As someone who got hooked on the lurid subject of serial killers back in high school (thanks, Thomas Harris!), I’m all for Hollywood A-listers delving into the phenomenon – i.e. provided they have a fresh take. And even if they don’t, I’ll still waste a couple of hours somewhere down the line watching any piece of trash that dabbles in the genre.
Fortunately, the just-announced The Zebra Murders: A Season of Killing, Racial Madness, and Civil Rights, based on a book by Prentice Earl Sanders and Bennett Cohen, isn’t likely to be another The Zodiac. The historical, true crime account of that other string of San Francisco serial slayings during the 1970s (perpetrated on unwitting white folk by a group of black nationalists called "The Death Angels), The Zebra Murders has been set up at DreamWorks by Brad Pitt’s Plan B shingle as a star vehicle for Jamie Foxx. Foxx will play Sanders, one of the detectives who rounded up "The Death Angels" after a spate of killings that left sixteen (and possibly more) dead. Matthew Michael Carnahan (or, as Variety has tersely credited him, Matt Carnahan) has been signed to write the screenplay.
The unique aspect of The Zebra Murders‘s narrative is the racial angle: on one hand, the killers were motivated by an extreme reading of the Nation of Islam’s militant doctrine, while, on the investigative end, the African-American detectives’ work was hampered by departmental racism. Clicking through Sanders’s Wikipedia entry (‘cuz that’s where you go for the truth), the fact that he successfully filed suit against the city for discrimination is mentioned only in passing, while his involvement in something called "Fajitagate" receives somewhat heavier play. Reading over the details of the scandal (cops brawling with civilians over a bag of Mexican take-out), I’m convinced that Fajitagate would make a fascinating motion picture. I mean, who wouldn’t pay to see a movie called Fajitagate? It’s All the President’s Men meets The Milagro Beanfield War!
Speaking of lousy box office, I’m not sure I get the wisdom of greenlighting another San Francisco serial killer flick after the financial failure of David Fincher’s Zodiac. Actually, I’d love to see Fincher take The Zebra Murders out of spite, and watch DreamWorks heat up the ongoing internecine bitch fight with their (for now) "parent" company.