I don’t know how big director Justin Lin’s plate is, but it’s almost certainly filled to capacity now that he’s stepped away from the Fast & Furious franchise and started branching back out into cinema that won’t necessarily involve Vin Diesel looking cool while things zip around in front of the camera. The latest of Lin’s upcoming conquests is a narrative adaptation of The Battered Bastards of Baseball, the compelling sports documentary directed by first-time filmmakers Chapman and Maclain Way. It’s encouraging that Lin keeps taking on interesting projects to balance the bigger action films, as he’s too talented to strictly adhere to the Michael Bay formula.
The Battered Bastards premiered at Sundance Monday to high acclaim, and Lin reportedly went to bat for the film himself, according to THR, beating out studios such as Columbia and Fox Searchlight for the rights to the film. He’ll be self-financing through his Perfect Storm production company, founded last year with Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios, so it sounds like he’s got more than enough passion to tell this story himself.
Not strictly an underdog tale, the pic will follow the formation of the 1973 Portland Mavericks, the only independent American baseball team at the time. The Mavericks were founded by Hollywood character actor and former minor leaguer Bing Russell, who held open tryouts for the public, Those who competed for positions were often athletes past their prime, and also a number of actors, including Russell’s son Kurt, better known to audiences as Snake Plissken, and Todd Field, the team’s batboy that later went on to become the Oscar-nominated writer and director of In the Bedroom and Little Children.
The team’s successes in the Northwest league from 1973 to 1977 were against the odds, adding up to an interesting slice of sports history that combines the inside baseball minutiae with the spectacle of the sport itself. One of the film’s central roles will probably be writer and ex-Major Leaguer Jim Bouton, who spent the bulk of his early career with the Yankees. Bouton returned to baseball with the Mavericks after years of retirement and was the co-creator of Big League Chew bubble gum.
This is a fairly detailed story, and how Lin approaches the material is a big factor. If he goes about it like a comedy, similar to his Finishing the Game, it might work with the right set of actors. But inspiring true tales are always on the forefront of awards-addled minds, so perhaps a more dramatic hand would serve him best. Either way, it should be a solid peanuts-and-crackerjacks trip through feel-good fiction.
But when will it happen? His Fast & Furious 6 follow-up looked like it was going to be the next Bourne film, with the big-budget remake of 1982’s The Shaolin Temple. The Battered Bastards won’t be a film weighed down with post-production special effects, so perhaps we’ll see it sooner rather than later.