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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
When it first announced that legendary film Ridley Scott would team up with acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy to make a movie starring Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, and Javier Bardem, most just assumed enormous box office and generous critical acclaim would find the finished product. The end result, ensemble crime pic The Counselor, flopped over the weekend, grossing an anemic 8 million dollars (lower than its expected 10 million dollar opening). Additionally, critics found the picture lacking, and it eventually wound up 35% on Rotten Tomatoes, well below the gaudy numbers expected of such an anticipated film featuring so much Hollywood talent. So, what exactly what wrong?
The Counselor had the misfortune of opening after a string of highly successful adult-targeted movies. Gravity has been an unequalled hit this fall, grossing nearly 200 million dollars in about three weeks. The Tom Hanks starrer Captain Phillips has also done good business at the box office, becoming Hanks’ biggest non-franchise role in almost ten years. Additionally, the Hugh Jackman-Jake Gyllenhaal drama Prisoners has also done well. Each of these films has found overwhelming critical acclaim, with Gravity and Captain Phillips considered locks for multiple Oscar nominations. The Counselor realistically never stood much of a chance opening up just a few weeks after this successful string of pictures.
As noted earlier, the pedigree behind The Counselor is extremely high. McCarthy wrote No Country for Old Men, which was adapted into a highly successful film (starring Bardem incidentally) a few years back. That film met with much critical acclaim, generating a must-see awards season buzz. The Counselor was met with critical derision, with some calling it unlikable and unpleasant. Comparisons were also made to last years Killing Them Softly, another poorly-received Brad Pitt-starrer that met with divisive reviews. Audience reception of The Counselor was considerably poor, with those who actually did see the film scoring it a D per CinemaScore polls.
So often I write about how the marketing behind a flop film is to blame for some level of a film’s failures. Last July’s Pacific Rim was a good example of this over the summer, with Warner Bros. failing to capitalize on significant online buzz. The Counselor is another example of this, as the disorienting and considerably confusing trailers and TV spots gave no indication of what The Counselor was even about. 20th Century Fox typically puts a fairly good effort into marketing their marquee releases, but totally dropped the ball with The Counselor. A more straight forward marketing effort, with clearer trailers and more visible TV spots, could have brought in more business (based on star power alone, I have to believe) ultimately. As it stands, The Counselor is just a poorly reviewed, badly received failed prestige pic that apparently wasted a ton of talent.