It’s always interesting to see classic novels reimagined into different settings. John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” doesn’t seem like it’d translate into a British crime film. Oddly enough it does but not as strongly as the source material would dictate in Best Laid Plans, an adaptation of the classic novella into a crime film in the British underworld.
Danny (Stephen Graham) is a wannabe criminal mastermind who owes money to everyone around town. His bodyguard of sorts is Joseph (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a massively powerful man with limited intelligence. With Danny’s money-making schemes always blowing up in his face, Joseph’s ability to hurt people saves him from being in a bad spot with those he’s upset. The film follows the two as Danny’s latest scheme winds up in a result he never anticipated.
Following the book fairly roughly, it’s an interesting take on Steinbeck’s classic story. Instead of farm hands wanting the “good life” it’s hoodlums and it gives the tale a different perspective. Instead of guys who will never be rich and have that life they crave its criminal behavior and wanting that good life by any means necessary. Instead of the American dream of fame and fortune it’s a British version but we understand Danny’s motivations all the same as George’s on the farm. It’s a credit to Steinbeck’s story that it could be adapted for British characters without missing a beat; the American dream was out of reach for George as easily as the British version of it is for Danny.
The key to the film is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, given a difficult task as this version’s Lenny. Robert Downey Jr. may have had a fairly humorous conversion about playing mentally handicapped with Ben Stiller in Tropic Thunder but the truth of the matter is that playing someone with mental retardation is difficult. You can’t go over the top with it but you can’t underplay it either; there’s a certain level of mental handicap that an actor has to inhabit to pull off a character like Lenny. Akinnuoye-Agbaje manages to walk that fine line fairly effectively, giving us a Lenny that’s slow but not comically so. It’s an interesting take on the character and shows just how well the literary version was written in that Joseph doesn’t feel out of place in this new world.
The problem is that the film isn’t special in any way. It’s a faithful adaptation of the source material but it’s missing that final step to take it from workmanlike to good. It’s much more intriguing on a surface level and with the change of genre than in reality; Best Laid Plans is a must for major fans of the novella but the better adaptation remains the 1939 film with Burgess Meredith.
The film’s Trailer is the only extra available.
If you ever wondered what “Of Mice and Men” would look like as a grittier British crime drama then this is your film. If you didn’t, this isn’t necessary viewing.
Well Go USA presents Best Laid Plans. Directed by David Blair. Starring Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Stephen Graham. Written by Chris Green and Jeremy Sheldon based off the novella “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. Running time: 108 minutes. Not Rated. Released: June 26, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Stephen Graham