‘Best Seller’ on Amazon Prime and Hulu

James Woods and Brian Dennehy star in the smart little thriller written by Larry Cohen

Best Seller (1987) is a modest but smartly-scripted thriller from 1987 that holds up remarkably well, thanks to a savvy original screenplay by Larry Cohen (who was better known at the time as a cagey creator of high-concept, low-budget exploitation films) and great casting.

James Woods once again brings charm to the role of a pathologically vindictive hitman who goes to a Joseph Wambaugh-like cop/author (Brian Dennehy) to expose his former employer. This narcissist wants to be the hero of his next book and Cohen gives Woods plenty to work with, from his great lines (which he delivers with the cocky grin and a predator’s confidence) to a peacock’s pride in his work. He cannily mixes social satire and genre twists in his clever screenplay of an unlikely friendship between two men with more history than they realize; his dialogue has a bite and an unforced wit that hovers somewhere between B-movie gangster dramas and buddy pictures.

It wasn’t a hit when it came out—director John Flynn was better with character than action and never really gets the blood pumping through it—but it is still a smart, lean thriller and a minor gem of the modern crime genre.

Rated R

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Also on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Best Seller [Blu-ray]
Best Seller [DVD]

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About Sean Axmaker

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears in Vulture, Turner Classic Movies online, Keyframe, and Parallax View.

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