Andrew Dominik, the Kiwi filmmaker responsible for the beautiful, Malick-esque Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, optioned the adaptation rights for George V. Higgins’ Boston crime novel Cogan’s Trade yesterday, confirming Casey Affleck’s teases last month that a reunion with his Jesse James director on a Boston-set book was gearing up. The film is rumored to go before cameras as early as January 2011, an unheard of turnaround considering the day-old purchase of the rights. It wouldn’t be the first time Dominik has adapted a written work on spec if that turns out to be the case though, as he employed the same strategy with Joyce Carol Oates’ Marilyn Monroe biography Blonde, with Naomi Watts attached to portray the iconic blonde bombshell. Whether one of his slated projects will interfere with the other’s start date remains to be seen.
Words from Casey Affleck on Cogan’s Trade, a synopsis of the novel, and my thoughts on its potential after the jump.
Affleck’s mention of the project was brief, but enthusiastic (via The Playlist):
“It’s a novel that was set in Boston that’s not going to be set in Boston unfortunately. But it’s a novel that was set in Boston, it’s a great novel and he’s got a great take on it. There’s a lot of good people in it, it’s going to be a great movie.”
Here’s the synopsis:
“Cogan’s Trade is the top-notch crime novel rated by the New Yorker as the “best” from “the Balzac of the Boston underworld.” Crackling dialogue, mordant humor, and unremitting tension drive the suspenseful stakes of the game higher in Boston’s precarious underworld of small-time mobsters, crooked lawyers, and political gofers as George V. Higgins, the writer who boiled crime fiction harder, tracks Jackie Cogan’s career in a gangland version of law and order. For Cogan is an enforcer; and when the Mob’s rules get broken, he gets hired to ply his trade—murder. In the gritty, tough-talking pages of Higgins’s 1974 national best-seller, Cogan is called in when a high-stake card game under the protection of the Mob is heisted. Expertly, with a ruthless businessman’s efficiency, a shrewd sense of other people’s weaknesses, and a style as cold as his stare, Cogan moves with reliable precision to restore the status quo as ill-conceived capers and double-dealing shenanigans erupt into high-voltage violence.”
You can read a hefty chunk of the novel over at Google Books if the summary above sounds like your cup of tea.
It’s disappointing to hear that Boston will no longer be the stage, because Casey Affleck demonstrated his gift for rapid fire, frosty exchanges with members of that city’s underworld in Gone Baby Gone. At the very least, I’m holding my breath that Dominik has kept the time period intact for his telling of the tale. He is a master of atmosphere and developing tangible landscapes, and if he can fill a sprawling, empty field with despair in Jesse James, I’m antsy to see what he’ll do with a gritty urban setting during the turbulent 70’s. But between Affleck’s intense, malicious performance in The Killer Inside Me and Dominik’s darkly comedic, courageous direction of Chopper, it’s difficult to believe this pairing of talent and material will result in anything less than spectacular.