The stars of yesterday now are making three films a year you never knew existed until they show up on Netflix.
In my prior life as a script reader, I certainly read a lot of bad scripts, but at times, an even more common occurrence was a script that seemed to do a great many things right, but somehow fell just short of being something you wanted to champion as a movie. As draining as the terrible scripts were, there’s something pure about clear-cut bad. It takes little effort to explain why they’re unfit.
The real challenges were the scripts that had kind of a decent premise, kind of an okay twist or two, and a lead character who wasn’t bad so much as he or she was just… there. The raw materials are there for what COULD be a script. They just happen to be assembled in the least compelling way possible. It’s competent enough that it feels close to being a movie, but it’s raw enough that you won’t want to put your job on the line to tell someone else to read it. Scripts like this often got the “Consider with Reservations” ranking. If you’ve worked in Hollywood, you’ve probably read a number of scripts like this. If you’re not in the biz, it’s hard to find a good analogy to explain these scripts that need more time to bake.
Then, after a trip to Netflix one recent afternoon, I realized there’s an easy series of examples I can point to. In their library at any given time, you’ll stumble across a ton of recent films you’ve never heard of that star former mega-stars like Nicolas Cage, Bruce Willis, John Cusack, and Pierce Brosnan.
The men who headlined some of the biggest films of the eighties and nineties now film entire movies that no one knows exists until they show up under the heading “Because you liked Con Air.” Just going back five years, here are the films of just ONE of those aforementioned actors: Stolen, The Croods, The Frozen Ground, Joe, Rage, Outcast, Left Behind, Dying of the Light, The Runner, Pay the Ghost, The Trust, Snowden, The USS Indianapolis, Dog Eat Dog, Army of One, Arsenal, and Vengeance: A Love Story. That’s SEVENTEEN films! How far into that list were you before you were sure I was talking about Nicolas Cage?
Most of those movies are basically direct-to-DVD thrillers in their latest incarnation, but there are a few interesting choices there. Army of One is an unusual quirky film from director Larry Charles (Borat) about a man who believes he’s on a mission from God to capture Osama bin Laden. It’s not the sort of movie that would have done well theatrically. It’s thoroughly bizarre from start to finish (Russell Brand plays Jesus, just to give you a baseline), and the kick of seeing Cage play way against type as a crazy schlub is often tempered by the fact it’s still “Nic Cage as a crazy guy.” He doesn’t disappear into the role and it sorta feels like we’re watching what would be a movie in the Nic Cage version of Jean Claude Van Johnson.
I’m not even sure…