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For years Peter Berg had a fairly strong reputation as a director who took on tough-guy projects in style. He directed the Friday Night Lights movie and eventually directed the TV show, revealing the soul behind all those musclebound high school linebackers. He directed the 2003 crime caper The Rundown, which revealed the greatness of The Rock as a movie star long before most of us noticed. He made Middle East thriller The Kingdom, and the dark superhero tale Hancock-- sure, neither of those two were masterpieces, but they were different and interesting, and that counts for a lot.
Then came last year's Battleship, the board game adaptation exactly as ridiculous as it sounded that, worst of all, was pretty soundly rejected by moviegoers too. After costing a well-publicized fortune the movie made just $65 million in the United States, piling on to star Taylor Kitsch's rotten year and effectively ending Berg's chances at becoming the next Zack Snyder or Michael Bay. But you know what? He really didn't need that anyway. For his next project Berg will be returning to what he does best: modestly budgeted movies about tough guys with a fascinating story. Deadline reports that Berg will be joining Mark Wahlberg and Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan on American Desperado, an adaptation of the book of the same name.
Berg and Wahlberg just worked together on the upcoming Lone Survivor, about a group of Navy SEALs captured by the Taliban, but American Desperado may put the two in an even more intense situation. Jon Roberts and Evan Wright wrote the book together about Roberts' own experiences both running guns for the CIA and smuggling cocaine for Colombia's terrifying Medellin cartel. Roberts was a key figure in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys, which has gone through its own attempts at becoming a feature film. Wahlberg, who is apparently very committed to playing Roberts, was once trying to get David O. Russell to direct the adaptation, but apparently going the American Desperado route-- and focusing more specifically on Roberts' crazy life-- is the best route to go.
It's actually wonderful to see a director recover as well as Berg has from a major flop like Battleship. He seemed to know he was taking a big gamble on a big, dumb studio project like that, and when it didn't work out he knew exactly what to do-- basically, return to what he's best at. And Wahlberg, for his various limitations, ought to be really, really good at playing an ego-driven gangster, especially one who seemed infinitely willing to switch sides. Roberts might have been smarter than Wahlberg's latest dumb crook, but he's way more than up to the challenge, especially with the writer who blessed him with all those glorious swears in The Departed backing him up.