I ever thought Richard Gere was cool, kinda like Kevin Costner in Fandango.

    Also, Glitz has always been my favorite Leonard book for no particular reason.

  25. “Something about that actor just draws me into whatever he’s doing. I just looked him up and his name’s M.C. Gainey, been in a bunch of shit.”

    dieselboy – even if what he’s doing is running down the street buck-ass nekkid with his (surprisingly small) wiener flopping about (as in SIDEWAYS)? just kidding, though, i like him too.

    i’m not really all that familiar with leonard, other than some of the hollywood versions of his stories. i absolutely adore JACKIE BROWN and OUT OF SIGHT, but so i tried to read “Tishomingo Blues,” and i dunno why but i just could NOT get into it and i quit after reading just a couple chapters. can’t quite explain it, but something about the writing style was really bugging me, and i didn’t find any of the characters too engaging, despite being quirky. it also kinda seemed like he was specifically writing for it to eventually be made into a movie. the descriptions just seemed kind of blunt and without finesse. but probably i just didn’t give it enough of a chance. so, leonard lovers, what do you say? how does that book rate within his overall oeuvre? anyone care to sell me on it (i still have it lying around somewhere)? i think i read that don cheadle was trying to get it made for a while, for him to star in.

    anyway, JUSTIFIED sounds pretty great. it joins the long list of TV shows i hope to eventually catch up on on dvd someday (i live in a country with very little american TV, and when they do show something it is often crap like CSI or a re-run of Full House, no joke).

  26. The one problem that I had with S2 of Breaking Bad was that after the great 2 or 3 first episodes of it, the first half of the season was wasted with too much “everybody is yelling at each other”-drama. At least from time to time the typical greatness of the show came through (Tortuga, anyone?) and the second half was even better than Season 1. Can’t wait for Season 3 (hasn’t started here yet).

  27. CJ-You won’t be disappointed man. All the problems people had with S2 have pretty much been eliminated and replaced with badass Mexican assassins.

  28. VirginGary-Good call on the Sideways role, I had completely forgotten about that(best part of the movie too).

  29. Jareth Cutestory

    May 19th, 2010 at 6:45 am

    CJ Holden: It was kind of alarming how they just dropped everything they were building around the cop brother-in-law midway through season two of BREAKING BAD and sent him to the background. It’s like the participation of Danny Trejo was too much awesome and it blew the fuse of his storyline.

    But Q was great. After all those hammy STAR TREK episodes it was a revelation to see him so subdued.

  30. Speaking of adaptations of the works of crime writers, here’s a preview of the next Parker comic adaptation:
    http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album_view.php?gid=2026

  31. Speaking of Elmore Leonard, I’m shocked Vern hasn’t reviewed JOE KIDD.

    I mean you got Clint Eastwood, pre-GODFATHER Robert Duvall as the villain, directed by Preston Sturges (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN), and scripted by Leonard.

    I must say that in spite of such potent credentials, JOE KIDD isn’t that good but I still like it.

  32. Sorry, I meant John Sturges.

  33. hey vern!!! you gotta read the interview with robert rodriguez over at aicn toot sweet! awesome seagological tidbit.

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/45169

  34. seagalogical

  35. Hey Vern, part of this review was reprinted at elmoreleonard.com so maybe there is some small chance Elmore saw it, although they seemed to screw up the ‘read more’ link, so the whole thing doesn’t appear.

  36. Thanks for pointing that out, Adam. I’m honored to be on there even if it’s only part of one of my less interesting reviews.

    By the way I wanted to point out, I believe it said on the credits that John Dahl of RED ROCK WEST and THE LAST SEDUCTION fame directed this week’s episode of Justified. Next I think they oughta dig up John McNaughton.

  37. RRA – The Preston Sturges version is the one everybody really wants to see. For a second there I was going ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!’

  38. dieselboy: meh. I don’t really see it. Not that she’s ugly or anything, but I wouldn’t say smokin ass hot. Especially not hot enough to justify (haha… Didn’t even do that on purpose) risking his job and screwing up an investigation over. But, you know, different strokes, I guess.

  39. Edc: I mentioned Cooke’s Parker comic before and was promptly given a wedgie and laughed out. So watch out is all I’m saying :P

  40. As soon as I read “Harry Arno,” I finally realized why Raylan was somehow familiar — I’ve read Pronto!

    Thing about Leonard is, you can read his books, forget all about ’em and then reread ’em a few years later and enjoy them just as much. They’re breezy and fun, but they can all kind blur together after a while. But now I do remember the goofy guy with the hat who turns out to be more dangerous than expected. I just never connected the dots.

    Is Harry big on Ezra Pound in the movie? That’s one detail from the book I recall. I don’t remember the context, just that Pound’s name kept coming up. Something to do with when Harry was stationed in Italy during the war…

    …and what happened to Le Gros? He was a talented guy who never seemed that interested in being as big as he could have been. He was hilarious as (allegedly) Brad Pitt in LIVING IN OBLIVION, and was also funny in BLOOD AND CONCRETE, a better-then-it-should-have-been REPO MAN-style, L.A. black comedy.

    I guess he’s now the Brian Cox version of Raylan.

    I’ve become a JUSTIFIED/Olyphant convert, by the way. Which makes it even more irritating that he was wasted in DIE MOST HARDERER. Coulda been a great bad guy.

    You have also just made me aware that I have a new episode to watch. Yee-haw!

  41. Also — am I the only one who has no luck with Leonard’s website? When I click on “read more,” nothing happens. I’m using Safari.

  42. Apparently, THE SWITCH is going into development. I read it a long time back and don’t remember it very well, except that it involved a kidnapping that goes awry and features earlier incarnations of the characters played by Samuel Jackson and Robert de Niro in JACKIE BROWN (Ordell and Louis, I think). So, a sort of a prequel.

  43. Nothing like checking out an Elmore Leonard book for the first time. You can’t really go wrong with any of them. Freaky Deaky, Riding the Rap, and The Hot Kid are must-reads, and good gateway books into learning about his style and seeing if you dig him or not.

    Another question: Anyone ever seen this show? It’s based on one of my favorite books of his, but I have no idea how well it translated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqOiL3vyxfU

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