By Reagen Sulewski
January 12, 2017
An unusually crowded Martin Luther King Jr weekend sees six films either opening or expanding into wide release but with no likely winner among them. While January has in recent years shed its dumping ground reputation, this weekend sees it return to form with a couple of “worst of the year” candidates nearly right off the bat.
The one with the best chance of breaking out of the doldrums is Patriot's Day, a retelling of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt that closed down the city of Boston for a couple of days. Mark Wahlberg stars as a Boston police officer present at the scene of the bombing (though cobbled together as a composite character) and who takes part in the hunt to find the (eventually discovered to be) masterminds behind the bombing, two Chechnyan immigrants.
While Wahlberg, who is turning into something like the Forrest Gump of real life American tragedy movies, is the main draw here, director Peter Berg turns it mostly into a procedural as the full resources of the city's agencies and the FBI are brought to bear, and includes some of the missteps that happened along the way as justice was attempted to be served. A strong cast that includes John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Khandi Alexander and Kevin Bacon does give this a bit of hope, and played straight it's a nice piece of drama. However, Berg is much more a craftsman than an artist, and while reviews are OK, they're nothing too special. Its limited release has seen it pull in unremarkable numbers, and it's been all but entirely left out of end of year awards talk.
Berg and Wahlberg's last collaboration, Deepwater Horizon, opened to about $20 million in September, and this looks like a less action-packed version of that film. While the story is potentially more relevant today, it's proving to be a bit of a pass for audiences, who may find it too raw of a subject. I'd look for a weekend take of $16 million, which is still probably almost enough to take the weekend.
In past years, Ben Affleck has significantly rejuvenated his career through his directorial efforts, including The Town, Argo and Gone Baby Gone. Now for his latest, Live By Night, well... uh...
Affleck stars in his own movie as the son of a police officer who rejects that life and turns gangster, running booze in prohibition era Florida. It's all hard-bitten this and rough and tumble that as Affleck's character deals with rival gangs, religious resistance to his freely flowing liquor trade, father-son issues, and because there just wasn't enough in here yet, the KKK. While it's got all the seeds of a quality mob movie, the whole thing seems to play out as parody, with Affleck's brooding hitting a false note of vanity, not the least of which because he gives himself two love interests, in the form of Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana.
Adapted from a Dennis Lehane novel, the go-to author for seereeous manly drah-ma these days, it also stars Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Clark Gregg and Elle Fanning. However, its limited release showing was less than impressive and while it's not quite as much of a punchline as some of Affleck's awful period of films from the late 90s early 2000s, Live By Night is going to be a bit of a [footage not found] in his career highlight reel. I'd expect this to open to about $8 million on sheer inertia of advertising, but not much more.