Salon reviewer destroys the Counselor

My favorite bit:


Is Ridley Scott under come kind of curse? First a new Alien movie from the guy who gave us Alien, now a movie in which Cameron Diaz plays a bisexual exhibitionist? How does he keep screwing these things up?

The review calls the movie Devil’s Candy after the book of the same name about the film version of Bonfire of the Vanities. On paper it was a can’t lose, but somewhere on the way, things went very, very wrong.

Gotta admit, when that son of a bitch throws a punch he really lands it.

I haven’t seen “The Counselor.” But judging by “Prometheus,” Scott simply doesn’t care anymore.

Aaaahhhhhhhh. Reading that Salon review makes me feel so happy/vindicated. Just wasted two hours of my life watching this steaming pile of pseudo-intellectual ridiculosity. Didn’t read any reviews before we went - it just sounded OK from the one-line description, and had several people in it I liked. Whoops. This review is exactly perfect. During the movie, when I realized how bad it really was, I checked some reviews on my phone, but was disappointed when one said it was “not a disaster.” Not a disaster? It was the Hurricane Katrina of movies. It is so freaking terrible. This review, at least, makes me feel better.

Two months later, the can’t-lose project has apparently gone very very right.

Bonfire of the Vanities became shorthand for “flop” by grossing just under $15.7 million on a $47 million budget. The Counselor has thus far grossed more than $63.7 million on a much smaller budget of $25 million.

That’s a comparatively terrific return on investment. Consider other crime films that were in theaters during 2013: you’ve got Broken City, you’ve got Side Effects, you’ve got Paranoia, you’ve got Parker, you’ve got Bullet To The Head, you’ve got Dead Man Down – each of which cost more to make, and none of which grossed as much as The Counselor. And that’s not even counting the failure that was Getaway, and the failure that was Stoker, and the failure that was Deadfall, and the failure that was The Iceman, and et cetera, forever and ever, amen.

The Host – and Beautiful Creatures, too – likewise spent too much getting too little trying to be the next “Twilight”. Chris Hemsworth in Red Dawn, Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Last Stand, even Tyler Perry as Alex Cross: spent more, got less.

Yeah, but the really big-budget movies, you say. Oz the Great and Powerful: not as good a return on investment – and not Burt Wonderstone either, if you wanted your stage-magician fix there. Not the Jackie Robinson story in 42, and not Gangster Squad for vintage clothes and retro cars elsewhere. And not the sequel-y momentum of Star Trek: Into Darkness, or Red 2 – and not the latest Percy Jackson, and not Jack the Giant Slayer.

And not Olympus Has Fallen or White House Down. And not Matt Damon in Promised Land, or in Elysium – or, at that, Tom Cruise in Oblivion, or Will Smith in After Earth. And not a white gunman with his more-competent ethnic-minority partner in 2 Guns, to say nothing of the low-hanging fruit that is The Lone Ranger.

Not over-the-top sci-fi action in Pacific Rim, and certainly not in RIPD. Not a computer-animated film like Turbo, let alone Escape From Planet Earth or Rise Of The Guardians. And not a comedy like The Internship, or The Big Wedding or The Guilt Trip – no, not even if you throw in a sports element, like Here Comes The Boom or Playing For Keeps. Or an organized-crime element, like The Family or Stand Up Guys.

Not an epic like Cloud Atlas. Not a fantasy like The Odd Life Of Timothy Green. Not – you know what? There’s a whooooole lotta recent movies with a better claim to the “Bonfire” comparison, and I don’t know why they keep getting made when studios could instead make successful films like The Counselor.

On the basis of 25M production cost, this film will be close to break even, but probably lose a little. First, the studio only keeps roughly half of that 64M. Second, prints and advertising were likely at least 20M given how many foreign markets the film opened in, something like 30. That’s where it made most of its money by the way.

They’ll make some money on VOD as well.

All of the math above depends on distribution deals specific to the film, which I’m not privy to.

Olympus Has Fallen made about 160M on a budget of 70M, by the way. 42 made 95M on a 40M budget. And so on.

Yeah, I know. If 42 had managed to hit the $100 million mark – and if Counselor hadn’t kept going past the $62.5 million mark – they’d both have been at 2.5x their budgets. Ditto for if Olympus had grossed an extra $13-$15 million.

You can go back and do that for every film I mentioned: each fell short of 2.5x by varying amounts-- and some fell short of 1.5x, and some fell short of .5x – except, of course, for The Counselor, which hit 2.5x and kept going and is now set to open in still more theaters, such that I can’t yet be sure how much higher it’ll go.

I was always told that a movie had to make 3 times it’s production cost to break even (production costs don’t include lots of things like marketing costs, etc…)

Ridley Scott is overrated. He never has been a very good storyteller. He came out of advertising and is an incredible visual artist with some amazing ideas, and he’s also great at casting, but he is a terrible storyteller.

Yeah, that reviewer and I agree that it is wasted, um, everything that makes a movie bad. Ed Wood could not make a truly bad movie because he had no money, no actors, and not much talent as a writer or director.

I honestly can’t tell if you’re trolling, but it’s gone from over 3,000 theaters domestically to a handful of boutique locations, and all its international dates have passed except Italy. This film is done.

Print and advertising costs vary a lot from film to film, and some of those marketing costs can be laid off to distributors. Still, the 2.5x mentioned is probably reasonable, since additional money can be cheaply recouped through digital distribution. I say that though as someone who reads a lot of trades, so if an insider can clarify or correct that would be great.

No, the Italy date is what I was referring to; I can’t yet say its gross-to-budget beats, say, Perks Of Being A Wallflower, but if it gets more than half-a-million in Italy the way it did in Greece or Sweden or Argentina or Poland or et cetera, then I can. At that, I also don’t yet know how Christian Bale’s Out Of The Furnace is going to finish, so I can’t yet say whether an extra million for The Counselor in Italy – à la its performance in Belgium or Mexico or the Netherlands or Brazil or whatever – will be necessary or superfluous when making that comparison.

Has anyone seen it? Is it so bad, it’s good? I hear Cameron Diaz chews some serious scenery.

Two months later, I can finally reply to this in full by noting that – after racking up millions and millions in Italy – it’s now gone from $63-million-and-change as of those posts up to well over seventy million, so we’re way past the two-and-a-half mark: past two-and-two-thirds, past two-and-three-fourths, past two-and-four-fifths.