Jump to content

Which Elmore Leonard Adaptation Should You Stream This Weekend?

Recommended Posts


In the US it’s Memorial Day weekend, which could well mean you’re planning to spend some time outdoors, maybe at a cookout or in a park, but let’s be realistic, what it probably means is that you’re in the market for a good movie. And I would propose that there’s no better accompaniment to an early summer weekend than an Elmore Leonard romp. Now, you could read the always wonderful books, and I suggest that you do, but you could also check out one of the many, many Leonard adaptations. For your weekend planning, we’re going to help you narrow down which Leonard movie is the right fit for your needs.

(Where possible, I’ll make an effort to indicate where you might stream these movies, but honestly these days, standing with the WGA during the strike, until a fair contract is reached, I’m not much inclined to shout out the streamers.)

(Also, check out: “The Great Elmore Leonard Renaissance of the Late 90s“)

Has the WGA strike got you thinking about how Hollywood works?


Get Shorty (1995) 

It’s hard to know whose performance to highlight in this one. For my money, Travolta as Chili Palmer is a perfect piece of casting, and one that takes the character off the page to conjure up some special magic: “Leo, look at me.” But then there’s also Hackman as Harry Zimm, all sleaze and hustle and dreams. And Rene Russo, who has stolen every movie she’s ever appeared in. There’s just too much to recommend this one, but for me it’s probably the Scott Frank script. On the one hand, it’s faithful to the book, almost in the extreme. But Frank manages to distill Leonard in a way no other screenwriter can: everything that’s at the essence of Get Shorty makes its way onto the screen.

Stream it on: Paramount+

Do you sometimes dream about Robert Forster? Or Pam Grier? Or both?


Jackie Brown (1997)

It’s almost funny to think Tarantino only adapted Leonard once, the two artists are so (to my mind anyway) intertwined and in conversation. Here, Tarantino is adapting from Leonard’s South Florida yarn, Rum Punch, bringing, of course, his own preoccupations to the script and a few important changes to the titular character to accommodate the immense talents of Pam Grier. Jackie Brown brings the volatility inherent in all Leonard’s work to the fore. The set pieces are more dynamic and the encounters underlined with something bizarre and dangerous, and you’ve got good oddball turns from De Niro, Bridget Fonda, and Chris Tucker. But the heart of the story, and it’s a big heart, almost surprisingly so, is Robert Forster’s Max Cherry. He and Grier are undeniably electric.

Stream it on: Tubi

How about a Western starring Paul Newman? How does that strike you?


Hombre (1967)

Hombre isn’t among the best of the Leonard adaptations, but it does give you a sense of the scope of the man’s work, a 1967 adaptation of the 1961 novel, directed by Martin Ritt and starring Paul Newman. This isn’t quite a revisionist or neo-Western, but it’s headed in that direction. There’s one interesting move I want to highlight: Newman’s Russell is a fairly reserved hero. Now that’s quite odd for a Leonard film, starring Newman, who may have been one of the actors most naturally attuned to Leonard’s chatty wavelengths, but here the performance is all gesture and restraint and what’s left unsaid. Would I have liked to see Newman in something a little wilder and more conversational? Certainly, but Newman didn’t always play to his pure strengths, and that’s one of the things that made him such a consistently fascinating and rewarding actor.

Stream it on: Starz

Those dreams we talked about before…do Clooney & J.Lo sometimes show up, too?


Out of Sight (1998)

Here’s another Scott Frank script, this time with some added flair from Soderbergh, another director who shares certain affinities with Leonard’s work but only ever made the one true adaptation. Clooney was born to deliver the Leonard patter and is obviously enjoying himself right from the film’s first minute. But of course the reason to watch this movie—any weekend of the year, more than once if you’re inclined—is the Lopez-Clooney chemistry, which is really off the charts, famously so, and is just perfectly, achingly combustible in that famous scene where they’re locked together in the trunk. I mean, this movie has other bona fides—it might well be the best Leonard adaptation ever made—but we’re all coming back to watch this one again and again for those movie star fireworks.

Stream it on: Just buy it already

Have you ever dug coal with somebody…?


Justified seasons 1 – 6 (2010 – 2015)

For sheer bulk and breadth—if you’re really looking to settle into a long weekend of wall-to-wall Leonard—you’re going to want to go stream all six seasons of Justified. Yes, it was “adapted” from the short story “Fire in the Hole,” but we’re really more into “inspiration” territory here, and I mean that as a high compliment. I’ve always liked the detail that Graham Yost and the writing staff supposedly carried various reminders labeled WWED—”What Would Elmore Do?”—to serve as their guiding light over the series run. Leonard himself was quite taken with the series and incorporated various elements back into his own fiction. And if you really need any other reason to dip into Justified, remember that Justified: City Primeval, debuts on July 18th.

Stream it on: FX on Hulu

View the full article

Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 0
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Days

Top Posters In This Topic

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



WTF is Wrong With Stephen King?

  • Create New...