Denzel Washington once again demonstrated that he deserves his “Oscar-winner” title last year, with his performance in director Robert Zemeckis’ Flight. The film tells the story of an incredibly-skilled pilot (Washington) who pulls off a miraculous crash-landing – but struggles to be accountable for his drinking problem – and it marked a welcome change of pace for Washington – given that, admittedly, he’s been operating well-inside his comfort zone in recent years (with movies like Unstoppable and Safe House).
The actor has his eye on another starring vehicle – a cinematic adaptation of the upcoming novel Shovel Ready – to follow his next project, which is a movie reboot of the semi-cult 1980s crime/drama TV series The Equalizer. Both of these films will feature Washington in a more traditional capacity, as he portrays a principled and monastic warrior-turned defender of the common people. (Mind you, that’s not a knock on his skills – after all, nobody plays “Denzel Washington” like Denzel.)
Shovel Ready is based on the book written by the New York Times culture editor Adam Sternbergh (you can read his work here) that will be published next year. Deadline – which has the exclusive on the Washington news – describes it as follows:
In a bombed-out, near future New York City where most of the population escapes reality by tapping into a digital fantasy world, a contract killer is hired to kill the daughter of a powerful, maniacal evangelist. Ultimately, the killer becomes the girl’s protector.
Deadline is reporting that Washington has only begun “early talks” to join the dystopian sci-fi novel adaptation at this point. The Equalizer has taken some time to come together – and been considered by several respectable directors over the past year – but, finally, the project is now set to reunite Washington with Antoine Fuqua, a.k.a. the Shooter and Olympus Has Fallen filmmaker (who directed Washington to an Oscar in Training Day). Once production wraps on that picture, then Washington will be available to star in whatever film he pleases.
Shovel Ready, by the sound of it, shares plot and character elements in common with previous Washington vehicles like The Book of Eli and Man on Fire (among others). Meanwhile, the concept of a dystopian society – where people escape through futuristic means – is reminiscent of the setup in Dredd, where the reality-altering Slo-Mo drug provides a break from the harshness of reality – in addition to various other entries in the sci-fi genre from the past decade.
Sternbergh’s literary source material may be derivate of numerous stories that’ve come before it, but the same could be said about many a recent genre film/book (culture builds on culture, after all); it’s the execution of a compelling narrative and engaging arc for the protagonist that makes all the difference. (See: Oblivion vs. After Earth, for two vastly-different takes on the post-apocalyptic sub-genre, in terms of content and quality.)
Likewise, Shovel Ready may be all-too-familiar terrain for Washington as an actor but, again, nobody works better in this kind of material that he does. It’s safe to say this film will have a built-in audience waiting for it, should a deal be worked out to bring the A-lister aboard.
The Shovel Ready novel will be published on January 14th, 2014. We’ll keep you posted on the film adaptation as more information is made available.