Renny Harlin had been hoping to get back to ‘real’ movies with Mannerheim, about Finnish politician Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, but financing for that project fell apart at the last minute. So Variety reports that he’s now set to direct a film based on the five-day conflict between Russia and Georgia, which took place on August 8 2008. This project is coming together fast, with Harlin just getting the script weeks ago, and will be a low-budget affair. But maybe that’s just what Harlin needs to break him out of the cycle of big, bad Hollywood movies.
The film will shoot in September in locations that are close to where the conflict actually took place. Variety pre-emptively describes the project as ‘gritty’, and says the story follows “an American journalist and his cameraman who arrive in Georgia on assignment, get caught in the crossfire as war erupts around them, and then have to deal with their obligation to be impartial journalists and their sympathy to locals they’ve met.”
Harlin is such a strange case study in the lineage of foreign filmmakers who’ve come to Hollywood. He’s never had the breakout success of Paul Verhoeven, and his best work in the US stands pretty much as entertaining schlock. (Don’t try to deny the entertainment value of Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea or The Long Kiss Goodnight, but only the latter is elevated beyond goofy, thanks to Shane Black’s script.) Even he admits his career isn’t what he thought it would be.
[New Line co-founder] Bob [Shaye] said, `Renny, remember not to start smoking the Hollywood crack pipe, because it will give you a quick high, but you’ll get hooked and you’ll feel awful later on.’ I did smoke the Hollywood crack pipe to a certain extent, I got sucked into making commercial movies. Now that I’m a little older, I feel differently.
“I’ve waited a long time to find something with substance and reality,” Harlin told Variety. “When I got this script two weeks ago, it was exactly what I had been looking for, a great human story, with tragic, serious overtones. I saw it as my opportunity to use my experience in action films to tell the story of a complex conflict that is impartial, but makes a strong anti-war statement.” I’ve told many a Renny Harlin joke in my day, but I’d love to see him make that incredibly difficult career left-turn and start making movies that are worth a damn. I don’t know if this is the one, but it’s got a better chance than 12 Rounds did.