A few months ago I saw the most recent submarine action movie, “Hunter Killer.” Do you all remember it? Don’t be ashamed if you do not! One reason you may not have heard of it might be because it was in and out of the movie theaters faster than a 24 hour stomach virus. The second reason might have been that it was a colossal flop at the box office. It probably should have been a Direct to Video special that you could find at your local Wal-Mart.
What do I mean by Direct to Video? It is usually a movie that does not get a direct release to the movie theaters and is immediately released to the general public on different home video formats. You can find such formats like different streaming services and certain cable channels. Cinemax or, as some critics used to call it, “Skinemax” due to the trash softcore porn films they used to show on their channels usually late at night along with other genres like crime, gory horror, bad S/F, gross-out comedies, etc. during other times of the day was a prime dumping ground for such artistic classics. They finally started to clean up their act about a decade ago and tried to start showing a few more main stream films, which probably reduced their trash film percentage from 99% to 95%.
Other ways Direct to Video flicks were offered to the public for either rental or sale were through online purchase outlets (Amazon) or the proverbial DVD bins at K Mart, Wal-Mart, etc. Such movies actually had name actors starring at times and you could possibly see actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Al Pacino, Bruce Willis, Michael Caine, Samuel Jackson and Jason Statham (who should have had all of the movies he ever made thrown either into a dumpster or the 7-Eleven DVD bin next to the restrooms).
Why is a movie or even a TV show ash-canned into Direct to Video Hell? Well, there are a lot of reasons. It could be due to: (1) a low-budget, (2) a lack of support by a studio or TV network, (3) negative early reviews, (4) being thought to appeal to too small of a market audience to be successful, (5) being more costly to release rather than sell/rent through Direct to Video, (6) having/had a scandal involving someone involved with the movie, (7) sequel overload (Rambo XX anyone?), (8) similar movie themes (you liked “Snakes on a Plane,” then how about “Snakes on a Train?”), or (9) the movie just plain out “sucked!”
Why would still popular name actors with real recognition status agree to do such turkeys? Well, once again, a lot of reasons. They might have had an agreement with a studio to do a movie(s) and they had little contractual say or control over it. Two, they might have really needed the money (those Hollywood alimony payments or another stay in a substance abuse facility can add up)! Three, they might have gotten a lot of money to make the movie. Robert Mitchum was once asked, “What was his favorite movie that he appeared in?” Mitchum immediately responded, “That’s easy, “The Last Time I Saw Archie!” When the questioner said something to the effect that the movie stunk, Mitchum responded, “Yeah, but I made $400,000 for 4 weeks of work!” [It actually was an underrated comedy and directed by, of all people, Jack (Dragnet) Webb (Dum-de-Dum, Dumb!)] Four, as Alfred Hitchcock, once said, “All actors are cattle!” Namely, a lot of actors are dumber than a bag of rocks.
Ah, but the next question you might ask is, “Why would the [studio, director, producers, various money sources (banks, corporations, rich individuals, GoFundMe, oligarchs, international drug cartels, girl scout cookie sellers, etc.) want to throw money for such crap when someone so dumb they couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the bottom of the heel (thank you LBJ) could figure out that it was a bad idea?” (Yes, I know that was a long sentence). Well, the answer is…”There are a lot of reasons!” (Don’t hit me!)
Some of the reasons could be (1) use it as a tax write-off, (2) do it cheaply (why spend 30 million when you only have to spend 1.5 million), (3 ) stupidity, (4) money laundering opportunities (maybe Walter White should have been making movies rather than owning a car wash), or (5) the unexpected (which could cover just about anything).
Oh, I’m sorry but I got side tracked into explaining Direct to Video and I have not opined on “Hunter Killer” yet. Well, (1) just about every major actor in the film playing Americans (Gerald Butler, Gary Oldman, Caroline Goodall, Toby Stephens, David Gyasi) is from Great Britain, (2) Common (as a Rear Admiral) is about as believable a Rear Admiral as Sylvester the Cat would be, (3) Gary Oldman (as another Admiral) gives the Smithfield Ham rabid squirrel performance of the year (which is an insult to Smithfield Hams and rabid squirrels everywhere), (4) Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist (as a Russian sub commander) died shortly after this film was made (probably from embarrassment), and (5) the plot consisting of a rogue Russian defense minister trying to start World War III (Yep, that one again) has plot holes large enough for a resurrected Orson Welles with a turkey drumstick in each hand to squeeze through (Yes, I know, that was another long sentence.) Other than these minor issues, it’s a Great Movie!
I think I’ll immediately buy it to add to my video collection. Now if someone can just direct me to the nearest 7-Eleven with the DVD bin next to the restrooms…