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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
This week’s installment of our feature What Went Wrong? will be all about two under-performing films I recently rented from the Redbox. As such, I will go much more in-depth with these two films. The feature may look a bit different than in other weeks, and I may go into some plot-revealing details and spoilers. Please keep that in mind!
Man on a Ledge (2012)
In this 2012 thriller film, Sam Worthington plays Nick Cassidy, an ex-cop/convicted jewel thief who is so intent on proving his innocence he can barely contain his Australian accent. Also starring Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, a wasted Edward Burns, and a bored Ed Harris, Man on a Ledge is a would-be taut thriller film about what happens when an innocent man is pushed too far. Worthington performs much of the film whilst standing on the concrete overhang, or ledge, of a building talking to Elizabeth Banks. Meanwhile, his younger brother (played by Bell) and his brother’s girlfriend are out to steal the real diamond, thus proving Worthington’s innocence in the process. This seems like it would be the perfect kind of movie for Sam Worthington to do well in (I like him a lot in generic action films) and Banks is pretty hot right now in Hollywood, but the film was dead on arrival when it debuted in theaters in February 2012, grossing a scant 8 million dollars in its opening weekend domestically. So, what exactly went wrong?
Man on a Ledge is a mish-mash of several films we’ve all seen before, and many of those films did things much more competently, if not better outright. This film is highly reminiscent of the awful 2009 Gerard Butler/Jamie Foxx movie Law Abiding Citizen (except without the gratuitous violence of that movie), which is not a good sign. Man on a Ledge also has a bit of the Ocean’s series of films in its roots, but completely lacks anything resembling the fun or style of those movies whatsoever. That is perhaps the biggest crime perpetrated by this film; it just isn’t any fun at all. Direction is uninspired and bland, and nothing about the film is dynamic whatsoever. The only actor who seems to be in on the fun is Titus Welliver, who does his best as an underwritten villain. Other actors are completely wasted in their roles (Edward Burns) or clearly just there for the paycheck (Ed Harris). I’m sure there are many statements about contemporary culture that Man on a Ledge intends to make, including our 24-hour media and our sometimes bloodthirsty populace. But these statements are either too on-the-nose or just haphazardly inserted into the film without any hint of subtlety. In the end, the lack of any fun or originality in the film probably killed any chance this film had of succeeding. That’s too bad, because Man on a Ledge has a real shot of becoming a sleeper hit.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012)
(See also: Nick’s review of the first Ghost Rider film)
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance is the 2012 sequel to the 2007 original Ghost Rider film. There are, however, many differences and changes from the first film to the second. Nicolas Cage stars once again as Johnny Blaze/Ghost Rider, but most of the cast of the first film has been completely dumped from the sequel. Johnny Whitworth stars as the villain Blackout, Ciaran Hinds takes over the Peter Fonda role from the first movie, and Idris Elba (in an hilarious role), Christopher Lambert, and Italian actress Violante Placido (the would-be love interest/mother of the devil’s child in a role I actually liked a lot) are all supporting players. Some have described Spirit of Vengeance as a reboot of the franchise, but I feel like it fits as more of a sequel, even if it is a lot different from the original. Incredibly different in tone from the first movie, Spirit of Vengeance is basically Terminator 2 in plot details. The Devil (Hinds), along with minion Blackout, pursue young child Danny (the half-human son of the devil), and it is up to the Cage as the titular Ghost Rider to protect Danny and his mother. I’m not a huge fan of the first movie (in fact, I hated it the first time I saw it … though it did grow on me eventually), but I rather liked the bulk of Spirit of Vengeance. So what exactly went wrong?
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance always had an uphill battle. Directed by the pair Neveldine/Taylor (Crank, Crank 2, Gamer), the movie was going to be radically different from the already not well-liked original. Neveldine/Taylor are known for essentially doing their best to turn away a mainstream audience (though I appreciate their work). Additionally, the over saturation of and continued performance art piece that is Nicolas Cage’s life in the past half-decade or so has turned movie-goers off almost completely. Cage hasn’t starred in a hit film since 2009’s Knowing, and that movie doesn’t exactly have the best of reputations to begin with. It didn’t help that Marvel promoted Spirit of Vengeance through their generic Marvel Knights line (this being the only movie under that production label other than the underrated Punisher: War Zone). Seemingly, the studios involved had little faith that a Ghost Rider sequel would do well. Audiences agreed, and the film grossed less than half of what is predecessor made domestically (though it did somewhat better overseas). It is too bad, as well, because Spirit of Vengeance, after a so-so beginning, actually turned out to be a lot of fun.