From The Archives: 10 Great Action Thrillers – From Page to Screen

First Published Jul 19, 2015
The latest action thriller making the journey from page to screen is THE GUNMAN. With an acclaimed cast, including Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone, the film embraces Hollywood’s love of adapting crime novels for the big screen, enabling audiences to enjoy a grittier, more authentic type of action movie.
To celebrate its release, on digital platforms from 13th July, 2015 and on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th July 2015, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best action movies to be adapted from novels in recent years.

The Gunman (2015)

Based on the novel The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette, this slick, action packed thriller stars Sean Penn as former hitman Terrier. Eight years after fleeing the Congo following his assassination of that country’s minister of mining, he’s left juggling his need to atone for a violent past with the debilitating reality of post traumatic stress disorder. After an attempt is made on his life, Terrier flies to London to find out who wants him dead – and why…

The Bourne Identity (2002)

The Bourne Identity
A fan favourite, and widely regarded as the start of one of the best action trilogies of recent years, this action-packed thriller is loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name, and tells the story of a man (Damon) whose wounded body is discovered by fishermen who nurse him back to health. Unable to remember anything, he starts trying to rebuild his memory based on clues, including a number implanted on his hip which turns out to be a Swiss bank account. He soon realizes that he is being hunted and takes off with new friend Marie (Franka Potente), in a desperate race against time to find out who he is, and just why he is being tracked…

Man On Fire (2004)

The second adaptation of AJ Quinnell’s novel of the same name, Man on Fire stars Denzel Washington as a disillusioned ex-CIA officer turned bodyguard, who embarks on a desperate bid to recover his charge, 9 year-old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning) after she is abducted. Washington is perfectly cast as the unhappy, guilt-ridden former assassin, and assisted by a star turn from Fanning, the burgeoning father-daughter relationship between them avoids falling into saccharine territory.

Public Enemies (2009)

This adaptation of Bryan Burrough’s non-fiction book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34, sees Johnny Depp take the lead as notorious bank robber John Dillinger in Depression- era America. While not entirely historically accurate, there are examples of staggering attention to detail- in one scene Depp drives the actual Studebaker used by Dillinger as a getaway car.

The Town (2010)

The Town
This American crime drama, adapted from Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince of Thieves, gave Jeremy Renner his second Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor) and marked director Ben Affleck’s first leading role in six years. Focusing on a group of bank robbers in downtown Boston, The Town stars Affleck as the leader of the group, struggling with his feelings for a bank manager connected to one of his earlier heists (Rebecca Hall), as well as attempting to evade an FBI agent, played by Jon Hamm, looking to bring him to justice.

Green Zone (2010)

Director Paul Greengrass adapted Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s literary exposé Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone into this tense, high-octane thriller, which stars Matt Damon alongside Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson and Jason Isaacs. Chandrasekaran’s journalistic account is used to great effect in telling the story of Miller (Damon), an officer recruited to unearth evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Originally convinced they’re on the right track, he soon stumbles across evidence of an elaborate cover up, and slowly realizes that both sides are attempting to spin the story in their favour…

Lawless (2012)

Scene 57

Based on the novel The Wettest Country in the World by Matt Bondurant, Nick Cave penned the screenplay for this Depression-era crime drama, which recounts the lives of the three Bondurant brothers. Forrest (Tom Hardy), Jack (Shia LeBeouf) and Howard (Jason Clarke) are forced to contend with the crooked District Attorney Mason Wardell (Tim Tolin) and Special Deputy Charles Rakes (Guy Pearce), after refusing to pay the bribes required to maintain their bootlegging and distillery business… causing the locals to finally galvanise against the corrupt authorities.

Jack Reacher (2012)

Based on Lee Child’s novel One Shot, this fast-paced thriller opens with a mass assassination of five, swiftly followed by a police investigation that captures the culprit. But instead of a confession, the accused demands the authorities ‘get Jack Reacher’.  And ex-military investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is on his way; he knows the shooter to be a trained military sniper who would never miss a shot, and is certain something is not right. Soon the seemingly simple case explodes and Reacher is forced to team up with young defense lawyer Helen (Rosamund Pike) in order to track down which unseen threat is manipulating events.

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale
Based on Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name, this instalment in the James Bond series also marks Daniel Craig’s first outing as the eponymous MI6 agent. The boss of MI6, known simply as M (Judi Dench) sends Bond on his first mission as a 00, along with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to attend a poker game and prevent banker to international terrorists Le Chiffre from winning. Bond, having Vesper pose as his partner, enters the most important game in his already impossibly dangerous career. But defeating Le Chiffre is only the start- and definitely won’t guarantee his safety…

Die Hard (1988)

Loosely based on Roderick Thorp’s novel Nothing Lasts Forever, the first outing of action hero heavyweight John McClane has gone down in history as a cinematic classic, in no small part due to Bruce Willis’ wisecracking turn as NYPD officer McClane, who finds himself inadvertently thrust into a horrific hostage situation during a Christmas party with his wife at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. Locking horns with the sadistic German terrorist Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), McClane finds himself thrust into the midst of some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world- and he’s the only one who can stop them…
The Gunman is released on digital platforms on 13th July, 2015 and on Blu-ray and DVD on 20th July 2015, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.