“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” may not be the Russo Brothers’ first film but with the reception they’re getting from Hollywood, it might as well be. All it took was a $96 million opening weekend to break the sibling-filmmakers out of the comedy and sitcom ghetto—“Community” and “Arrested Development,” notwithstanding—they’d been a part of for most of their career and now they’re some studios’ top choices for new franchises.
Variety reports Sony Pictures has picked up the rights to Mark Greaney’s “The Gray Man” for the Russos to write and direct. The novel is part of a four-part series that the studio wants to blossom into a franchise (duh). As a producer told the trade, “We think this could be the next ‘Bourne Identity’ movie series.” Like that successful series, “The Gray Man” also follows a former CIA operative-turned-ultimate assassin, only this time he’s targeted by a powerful multinational corporation and must fight his way across Europe and past special forces teams from around the world in order to save the life of his handler and the handler’s family.
If all this sounds a touch familiar, ‘Bourne’ comparisons aside, it’s because the novel was originally going to be adapted by “The Immigrant” director James Gray over at New Line with Brad Pitt set to star before he once again left Gray at the altar and the entire project folded completely.
While we were a little cooler on ‘Winter Soldier’ than most—we gave it a B-minus—that doesn’t mean we’re particularly against the Russos taking a crack at the book, if the beginning of a new possible franchise opens up the filmmakers to do whatever they want in a way they probably couldn’t do over at Marvel. In other words, there’s no grand complicated mythology and universe that they have to make sure to fit into and, if nothing else, they’ll be able to fully indulge in the ’70s conspiracy thriller tone that they put to good use in the ‘Captain America’ sequel.
There’s no timeline set for “The Gray Man” but it likely won’t be coming for a few years since the Russo Brothers have to meet the 2016 release date for “Captain America 3.” What do you folks think? Can the Russos pull off the same level of success without the safety of the Marvel universe and brand?