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The Gray Man and Netflix’s big problem of action movies

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Netflix has been having a hard time lately: in April, the market value fell by $50 billion when it reported that it lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022, and then announced this week that it lost another 970,000 subscribers in the second quarter. . the quarter is a hit that was actually presented in a positive light as it was smaller than the streaming service’s own projections. It’s not all sunshine and roses at the 21st-century entertainment giant, although it’s aiming to turn things around starting this weekend with gray man, a spy-versus-spy saga by Joe and Anthony Russo pitting CIA agent Ryan Gosling against sociopathic mercenary Chris Evans. The most expensive production in the company’s history (with a listing price of $200 million), this is Netflix’s biggest gamble to date to create a true blockbuster action movie and with it a lucrative franchise.

Netflix shouldn’t rely on them. It will premiere online on July 22 (after an earlier theatrical release). gray man carries out his mission with professional competence but a disappointing lack of extravagant flair; its mayhem is rarely what mass events should be, and that’s despite the many world-travelling locations, huge sets, and Chris Evans’ charismatic evil twist. Swinging at the fences, it turns out to be more of a double than a home run, making it another Netflix tent city that lacks grandeur.

The company has been hard at work for the past three years to concoct a stunning sensation on par with solid Marvel hits (or a phenom like Tom Cruise’s recent movie). Top Shooter: Maverick), only to come up with attempts that look more like approximations than originals. For an industry titan who so often leads the way, Netflix tends to fall short when it comes to the most aggressive cinematic genres.

Since 2019, Netflix’s track record has been decidedly patchy with films that underwhelmed or flopped on a creative level, including: triple border, Spencer Confidential, Powder milkshake, Katia, Beckett, The man from Toronto, Spider, Project Adam, red noticeas well as Mining. While the last three of them were apparently hits, so were old guard—as evidenced by the fact that they all get sequels (except Project Adam) — none of them were water cooler style breakthroughs that influenced the wider conversation about pop culture. They are conscious programmers who fade from memory almost as soon as the credits roll, unable to deliver either huge, adrenaline-pumping excitement or stripped-down, gritty thrills. Whether it’s expensive Class A projects or poor B movies, they’re more often than not useless at best and ridiculous at worst.

Some of this is simply the result of hiring the right stars (Dwayne Johnson, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds, Oscar Isaac, Chris Hemsworth) and then building the wrong projects. However, there seems to be something more fundamental in this failure. Netflix has been hugely successful in the dramatic arts, giving creators relative carte blanche, be it Martin Scorsese with IrishmanAlfonso Cuaron with RomaJane Campion with dog powerNoah Baumbach with Marriage historyMaggie Gyllenhaal with Lost daughter, Rebecca Hall with WalkthroughPaolo Sorrentino with God’s hand, Lin-Manuel Miranda Tick, tick… Boom! or, allegedly, Andrey Dominik with the upcoming Blonde. This strategy has earned praise and Academy Award nominations (and wins) to the extent that it involves providing real artists with resources, and autonomy is the winning formula. However, the opposite is true for blockbusters: having millions (if not hundreds of millions) of gonzos to their heart’s content, most Netflix action directors (Rawson Marshall Thurber, Shawn Levy, Peter Berg) have sculpted flat images. , personality-deficient naps.

However, the opposite is true for blockbusters: having millions (if not hundreds of millions) of gonzos to their heart’s content, most Netflix action directors (Rawson Marshall Thurber, Shawn Levy, Peter Berg) have sculpted flat images. , personality-deficient naps.

The main exception to this rule is Michael Bay, whose 6 Underground came and went without a glance at the end of 2019, although from a technical standpoint it was as great as anything he’s done. Three years later, Bay’s extravaganza featuring Ryan Reynolds still seems to be the victim of bad marketing (i.e. Netflix can’t promote its original material both in the press and on its own homepage) rather than an artistic miscalculation. However, its poor performance also means Netflix needs to treat action differently than drama, applying stricter quality controls on its products to make sure they don’t spin in haphazard directions. In other words, no one needed to look over Scorsese or Campion’s shoulder, but perhaps a little more of that could have done. red notice or Spencer Confidential something good is a tactic that Marvel uses to make untold billions in all of its massive CGI endeavors.

Of course, Marvel’s neutral directorial approach to filmmaking rarely spawns masterpieces (and has led to several major blunders on its own recently). However, it has helped the comics giant rise to the top of the industry while avoiding all sorts of action-adventure movies that Netflix releases all too regularly. His last gray manis likely to satisfy many, but few. And in light of Russo’s past, Marvel’s triumph with Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well as Avengers: EndgameIt’s hard not to wonder if the difference between the fortunes of the two companies is a measure of the freedom Netflix is ​​giving its action directors to their detriment.

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