Over time, a film adaptation of any story — timeless or otherwise — can become misconstrued or twisted 'round to the point where it, frankly, bears little resemblance to its original source material. Two recent examples that come instantly to mind were the oh-so-awful incarnations of Gulliver's Travels and Mr. Popper's Penguins. Fortunately, there are highly inventive adaptations as well, such as Jake Kasdan's Zero Effect — a late '90s modernization of Sherlock Holmes — and several just straight-up so-wacky-you-can't-help-but-love-it offerings like the '70s blaxploitation classic, Blacula.
But whereas the aforementioned titles all bore the thematic element of fantasy, most "believable" works of fiction tend to be excluded from the more wild re-workings. Such is not the case, though, with Best Laid Plans, a 2012 British drama loosely based on John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and which finds its main characters diving into the world of sleazy, ultra-violent cage fighting (!). Stephen Graham (Boardwalk Empire, Snatch) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost) assume the roles of Danny and Joseph, who are in-turn based on the characters (or perhaps caricatures) of George and Lenny, respectively.
Set in Nottingham, England, Best Laid Plans finds Joseph — a mentally-challenged hulk of a being with a heart of gold — under the questionable care of career loser Danny. In deep with local mobsters, Danny's apparent salvation begins to materialize before him when Joseph stands up for his benefactor one fateful afternoon — a defensive act that soon lands the gentle giant in the ring, with his misguided pal egging him on in the act of exploitation.
Sure, it's a repulsive thought, but director David Blair and screenwriter Chris Green do their best to keep the gritty drama going — and do so rather well, I feel: something Green furthers by adding love interests for both characters. Here, Danny falls for a local prostitute (like I said, he's a career loser), while Joseph meets a mentally-challenged woman. Additionally, our lead actors (particularly Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who is nothing short of impressive) keep the fire burning. David O'Hara is the ruthless mob boss, Maxine Peake plays Akinnuoye-Agbaje's gal-pal, and Emma Stansfield turns in an honest performance as the tormented woman of the night Graham attempts to woo.