As the great Elmore Leonard surely discovered once or twice, adaptations of first-rate thrillers and crime novels can quickly go south in clumsy hands. That’s not something fans of author Joe R. Lansdale’s novels and stories need to worry about with Sundance TV’s Hap And Leonard, which debuts on March 2. The six-episode event series is, as my video review above says, a rollicking and loving refitting from the page to the small screen with James Purefoy and Michael Kenneth Williams as the perfectly cast best-pal leads.
Full disclosure: I moderated the panel with Purefoy, actress Pollyanna McIntosh and EP Jeremy Platt that followed the debut of Hap And Leonard at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah last month. One of the reasons I agreed to participate is because I think the series from Nick Damici and Jim Mickle is a Lone Star State noir of a good time and some mighty fine TV.
With the underbelly of the Reagan Era as the backdrop, the search for some big and very wet cash at the bottom of a river takes blue-collar ex-con Hap Collins and gay Vietnam vet Leonard Pine down some crazy Texas backroads full of would-be revolutionaries, killers, cops and chaos. Add to the mix an audacious and superb Christina Hendricks as Hap’s still idealistic but scheming ex-wife, and McIntosh plus Jimmi Simpson as part of a tenacious supporting cast.
But ultimately Hap And Leonard, on the small screen as in Lansdale’s books, is about a friendship. In portraying that relationship, Rome and The Following alum Purefoy and Boardwalk Empire star Williams simply shine. Maybe it’s because this is not the first time the two have worked together — they shared the screen a lot in NBC’s short-lived The Philanthropist in 2009. Maybe it’s simply the sheer talent of the two actors, but they are certainly a winning combo here.
Which leads me to my real question: Can we have some more, because these six episodes were just not enough.
Take a look at my review and tell us if you’ll be watching next week.