After the mini-orgy of failure that was the Labor Day weekend box office, the first full weekend of September dials it down to just the one commercially unsuccessful new film.
Weekend Forecast for September 5-7, 2008
By Reagen Sulewski
September 5, 2008
It's not unsurprising to see mediocre looking action films debut in September, the not-ready-for-prime-time season for films of this type (for obvious reasons, more of the marquee films start coming out now, but this is not one of them). What is somewhat more unusual is for them to star an actor with the box office presence of Nicolas Cage. Bangkok Dangerous is a remake of a 1999 Thai film by the Pang Brothers, who handle the directing duty here.
Cage stars as a hitman (borrowing Tom Hanks' wig from The Da Vinci Code as a disguise) living in Bangkok who finds himself mixed up in a world of intrigue, romance and yada yada yada. You've seen this movie about a thousand times before (or perhaps you haven't, in which case there's no way you'd be interested in this one anyway), when it was called The Replacement Killers, or Hitman, or The Transporter or... well, you get the picture. There's a lot of gunplay, filmed in a way that's stylish in a way that's slightly different from other stylishly violent films, a plot that, well, don't even bother trying to decipher it, and everyone goes home vaguely numbed by what they just saw. It's the whole fake idea of being so artistically edgy with violence that hasn't been unique since 1994.
Bangkok Dangerous is Cage's sole film in 2008, preparing for the binge of his nine films scheduled for 2009 (some of those just have to be moved), and while 2007 was a pretty good year for him with Ghost Rider and National Treasure 2 (but also: Next), this year isn't anything close to that. Bangkok Dangerous looks frighteningly incoherent and boring, and this isn't the Nic Cage that audiences like (why they do at all lately is another mystery). This should win the weekend, but that's no real achievement at this point, as $9 million will easily do the trick here.
It only has to beat out Tropic Thunder, which while holding up pretty strongly, is in its fourth week of release. If it were to follow The Dark Knight's example of finishing first for a fourth straight weekend, we'd almost be through the looking glass in terms of box office behavior. There's still a chance of that, as I see Ben Stiller's war/Hollywood satire coming with about $7.5 million, a floor easily crashed through by Cage, but the odds are not with Stiller at the moment. Tropic Thunder appears headed for about $115 million at this point, which is a very good number for a late summer comedy – that is, for ones that didn't cost $100 million to make.
The Dark Knight continues to float against the sinking ship of new releases, actually climbing a spot last weekend, even with four new releases and a couple of expansions. Now officially the second film ever to break $500 million, it's going to try to squeeze a couple of those last milestones, before it gets knocked completely out of theaters. $530 million overall seems like a decent end point, though the IMAX screenings could provide a steady source of income through the fall, and of course there's the slight chance of Oscar buzz for the film beyond Heath Ledger's performance. Give it about $6 million this weekend.
The remainder of the pack is a sorry lot, with The House Bunny probably rising above their combined muck. As a comedy, it's got the most audience insulation, especially compared to a sci-fi actioner like Babylon A.D., which should crater in its second weekend. House Bunny should grab about $5 million, but nothing else should hit that mark this weekend, although Traitor might make a stab at that, with the Don Cheadle spy film garnering at least some positive reviews.