With today’s news that MadRiver Pictures has acquired Adair Cole’s Norco script, we’re also hearing that Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) is in final negotiations to direct. The thriller is based on the true story of a 1980 bank robbery and manhunt that rocked North Corona, California. MadRiver’s Marc Butan had this to say about the picture and the addition of Romanek:
“Adair wrote a script that tells this story with a raw, almost matter-of-fact intensity that it makes you feel like you are there. Adding Mark to the mix brings it all home, as he is one of the few filmmakers out there who provides the visual style this piece calls for but also gets the performances from actors.”
Getting the tone of this one correct is going to be a tricky balance since it could easily swing too far one way and glorify the criminals, or head in the other direction as support for the militarization of local police forces. In the Norco event, the bank-robbers were heavily armed, carrying assault rifles, shotguns and pipe bombs. The resulting shootout and high speed chase were, at the time, the most violent in American history, events which resulted in over 30 police cruisers being destroyed, the downing of a police helicopter, and a multitude of injuries. This infamous shootout is regarded as the turning point for arming local cops with automatic weapons and can be viewed as just the first step in the militarization of small-town law enforcement.
It’s certainly an interesting property to mine, even if it’s 35 years out of date. The U.S. certainly has its share of shootouts and manhunts to choose from, and more seem to be popping up around the world on a weekly basis. Will Norco be a harrowing look at a moment in American history, or simply an early installment in the modern war between cops and crooks? It’s all in Romanek’s hands now.