Thursday, November 15, 2012

FILM THIS: Frank Miller's Hard Boiled

FILM THIS – Graphic Novels That Should Be Made Into Feature Films

Hard Boiled
Writer: Frank Miller
Artist: Geof Darrow
Colorist: Claude Legris
Year: 1990-1992

Hard Boiled is a graphic novel that could definitely benefit from an outrageous live-action feature film extravaganza. With its high octane pension for action and its obsessive lust for gore and everything unsavory and taboo, this outstandingly graphic story is a cut above the rest when it comes to delivering a sordid tale of sex, violence, and debauchery, while exhibiting a thought-provoking narrative that plays with the notion of reality and what it means to be human in an inhuman world. Before we dive into this chaotic nightmare, I must warn you that spoilers for the graphic novel are abundant in this write up so proceed with caution.

The story is set up in the most simplistic, yet bombastic, of ways, featuring an abundance of style over substance, or at least artificially speaking. The manic tale begins with the introduction of a harsh and cruel future world based on a dystopian Los Angeles, where sex and violence go hand in hand. We are plopped down right smack dab in the middle of the horrifying climax of a brutal shootout between an unknown man and a tax collector named Nixon. After a bloody battle and a countless number of lives being extinguished from the relentless hail of gunfire and mayhem, Nixon comes to find that he is the last man standing and is quickly rushed off for some extensive surgery to save his now deteriorating body.

Sometime later Nixon wakes up, only to find he is lying in bed surrounded by a wife, two kids, and a pleasant normal life. Believing that all that he had previously experienced to be nothing more than a lucid dream, he continues on in this new life under the name Carl Seltz, insurance investigator for the Benevolent Assurance Corporation. As he continues on with his day, pursuing a delinquent account, he begins to slowly unravel. Who is he? Why does he keep mixing up his name? What is his purpose in life? And why does he have so many memory gaps?

Things then go from bad to worse when he finally comes into contact with his target, an old woman and a young girl. As another bloodbath ensues and explosions and brain matter begin to paint the sky, Carl comes to the shocking realization that the delinquent that he is pursuing is actually a robot, who in turn informs Carl that he too is a cybernetic being. Denying the truth before it has time to wrap itself around his brain, Carl destroys the robot with a grenade blast that sends him cascading into a supermarket. After gathering his bearings, the truth begins to settle in as portions of Carl’s flesh have been ripped away by the destruction of the blast, revealing his metallic skeletal frame underneath.

Lost in a sea of confusion, Carl finds some solace in the form of a talking robotic dog who tells him his whole sordid tale and the origins of his existence. It turns out that Carl is a cybernetic corporate assassin created by Willeford Home Appliances in order to take out the competition. His wife, kids, and memories were planted by the corporation in order for him to maintain a form of normalcy and keep him in check. Taken aback by the news, Carl tries to come to terms with this newfound knowledge and then sets off to the corporate headquarters to get some more answers. What follows is a gruesome, gore induced stooper that amps up the brutality factor of this violent tale to unparalleled levels, resulting in a twist ending that really kicks the reader squarely in the crotch. It’s a dynamite yarn that begs to be brought to the silver screen and in the most frantic of ways.

What stands out most in this depraved universe that Frank Miller has concocted, is the dire conditions that exist in this future society. It is a depressing, overcrowded cesspool, brimming with sin and embedded with violence, and both Frank Miller and Geof Darrow pull no punches in depicting the harshness of it all. If brought into feature form, the visuals alone would be something to write home about, and the treatment of Hard Boiled would have to be of the most ballsy of epic proportions. The visual look of the graphic novel resembles something out of a Where’s Waldo book, only covered in blood, bone shards, and brain matter, so the resulting translation into motion picture territory could run with that and make quite a visual feast for the senses.

On top of its copious imagery, Hard Boiled is in a sense a very turbulent beast. There is a sadistic quality to the story and to the characters that inhabit it. The violence is almost too sleazy and overblown, and I admit that I doubt anyone would have the cajones to capture just how wild of a ride this novel is. This is definitely hard R territory, and the combination of sex and violence that is on display is enough to put any open minded cinema lover in uncomfortable, yet entertaining waters. What makes this over saturated smorgasbord of brutality and bedlam work so well is that it uses its future setting and surroundings to collaborate that the world depicted in this graphic novel is, quite frankly, crazy. Any filmmaker taking on this project would have to embrace that attitude fully and run hog wild with the concept.

At the end of the day, the film adaption would be just pure unadulterated entertainment, and who isn’t looking for that in a feature film. I for one would be knocked on my ass if I got a chance to witness Nixon’s rampage-like battles on the big screen. Just imagine a sea full of people seemingly trapped amidst a hellish barrage of gunfire, only to be overtaken by a cacophony of explosions and car crashes that would rival any in motion picture history. A stylistic director could even add in an operatic and dramatic style, slowing down the speed of the scene, allowing the viewers to soak up all of the insanity the same way Geof Darrow does when elaborately constructing his double panel layouts of destruction. In the right hands it could be visual poetry, displaying a violent symphony which, though savage in nature, results in a hellish work of art.

Though the reality of having a feature film with the same grit and gusto of the original Hard Boiled graphic novel is nothing more than a pipe dream, I still think a production of this ilk would be one hell of a fun time. The visuals are in place and the attitude is definitely primed for the silver screen, all we need now is a filmmaker and crew who are as badass and relentless as the novel. Until that day comes, I’m going to enjoy this ridiculous graphic novel for what it is and that’s pure outrageous entertainment. Now will someone get off of their ass and…..

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