Monday, November 07, 2011

Movie review

Watched a disappointing movie last night, Certain Prey, based on a novel by John Sandford. The made-for-TV movie was produced by Mark Harmon (of NCIS fame), so -- not surprisingly -- it starred Harmon "as you've never seen him"... which is a load of hooey.

Certain Prey is part of Sandford's series about Lucas Davenport, formerly Lieutenant and Deputy Chief with Minneapolis PD and later with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.  Davenport is described in most of the novels as relatively tall, ruggedly handsome (as opposed to Harmon's almost "pretty boy" looks), with a chilling smile.  Face it, Harmon just doesn't fit that bill.  I think Nick Chinlund (below) is much closer to Davenport's description of his protagonist:

"He was slender and dark-complexioned, with straight black hair goping grey at the temples and a long nose over a crooked smile. One of his central upper incisors had been chipped and he had never had it capped. He might have been an Indian except for his blue eyes." 

Harmon's Davenport is almost exactly like Harmon's Leroy Jethro Gibbs: calm, collected, wry, ready with a quip, driving insanely fast (although in Davenport's Porsche rather than Gibbs' Charger), and being an inhumanly accurate shot.  Not exactly Harmon "as you've never seen him." The only Gibbs characteristic that is missing is the headslap.

Comparing the movie to the book (which I had re-read the previous day) showed a lot of shortcuts and plot changes.  In the book, Carmel Loan and Hale Allen had a professional relationship prior to the killing; in the movie, they had had an affair several years earlier. There were many others, some understandable because of the transition from book to movie, others were unnecessary.

The biggest problem, though, was perhaps unavoidable, given the star's history.  In the book, the lead FBI agent's name is Louis Mallard.  Since the medical examiner on NCIS is Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard, that would have been a bit much.

An earlier "Prey" novel, Mind Prey, starred Eriq LaSalle (of ER), who was also one of the producers. This indicates to me that maybe Sandford (or his agent) should be a little more careful about selling movie rights (Sandford has a whole page about that fiasco here).

Now I'm not saying I could have done any better, or even that I could have done as well. I'm simply saying I think the movie could have been much, much better.

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