Why Isn't This A Film? - Grand Theft Auto IV

What have we got here then?

Grand Theft Auto IV is the most recent in the series of GTA games from Rockstar and the first to be released on the 'next generation' games machines. It received great critical acclaim when it debuted in 2008 and was nominated for IGN's Game Of The Year Award that same year, losing out to eventual winner, Fallout 3.

OK fine. What’s it about?

The plot follows Niko Bellic, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, as he arrives in the fictitious American metropolis Liberty City, on a personal mission to track down the surviving two members of his army unit and root out which one betrayed them, leading to the deaths of all of the other men apart from him.

Interesting. Is there something more?

Well, it's a GTA game and therefore Niko has to get involved in running errands for gangsters somehow. The main vehicle to make this happen here is Roman, Niko's cousin, who through some bad gambling debts gets himself tangled up with some Albanian loan sharks. Niko gets rid of them and finds himself moving up through the gang-land mob chain until he's working for several levels of the Italian mafia, still all the while keeping an eye out for the men he believes betrayed him.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

Extremely and rightly heralded as one of the best games of all time. The level of detail provided in the city is great, from the distinct districts, to the recognisable New York landmarks, to the citizens who react appropriately to your actions. The little details, such as the great supporting cast headed by 'Little' Jacob are perfect and the gameplay and story more than match them, providing a really engrossing experience as your move up the mob food chain.


Perhaps you could say that the game gets a little repetitive. Often the missions revolve around going to a place to get a 'thing'. When you get there, there's normally someone to kill before you can get the 'thing' and then make your escape in a car whilst they chase you. The variety placed on this though, makes it difficult to get bored. In one scene, for example, the 'thing' is money in a bank vault and the getaway is a Heat-like shootout with your team through the streets. In another, the chase is in mid-air with helicopters and so it continues. Whilst the structure is similar, the little things again ensure your interest is retained.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

A difficult one to judge because whilst GTA IV has a very film-friendly plot, look and feel, those facts are down purely to the fact that it's so inspired by the gangster movies of the 80s and 90s, in particular Scarface, whose basic premise it borrows wholesale. If it were to get green-lit it would be a case of films imitating games, imitating films - perhaps a step too far for a coherent adaptation to emerge from. On the other hand, the plot is readily adaptable and the game has a huge following - just the kind of property Hollywood is on the look out for.

But who'd star in it?

Once upon a time we put this question out there to the twitter-verse and had three plausible names suggested for Niko in the shape of Vincent Casell, Viggo Mortensen and Callum Keith Rennie, all of whom could probably pull this off on various levels of budget and styles of film. Roman is tailor made for Oliver Platt's talents and looks to the degree where we actually can't see anyone else as him anymore. Kate McReary enters the fray later on as a love interest for Niko, a role which Michelle Monaghan would no doubt excel in whilst Jim Sturgess has a proven Irish accent and would be good as her brother Patrick. Little Jacob is more difficult to cast but having just watched and been impressed by Tony Kgoroge in Invictus I'd be willing to give him a go in just about anything right now although Martin Lawrence is proven as comedic relief if anyone wanted to go more down that route.

Will it be any good?

There is enough substantial plot already present in the game to make a decent gangster semi-epic, yes. The plot following Niko's rise up the ranks is interesting enough as it is and could be narrowed down to focus on just one or two linked gangs. If the sub-plot of him finding the guy who betrayed his unit was expanded a little and more tightly linked to the gang elements (rather than Niko just working for them in return for information, basically - what the game boils down to) then there really could be something there. Of course, if it's boiled down too much and they shoot for something much more pulpy than no, this could go the way of every videogame adaptation so far.

Anything else I should know about it?

Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that at some point, someone did actually consider making the film, with Neveldine and Taylor tapped to direct, before a rights conflict with Ron Howard's film of the same name meant the brakes were quickly applied.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.

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