3 March 2012 | Spikeopath
Cop/Killer; two sides of the same coin.
Best Seller is directed by John Flynn and written by Larry Cohen. It stars James Woods, Brian Dennehy and Victoria Tennant. Music is by Jay Ferguson and cinematography by Fred Murphy.
Cop Dennis Meechum (Dennehy) survives being shot during a robbery at the police evidence storage and writes a well received book about the events. Years later he's widowed, raising his daughter on his own and suffering from writers block as he tries to write another novel. Into his life comes Cleve (Woods), a mysterious man who saves Meechum's life and announces that he is a paid assassin and wishes Meechum to write a book about his work for a top name in industry......
Only in America Dennis.
It's a lovely hook is this, a cop and a killer paired together, their relationship explored via an uneasy buddy buddy formula, where the fruits of their partnership will bring very differing rewards. Along with the crackerjack turns from Dennehy (lovable burn-out) and Woods (cold-blooded calm), it's the smart screenplay from Cohen that makes Best Seller worthy of a rental at least. How it is going to pan out always keeps one interested in the tale, while there's clearly some snarky observations on America's lust for capital gain. Violence flits in and out to add some bloody pulp to proceedings, but ultimately it's the dialogue, the suspicious mood crafted by Flynn and characterisations that give the film its vitality.
Released in the same year as Lethal Weapon, it appears that Best Seller got lost in the slip-stream of that higher octane fuelled picture (in fact Dennehy gets to say the same "too old for this" line that Glover trademarked in Lethal Weapon). It's not on a par with Donner's movie, and it's far from perfect; the ending is a bit tamer than we would perhaps like and Paul Shenar's villain is a standard suit job, but there's good craft here on the page and on both sides of the camera. 7/10