ADAPT THIS: Could Garth Ennis’ ‘Streets Of Glory’ Bring Back The Western?

There’s been no shortage of comic books jumping from the shelves to the big screen lately, but as any fan will attest, there are still a lot of great books out there flying below Hollywood’s radar. In this weekly feature, we’ll take a look at stories that merit attention from filmmakers — and offer some thoughts on why (and how) they should be brought to the big screen.

THE STORY: “Streets of Glory” by Garth Ennis and Mike Wolfer

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Writer Garth Ennis previously earned the attention of Hollywood for his irreverent, adult-oriented take on organized religion in “Preacher,” but he turned his focus to the Wild West in 2007’s “Streets of Glory.” The six-issue series follows a gunfighter in his twilight years as he’s forced to confront danger from both his bloody past and the industrialization that will bring an end to the era.

White-haired, hard-nosed and weathered by the sins of his past, Joseph R. Dunn is well aware that he’s a holdover from a rapidly closing chapter in American history. His efforts to peacefully transition into whatever future awaits an old gunslinger are complicated by various forces, including a terrifying enemy from his past, looking to bring an early end to him and the way of life he represents.

THE APPEAL: “Streets” is a gritty, violent tale with a main character as unappealing aesthetically as he is morally, but Dunn is impossible to look away from once he sets his mind — and guns — on seeing something through to its blood-soaked end. Packed with a surprisingly robust cast of villains whose motives run the spectrum from simple vengeance to cold, calculated machinations, Ennis’ tale is the final, grim chapter of a character whose life has been defined by violence — and Dunn’s realization that, no matter what he does, his life will end in violence, too.

Combining the gritty realism and savagery of HBO’s “Deadwood” with the reluctant hero and redemptive narrative of a film like “Unforgiven,” Ennis’ “Streets of Glory” is a gut-churning story from the last days of an era that refused to leave without a fight.

CASTING CALL: While an actor like Clint Eastwood is an easy call for the role of Joe Dunn, Tommy Lee Jones would seem equally capable of bringing the grizzled gunfighter to life — especially given his performances in Western-themed films like “The Missing” and “No Country For Old Men.”

The similar age of actor Wes Studi, who played the cruel Huron warrior Magua in 1992’s “The Last of the Mohicans,” would seem to make him a perfect choice for the role of the sadistic Apache renegade Red Crow in a “Streets of Glory” movie.

ADAPTATION POTENTIAL: While there’s little in the way of special effects necessary to bring “Streets of Glory” to life on the big screen, the costs inherent to such a period piece can be a negative mark. Additionally, Ennis and Wolfer’s grisly scenes of death and torture in the Wild West would almost certainly garner a hard “R” rating — but with filmmakers shying away less and less from the dreaded “R” these days, that might not be as much of a drawback as it once was.

One of the advantages a potential adaptation could have, however, is Ennis’ name on the project. The celebrated author is no stranger to the movie world, and already has options in place for the aforementioned “Preacher,” as well as his irreverent superhero series “The Boys” (co-created with Darick Robertson) and several other projects in both the comics and gaming worlds. He’s a known, popular commodity that could put a significant contingent of comic book fans in theaters’ seats — and a good adaptation will only increase that loyalty to films adapted from his work.

Movie audiences’ appetites for genre films such as westerns, vampire or zombie horror flicks and war movies (and even, as “Pirates of the Caribbean” proved, pirate tales) tend to operate on a cycle. All it takes is one great film to make a genre “hot” again, though. Could that film be “Streets of Glory”?

“Streets of Glory” is published by Avatar Press, and features a story by Garth Ennis and art by Mike Wolfer.

What do you think of a film based on “Streets of Glory”? Who would you cast in the film? Let me know your thoughts on this, as well as any other books you’d recommend for an “Adapt This” column, in the comment section below!

Previously in “Adapt This”:
Alex Robinson’s “Too Cool To Be Forgotten”