Top 5... - January 20, 2015

The Equalizer (and five other films adapted from TV shows)
by James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor,

The Equalizer (and five other films adapted from TV shows)

Running for four seasons between 1985 and 1989, CBS series The Equalizer was something of a cult hit. Starring the late Edward Woodward in the lead role, the show was based around the exploits of a retired covert ops agent who offered his services for free to those in need as a means of atoning for a lifetime of carrying out shady operations for an unnamed government agency. Last year, director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) saw his film adaptation hit cinema screens and next week sees its release in the UK on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Starring Denzel Washington, the film is loosely based on the TV series, with the central character and premise remaining broadly the same, save for the clarification of McCall's former role as a black ops agent. This time though, the retired operative finds himself working in a branch of hardware chain Home Mart, having promised his recently deceased wife that he would leave his old life behind.

However, that all changes when his teenage friend Teri (Chloe Grace-Moretz), a young girl who has ben railroaded into a life of prostitution, is brutally beaten and hospitalised by her pimp, Slavi (David Meunier). McCall attempts to bargain for the young girls release, offering Slavi just under $10,000 for letting her go, but when he refuses, McCall kills him and four of his henchmen in a restaurant, erasing the security footage as he leaves. When Slavi's paymasters in the Russian mafia find out he's missing, they send an assassin to McCall's home town of Boston to find and kill the culprit. When they discover his skills, however, the opt to try and recruit him instead.

Denzel turns in a solid performance as the ass-kicking retiree, adding some interesting aspects to the character such as his obsessive compulsive attention to detail, while Chloe Grace-Moretz is impressive as the young girl who finds herself in the employ of some shady characters. Adapting TV shows can be a tricky task that doesn't always pay off but Fuqua has done a decent job here. While you're waiting until next week's release to judge for yourself, we've picked five of the most successful attempts at taking an idea from the small to the big screen. You can also find the trailer for The Equalizer below...



21 Jump Street

Much like Todd Philips' 2004 reboot of the classic 70s cop show Starsky and Hutch, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's 21 Jump Street adds a comedic spin on the original series it was based on. Starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as a couple of under-performing police officers, the pair find themselves sent back to school on an undercover mission to root out the perpetrators behind an illegal drugs ring. With plenty of silly gags and more than a handful of action sequences, it's an entertaining reimagining of the original concept, and while taking a straight idea and making it funny is always a bit of a gamble, it pays off handsomely here.


The Singing Detective

Based on Dennis Potter's superb TV series of the same name that starred Michael Gambon, Keith Gordon's film version received a bit of a mixed reaction on its release in 2003, but Robert Downey Jr.'s performance saves the day here. Playing a writer who is confined to a hospital bed while suffering a debilitating skin disorder, the cocktail of medication combined with his fertile imagination leads him to imagine himself as the lead character in a detective story that is unfolding around him. Surreal, funny and packed with musical numbers, it's not quite as sublime as the TV series is was based on, but thanks to some impressive performances from Downey Jr. and a supporting cast that includes Mel Gibson, Katy Holmes and Adrien Brody, Gordon's film just about pulls it off.


Mission: Impossible

In terms of box office performance, Brian De Palma's big screen adaptation based on the long-running espionage series must rank as one of the most successful TV reboots for the big screen of all time. Largely the brainchild of its star, Tom Cruise, who convinced Paramount to stump up the film's $70m budget, the film sees Cruise's character Ethan Hunt picking up roughly where the series left off, carrying on the mantle from his predecessor Jim Phelps, played here by Jon Voigt. The film was a big hit, spawning three sequels already and Cruise is set to reprise his role in an upcoming fifth instalment of the franchise, due to arrive in cinemas this year.


The Untouchables

Even before Mission: Impossible, Brian De Palma already had some impressive form with taking concepts from TV to the cinema, having directed the 1987 feature-length reincarnation of The Untouchables. Originally aired on the ABC network in the U.S. from 1959 to 1963, the series, much like the film, was based on the memoirs of Eliot Ness, detailing his work as a federal agent in prohibition-era Chicago, particularly his battle to take down the notorious gangster Al Capone. De Palma's film starred Kevin Costner in the role of Ness, alongside Sean Connery, Andy Garcia and Robert De Niro, with the latter playing the role of Capone. The film was well received, picking four Oscar nominations in total, with Sean Connery landing the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Jim Malone.


The Fugitive

Andrew Davis has been behind some big, dumb action films over the years and he's also the man who has the dubious honour of launching Steven Seagal's acting career, having been in the director's chair for both Above The Law and Under Siege. Even so, we forgive him because his 1993 reimagining of The Fugitive is probably one of the best ever examples of taking a TV show and making it work as a feature film. Davis' film stars Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, the man wrongly found guilty of murdering his wife who then goes on the run, attempting to find her real killer and prove his innocence. The film was a gigantic hit at the box office and picked up a slew of awards, including a richly deserved Best Supporting Actor award at the Oscars for Tommy Lee Jones in the role of Kimble's tireless pursuer, Samuel Gerard. The film's relentless tension is truly gripping and Davis' Kafka-esque depiction of Kimble's world is even better than the original TV series on which it was based. It is, put simply, an all-time classic. Not to be missed.


Fancy winning a special merch bundle from The Equalizer including a Sony smartwatch? Then click here to enter purehmv's competition. 

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