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Sebastian Stan to ‘Beat the Reaper’ for Gore Verbinski and Leonardo DiCaprio

The new medical thriller will provide another dangerous arena for the Winter Soldier.
By  · Published on March 29th, 2018

The new medical thriller will provide another dangerous arena for the Winter Soldier.

Here is a film that we’ve been waiting on for a very long time. We first shared that Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights to the make the medical thriller Beat The Devil way back in January 2009. Frankly, we were getting to that point where we just didn’t think it was going to happen. Well, better late than never, because we finally have a status update.

Tracking Board reports that Gore Verbinksi has been brought on to helm the project with Sebastian Stan in the lead role. In partnership with New Regency, DiCaprio’s Appian Way looks to go full steam ahead, tapping Billions creators Brian Koppelman and David Levien to adapt the novel of the same name by Josh Bazell. I guess this thing will see the light of day after all.

The plot revolves around a medical resident burning the midnight oil at the most notorious hospital in Manhattan. Peter Brown has an affinity for navigating difficult surgeries as well as their impending malpractice suits. When a dying patient claims to recognize him as a mafia hitman, Brown’s seemingly ordinary life is obliterated for a world of assassins on both sides of the law. The novel challenges the reader’s belief in redemption while populating the pages with a myriad of action set-pieces.

Jumping off 20th Century Fox’s Gambit to tackle the moral ambiguity of Beat the Reaper seems like an upgrade for Verbinski. The director excels when steering the lives of murky protagonists, and Beat the Devil should give him plenty of opportunity to scrape the darker depths of heroism. I can’t help but feel like we’ve all just avoided another Lone Ranger scenario. Beat the Devil speaks to Verbinkski’s dark heart in ways the cajun mutant could not possibly.

For Sebastian Stan, the film has an air of comfortable familiarity. Doc Brown (no, not that one) is a hero attempting to ignore, or at least circumvent, a treacherous past. He’s a character who fits right into the emotional confines of The Winter Soldier. Over the course of the past seven years, Stan has shown the MCU audience that he can toss a S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot into his own jet engine and still be worthy of absolution just a few films later.

We’re all still waiting to see how Stan fairs in Avengers: Infinity War. Will Captain America meet an untimely end? Will Bucky take on the shield and mantle? Or will he become The White Wolf of Wakanda?

The actor has risen to become one of my favorite players of the MCU, but he’s also starting to find his place in the general pop culture landscape. He nearly stole the show in I, Tonya, pulling off some of the year’s finest mustache acting. I am eagerly awaiting his turn next to Nicole Kidman in Karyn Kusama’s crime saga Destroyer. Given those involved, that film will be anything but a routine police procedural.

Stan has a nice guy face, but the choices he makes seem to suggest a joy in subverting expectation. Beat the Devil can only push his persona of ethically challenged leading men further. I am curious to see how deep he can drag his characters before we give up on them.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)