The patron saint of fall thrillers returns to enliven a box office slate that's still trying to repopulate its ranks after one of the most dismal Septembers ever. Also, the long ignored family demographic gets thrown a bone after long weeks in the wilderness.
Weekend Forecast for September 26-28, 2014
By Reagen Sulewski
September 26, 2014
One would think that Denzel Washington would be beyond TV adaptations at this point in his career, particularly after the decade-long run of nearly uninterrupted success at the box office. Usually that comes with some measure of being able to pick and choose projects, and TV projects are often on the bottom of that list. There is always the chance of "franchisation," though, and the big bucks that would entail, which may go a long ways towards explaining why he's headlining a big screen version of The Equalizer, an adaptation of the 1980s series about a retired spy who uses his skills to help people in trouble from shady characters.
In the hyper-specific genre known as Denzel Washington Is A Very Charming Man Who Can Kick Your Ass, this leans more towards the ass-kicking side of things, as he's forced into action to protect a young woman (Chloe Grace-Moretz) from Russian gangsters. Leaving behind his simple life as a hardware store employee, he proceeds to start crackin' skulls in stylized fashion.
Reuniting with director Antoine Fuqua, who got Washington his long-delayed Best Lead Actor Oscar, The Equalizer looks like a perfectly passable TV adaptation – it's no The Fugitive, but it's also unlikely to be a Mod Squad either, and would probably fit well within Washington's milieu even if we put aside the TV connection. You might even be forgiven for not knowing it was there. Reviews are okay if not spectacular, and with a heavy ad push that highlights the quick, kinetic action scenes, it should play like a bit of a cross between Man on Fire 2 and a Taken film. Denzel Washington has only had one film open below $20 million in the past decade, and that was a limited release. This film won't break that trend, and it should open to around $29 million.
Another adaptation, this time of a children's book, rounds out the weekend. The Boxtrolls is the latest release from the stop-motion animators who previously brought us Coraline and ParaNorman. A young boy is raised by a group of subterranean creatures who collect trash and turn it into elaborate inventions. After living a life underground, he's accidentally discovered by a young girl (voice of Elle Fanning) just in time to realize that the mayor of the town they live under has decided to eliminate the perceived menace of the trolls once and for all.
The animation style of the film utilizes a relatively unique grotesque beauty, which is unlikely to attract a mass audience, but is stylish enough to attract animation buffs and families looking for something a little on the different side. The studio that produces these films has gained a small reputation for quality, but the films don't quite match the slick production that larger audiences are used to with Pixar and similar CGI animation. It's those crowds of adults that really make an animated movie a hit, and they won't be there for this. I'd look for an opening weekend at $15 million here.
The Maze Runner cracked the $30 million mark last weekend in its debut, basically splitting the difference in the YA adaptation market between Divergent and Percy Jackson, which feels about right. The first in a planned trilogy of films based on a book series (and we'll just see about that), this is a decent enough result as far proving that there is a market that will be excited about something, but it's a result that also has to be cast in the light of YA adaptations having the legs of a kitten. Its second weekend should come in at around $14 million, headed towards a final total of around $90 million.
A Walk Among the Tombstones was a rare disappointment from Liam Neeson, who has made it his business to be a consistent performer in the action genre in the last few years. That this film was a bit more towards the pulp side of things than the action side probably didn't help, and thus we have the just $13 million opening, in contrast to the more action-oriented films Neeson has brought to the big screen that opened over $20, 30 and 40 million. Of course, you could look at the fact that this would have been a single digit opener, or not one at all, had Neeson not made those other films. Give it $8 million this weekend.
This Is Where I Leave You, a family drama about loss and a cast of emotionally damaged siblings, did surprisingly well at $12 million, which is about as good as the “quirky relatives you wouldn't spend time with if they were your actual relatives” film can do. This won't go on to hurt or help anyone in the cast, and will probably be an “oh, yeah, that one” film at your local RedBox machine in a few months. Give it $7 million this weekend.