Kim Jee-woon Directing Ed Brubaker’s ‘Coward’

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The English-language debut of South Korean director Kim Ji-woon (I Saw the Devil; The Good, the Bad, the Weird) didn’t land with much impact. But the piffle of a reception given The Last Stand hasn’t frightened the director off making films outside his native country. And now Kim has latched on to a project that perhaps suits his own proclivities much better than did the Arnold Schwarzenegger action film.

Kim will next make Coward, based on the first storyline from the much-praised comic book series Criminal written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Sean Phillips. Brubaker also adapted the script. Coward is a lean and very mean story of robbery big and small, of double-crosses, and best intentions that are blown all to hell.

Variety reports that Kim is now on board the project, in place of David Slade, and frankly that’s a pretty thrilling development. (No disrespect intended towards Slade, but I’m very interested to see how the man who made I Saw the Devil will approach this story.)

Coward revolves around Leo Patterson, a lifetime criminal who is the son of a famed robber. Leo is known as both a perceptive heist man and coward who will bail at the first sign of trouble in order to preserve his own skin. It’s cowardice in the eyes of others, but a simple set of rules for Leo. The story sees Leo recruited by a one-time partner and a crooked cop who have an armored truck heist in mind. There are many angles to the story, which involve aspects of Leo’s family and his own personal history, as well as the hidden aspects of Leo’s true nature.

Coward isn’t the best of Brubaker’s Criminal story arcs, but that only means that Coward is a damn fine crime tale rather than a stone cold classic of the genre. It is a tightly-written and compelling story that cuts out every bit of fat. My only concern here is that Kim isn’t a guy known for brevity; all of his films have left me feeling that there’s a tighter, more effective cut still lurking in the corner of the edit bay. Coward needs to be devoid of all excess; hopefully having Brubaker script will ensure that the film keeps the tightly-wound core intact, and gives Kim a chance to bring it to compelling visual life.

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