Tom Cruise makes a great villain. Every time he plays a character with even a shred of darkness-- from Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia to Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder-- critics and audiences alike fall all over themselves to praise him. But Cruise doggedly sticks to the hero roles, even as audiences show less and less interest in seeing what he has to offer.

But now Cruise might be going full-on villain, in a movie that has the potential to save not only his career, but the studio he runs. Cruise and United Artists have picked up the rights to Monster of Florence, according to Variety, a serial-killer thriller based on a real series of murders that took place in the Italian city between 1968 and 1985. Something like the Zodiac killer of Italy, the mysterious Monster of Flofrence committed eight double homicides and was never caught.

Cruise is only formally signed on as a producer, and apparently may consider starring once he reads the script by Chris McQuarrie. Since the book follows the story of the writers themselves, as they investigate and even interview the man they believe to be the killer, Cruise may not even be interested in playing the killer role. In that case, Monster of Florence could turn out like any other procedural drama, and might be another nail in the coffin of the already wobbly United Artists.

But think of how amazing it would be for Cruise to play a serial killer, and an Italian one at that. To completely dig into the inherent creepiness he's managed to overcome all his life, and use those giant, shiny teeth as a tool of murder rather than charm. It's a gamble, of course, and could be a spectacular flop, but it would surely garner the same attention that Cruise's showy role in Tropic Thunder did. Cruise's career may no longer be in free-fall, as it seemed not so long ago, but now is the time for him to take risks. Monster of Florence seems like it would be a good one.

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