"Hap and Leonard" on Sundance

by Oline H. Cogdill

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On the kind-of-long list of my favorite movies, Bubba Ho-Tep lands solidly in the middle.

This 2002 movie imagines Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy both still alive and in a nursing home, fighting an Egyptian mummy trying to capture the souls of the other residents.

Yes, a lot of suspension of disbelief is needed.

And it is further needed because Bruce Campbell, one of my favorite actors, plays Elvis while Ossie Davis is JFK.

The film is based on a short story by Joe Lansdale, who may be best known among mystery readers for his Hap and Leonard crime fiction series.

Hap and Leonard are an unlikely pairing—Hap Collins has a blue-collar background and Leonard Pine is a gay African American and they live in East Texas. One reviewer called them “investigators with a difference.” In addition to their dark stories about racism and abuse, the novels also have a wide swath of humor.

Hap and Leonard are now teaming up onscreen. The six-episode TV series Hap and Leonard is set to debut on the Sundance Channel on March 2, 10 p.m. EST, 9 p.m. CST. You can see the first trailer of the series here.

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While the trailer seems to indicate the series is a close cousin of The Dukes of Hazard, I think only the rural setting will be the commonality with Hap and Leonard.

Hap and Leonard have a much deeper backstory. Hap spent time in a federal prison and now barely makes a living picking roses on a plantation. Raised by an uncle who disowned him when he came out as a gay man, Leonard is a veteran with anger issues.

Hap and Leonard are lifelong friends who couldn’t be more different, but who offer each other unconditional friendship. The series is set in the 1980s.

I have high hopes for this series.

First, the source material works. Lansdale has been writing his series since 1990. The ninth novel in the series, Honky Tonk Samurai, comes out in February.

Second, the cast has some major players. And the two leads are personal favorites.

Hap is played by James Purefoy, a classically trained actor who joined London’s Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988. American audiences might recognize him as Joe Carroll on Fox’s The Following and Mark Antony on the award-winning HBO series Rome.

Michael K. Williams will probably always be remembered as Omar Little, the drug dealer and killer with a code on HBO’s The Wire. Williams nuanced performance gave Omar a depth that lasted throughout the series. Williams also brought that same care to his role as Chalky White, a 1920s bootlegger and impeccably dressed mayor of Atlantic City's African-American community, in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. In addition to several movies and TV series to his credit, Williams also will be featured in the HBO limited series Crime.

Christina Hendricks, late of AMC’s Mad Men, will play Hap’s ex-wife Trudy.

Photo: Michael K. Williams, left, and James Purefoy. Sundance Channel photo

Oline Cogdill
2016-01-16 17:21:09