Where To Start With... Dennis Lehane
Although you may not know it, if you've seen films like Shutter Island or Mystic River you'll already be familiar with the work of Dennis Lehane. Born in Boston, Massachusetts and publishing his first novel in 1994, Lehane has already seen three of his books adapted for the screen and has also provided writing and production duties for various television shows.
Next week sees the release of The Drop, a movie which includes Lehane's first screenplay for a feature film, having adapted the script himself from one of his own short stories, Animal Rescue.
Directed by Michaël R. Roskam, The Drop stars Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace alongside the late James Gandolfini in what would become the Sopranos star's last performance, adding an extra layer of poignancy to this taut crime thriller. Hardy stars as Bob Saginowski who, along with his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) is one of the proprietors of a bar in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of New York City.
Years earlier Marv had been the bar's owner, but ceded ownership to a group of Chechen gangsters who now run the neighbourhood, using the bar as a 'drop'. In other words, the bar has become a depository for all the gang's unlaundered cash. When the bar becomes the target of a robbery and the cash is stolen, Bob and Marv find themselves caught up in an investigation that threatens to uncover years of historic criminal activity in the Brooklyn neighbourhood, not to mention getting the blame for the missing money.
Although this is only Roskam's second stint in the director's chair for a feature film following 2011's Bullhead, The Drop is a smart and tense crime thriller that you could be forgiven for assuming was delivered by a far more seasoned director. The casting couldn't be more perfect and Hardy and Gandolfini in particular deliver the calibre of performances you would expect, but much of the credit must also go to Lehane's sharp and clever writing. That shouldn't come as a surprise though; in Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, Lehane has provided one of the most popular fictional detective duos in modern literature and The Drop proves that Lehane has plenty more in his locker than simply being a crime novelist.
While you're waiting for The Drop to arrive on DVD & Blu-Ray next week, we've picked out some of the best examples of Lehane's writing appearing on our screens, plus another in the works you should keep an eye out for.
(You can also find the trailer for The Drop below...)
The first of Lehane's novels to be adapted for the big screen, Clint Eastwood's superb 2003 film earned the director an Oscar nomination for his efforts, as well as two wins in the acting categories for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins. Set in a suburban Boston neighbourhood where three childhood friends still live, the film sees their lives thrown into disarray when the mysterious death of one of their daughters sees another of them in the frame for her murder. Packed with intrigue and suspense throughout and featuring an excellent cast that also includes Kevin Bacon and Lawrence Fishburne, Mystic River is a must-watch for any crime thriller fans and an excellent introduction to Dennis Lehane's writing.
Gone, Baby, Gone
Released four years after Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone is the second of Lehane's novels to be made into a film and, to date, the only one to feature Kenzie & Gennaro, played in this case by Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan. Directed by Casey's older sibling Ben, in typical Lehane fashion the story sees what begins as a regular kidnapping case turn into a personal and professional nightmare for the two detectives charged with investigating the girl's disappearance. It doesn't quite reach the brilliant heights of Mystic River, but that’s hardly a criticism and Affleck's 2007 film is still well worth a look for any crime fans.
Martin Scorsese's excellent thriller stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshall charged with investigating the escape of a female murderer from a maximum security prison for the criminally insane, and who is believed to be hiding in the vicinity. However, not all is as it seems on Shutter Island and Daniels soon finds himself being drawn into the prison's strange and dark world. Featuring one of our favourite ever plot twists, this is Lehane's writing at its best and Scorsese does a superb job of bringing this tale to life.
Not all of Lehane's work is confined to writing crime novels, he's also contributed writing contributions for TV shows like The Wire, but one of his biggest contributions has been in his role as a writer and consulting producer for HBO's hit gangster series Boardwalk Empire. As anyone who has found themselves spellbound by the show will testify, Boardwalk Empire's gripping storylines offer yet more proof of Lehane's adaptability and skill as a writer.
Live by Night
Currently in the early stages of pre-production, Live by Night is the latest of Lehane's novels to be adapted for the screen and Ben Affleck is once again at the helm for this tale of prohibition era mobsters. Affleck himself is understood to appear in front of the lens and a number of other cast members are already attached, including Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning and Zoe Saldana. Due to be released at some point in 2016, this is definitely one to keep a look out for if you're a fan of Lehane's work.