Any fan of modern crime fiction has got to be a little jazzed about this news: The long-in-development adaptation of Don Winslow's crime novel The Winter of Frankie Machine now has a star and a director -- and it's the same team who gave us the modern crime classic Heat. Variety reports that Paramount's production, which has been on their development slate since the studio bought the rights to Winslow's novel pre-publication back in 2005, is moving forward with Michael Mann on-board to direct the long-attached Robert De Niro in the lead role. Winslow may be the best crime writer you've never heard of; his California Fire and Life is certainly my pick for one of the best page-turning thrillers of the past 20 years, and his decades-spanning, border-crossing drug epic The Power of the Dog is a knockout as well. The Winter of Frankie Machine will be shooting from a script adaptation by Brian Kopplman and David Levien (Rounders, Oceans 13), following the reluctant re-criminalization of Frank Machianno -- veteran, small businessman, surfer and ex-killer -- as all his old allegiances and alliances draw very close around him.

In a lot of ways, Winslow's book is about how easily civilized, upstanding San Diegan Frank Machianno goes back to being Frankie Machine, descending Dante-style into Hell to try and get out; it's a juicy part for De Niro, one similar to some of his more iconic roles and yet very different; Winslow's book makes no bones about the age of its protagonist, and Frank's sense of honor will make for ripe stuff in the hands of the men who created the principled-yet-predatory jewel thief Neil McCauley in Heat. With Mann on board as the director, this film just moved up several notches on my radar; now, if we can just get Peter Berg to return to that film version of California Fire and Life he was supposedly attached to, it'd be a very good time to be a fan of California crime on the big screen. ...