Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad was originally going to open earlier this month, but it was shoved back to January of next year to allow for a recut of a theater shootout scene in lieu of this summer’s Colorado massacre. The director of the widely-adored Zombieland – and the not-so-popular 30 Minutes or Less – has nonetheless managed to impress Warner Bros. with his work on Gangster Squad, prompting rumors that he is (or, at the least, was) in the running to direct the studio’s Justice League movie.
However, Fleischer appears to be officially out of the running for the director’s seat on Justice League, now that Warner Bros. has, instead, signed him to direct and produce an adaptation of the 1983 Bally Midway video game, Spy Hunter.
Spy Hunter is an old-fashioned top down/vertical-scrolling arcade game where you play a spy driving an armed sportscar on the freeway. The game objective is to protect civilian automobiles by destroying enemy vehicles, with obstacles taking on the forms of bomb-dropping helicopters, sudden forks in the road, and changing weather conditions. An enhanced version of the original Spy Hunter game was released in the early 2000s for several consoles (PS2, Xbox, Game Cube), while a reboot will be available on the Nintendo DS this fall.
The property, in other words, comes with the sort of franchise potential and built-in multi-platform appeal that studios crave nowadays. Spy Hunter also has little-to-no inherent narrative, so it allows room for someone like Fleischer to come in and put their own unique spin on the spies-battling-enemies-in-cars concept; though, as we saw with Battleship, that sort of freedom can be a double-edged sword when it comes to game adaptations (be they board games or video games).
Fleischer has achieved mixed success keeping things fast, loose, and fun – while working with outlandish premises – but that’s partly due to the varying quality of scripts he’s been saddled with so far. Vulture reports that Fleischer is looking for a screenwriter to oversee his take on the Spy Hunter game, rather than drawing from an earlier draft penned by Chad ST. John (The Punisher: Dirty Laundry).
Warner Bros. purchased the film rights to Spy Hunter in 2003, when the studio had set Dwayne Johnson to star, working from a script by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt (2 Fast 2 Furious, Wanted); at the time John Woo was set to direct what would have, for sure, been a stylized adaptation of the game. However, the project went through several rewrites and delays, culminating with both Johnson and Woo moving on.
Paul W.S. Anderson was briefly onboard to write and direct in 2007, but he instead opted to tackle another crazy racing movie (Death Race) just a year later. The Spy Hunter adaptation is now regaining momentum, around the same time that other movies based on arcade games like Asteroids and Rampage are chugging along on their way to the big screen.
Does Spy Hunter sound more, less, or equally appealing/unappealing now with Fleischer is calling the shots? Or does the whole thing seem too close to a James Bond car chase sequence? Let us know in the comments section.