Screenwriter Shane Salerno has inked a deal with the estate of writer Don Pendleton and publisher Gold Eagle Books, itself an imprint of Harlequin Books, to attempt to bring the character of Mack Bolan, The Executioner, to the big screen, marking the latest in 40 years of trying.
In case you might not have spent anytime perusing the bookshelf at a convenience store or bus station in the 1970s to the 1990s I'll give you the low-down.
Mack Bolan was created by Don Pendleton in the late 1960s for a market that's pretty much forgotten now, paperback novels for men. They started as the simple story of a Vietnam veteran becoming a vigilante when his family falls victim to Mafia exploitation. At first he's just using heavy calibre weapons to kill gangsters and hippies, but then he ends up working for a covert agency taking on foreign spies and international terrorists. He's even been cited as an inspiration for Marvel Comics character The Punisher.
Over the decades dozens of authors have written literally hundreds of Mack Bolan adventures and his name was put on a short lived action/mystery mag, and since the beginning people have been trying to get a movie made. Steve McQueen, Vin Diesel and everyone in between have tried, and usually never get past the development stage.
Salerno is hoping to get a script together, get a star attached to the script, and then get someone to produce the film.
It's an unconventional way to get a movie made, and I wish him luck, but there's a big roadblock that I don't think even the Executioner can blow up.
It's called the "R-Rating."
I'm no expert, having never read a Mack Bolan book, but I do believe that they're known for their over-the-top high calibre sex and violence.
Hollywood has proven to be increasingly reluctant to pull the trigger on an R-Rated action movie that above a certain budget. That's because R-Rated movies have recently hit a wall when it comes to what they can pull in at the box office. Media outlets get iffy about when and where advertisements for R-Rated movies can go, and who can see them.
Since Hollywood can't seem to make a romantic comedy for less than $80 million these days, an over-the-top action/crime thriller made by Hollywood could easily top $100 million budget-wise, and about the same for marketing. That's a lot of money for a movie and the studio will want to hedge its bets by removing what made the franchise's name, making it PG-13 at least so they can sell it to brain-dead teens who have probably never even heard of the Executioner book franchise.
So this project is a high risk venture, no matter how you slice it. Make it like the books, run the risk of diminishing the box office, make it PG-13 and it becomes just another action movie completely indistinguishable from the other action movies.