I found Best Seller interesting for a couple of reasons but the main one is that it takes itself seriously. The story is about a hitman (James Woods (Vampires, Once Upon a Time in America)) who wants to get revenge on his boss. But instead of just killing him he decides to ruin his life by publishing a book about all the illegal shit that he had Woods do. Woods doesn’t know how to write a book though so he courts Brian Dennehy (Tommy Boy, First Blood) to do it. Dennehy is an accomplished author that just can’t seem to come up with any new stories lately so this opportunity sounds interesting. The real dilemma here is that he’s also a cop. So most of the movie is about Woods trying to convince Dennehy that he’s a real hitman by gathering up evidence that he used on past jobs and Dennehy biding his time to figure out a way to bust both Woods and his scumbag boss.
Now as I was watching this I couldn’t help but think that if this was made today then it would be a comedy. I could easily picture this thing being like The Last Shot or Analyze This or some shit. You cast two actors that look kind of silly together, place them in an absurd situation and just sit back and watch the magic happen. Thankfully Best Seller doesn’t go this route and we get a decent crime drama. Woods is desperate for Dennehy to believe him because he needs this book to be written if his plan is going to work. And Dennehy realizes that he could have a “best seller” on his hands but he can’t just let this guy walk after confessing all of these crimes. Their relationship is a complicated and depending one. They both need each other in order to get what they want but when they do, what’s next? They have different ideas of how they see their relationship developing. For instance Woods gives Dennehy a watch as a gift as if they’re friends and everything’s cool but Dennehy gives it right back to him because he doesn’t want them to be pals. It’s hard to tell if Woods genuinely wants to be friends or if he’s just putting up a false front so he can kill Dennehy later. It’s that type of handling of the material and giving the audience something to ponder that makes this one not bad.
Unfortunately Woods isn’t over the top in this role but he’s still fun to watch nonetheless. There are a couple of times though when he does some crazy shit like he uses a cigarette to burn the palm of his hand to show Dennehy that pain doesn’t bother him. It’s still quality James Woods, just not Woods to the max.
Dennehy does a great job here and I could easily see him as a cop. He has the right build and attitude. I feel like I’m in good hands whenever he pops up in a movie. He looks like he’s constantly thinking about what his next move is going to be and how to play his reaction to the stuff that Woods shows him. Dennehy is such a pleasure to watch because he makes it seem so effortless.
John Flynn directed this and he’s the mastermind behind Out for Justice. He did Lock Up too which was great but Out for Justice is a top 10 action movie (at least for me). Best Seller isn’t an action film but Flynn has a good sense of what’s exciting and he keeps the tension pretty taught throughout this one.
I liked this movie. I mean it’s no masterpiece but there’s enough good stuff here that certainly makes it enjoyable.