Quentin Tarantino Almost Remade The 1970s Thriller The Outfit

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Richard Stark's Parker books are pure pulp pleasure. They're nasty, unsentimental crime novels written with a brutal economy. The prose is stiletto sharp, the stories shaved to the narrative bone. Once you read "The Hunter," which introduces us to the underworld shenanigans of a skilled robber named Parker, you have to read them all – and you can do so in a remarkably short span of time. These books are short and addictive.

Stark's work is so thrillingly vicious that you're occasionally concerned for the author's mental well-being. The author might actually be worried, too, as Stark is the pen name for legendary noir novelist Donald E. Westlake. By all accounts, Westlake, who passed away in 2008, was a lovely man, which makes Parker's adventures the most entertaining therapy sessions ever put to paper. Better to type out one's worst, repressed impulses than act on them.

Unsurprisingly, Quentin Tarantino is a massive Stark fan. Though many critics compared his early work to Elmore Leonard (an analogy Tarantino enthusiastically embraced when he turned the author's "Rum Punch" into "Jackie Brown"), "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction" pulsate with the meanness of Stark. So if you're wondering why Tarantino never tried his hand at a Parker movie, well, Tarantino wonders that as well.

The crime flick classic we never got to see

In his new book, "Cinema Speculation," Tarantino dishes randomly on his movie likes and loves and hates. At one point, he hits upon John Flynn's no-frills adaptation of Stark's "The Outfit" (the third book in the Parker series). There's nothing wrong with Flynn's film at all, but, as with "The Hunter" (which spawned John Boorman's "Point Blank," "Brian Helgeland's "Payback" and Taylor Hackford's woefully uninspired "Parker"), there's room for another interpretation. And Tarantino nearly made it happen. As he writes in his book:

"I considered doing an adaptation of the book in the late nineties, with Robert De Niro as Parker, Harvey Keitel as Cody, and Pam Grier as Bett. And just writing that now makes me wish I would have done it."

"The Outfit" is the climax of an arc that begins with "The Hunter." Parker has drawn the ire of a major crime syndicate, and, rather than skip out of town, goes to war with the entire organization. It's macabrely funny, but not the kind of story that gets better with adornment. Flynn understood this, but I'm not sure Tarantino would take the same tack. He likes to hang out with his characters. Parker doesn't hang out. Parker does his job with ruthless efficiency. I'm not sure this would've worked.

But his casting instincts are, as ever, spot on. Robert Duvall made for a terrific Parker in Flynn's film, but De Niro would nail the humorlessness of the character. So add Tarantino's "The Outfit" to the list of alternate-dimension films I'd drive through a mountain to see.