How Eon and Paramount Pictures are selling a revenge drama rooted in personal tragedy.
There have been a few recent movies tackling the idea of a woman exacting revenge after her family is killed. While such stories are common with men in the lead role, those with women are still fairly rare and having been overly-successful when they do happen. One recent example is Peppermint, the 2018 film starring Jennifer Garner in the kind of role Bruce Willis has played a dozen times, which grossed only $35 million at the box office.
This week another entry comes on the field. The Rhythm Section stars Blake Lively as Stephanie Patrick, whose family is killed in a plane crash. As she learns the crash wasn’t an accident but a planned attack on specific passengers. That knowledge leads her to dive into the world of international organized crime, but only after developing the skills necessary to survive. She keeps turning over rocks not meant to be distrubed, making powerful enemies along the way.
The movie’s campaign has focused on Stephanie’s unrelenting quest to punish those responsible, regardless of what might befall her and heedless of the warnings of others. With an opening weekend estimate in the $10-15 million range, audience interest seems to still be soft for movies like this, even as early reviews have been largely positive.
Stephanie is shown on the first poster (by marketing agency Empire Design) released in September standing in her hotel room with a gun held behind her back. There’s no copy or tagline here, but it’s clear she’s planning something that will involve that weapon given the dark shadows and the determined look on her face.
The first trailer (3.7 million views on YouTube) finally came out in September. Stephanie is shown enlisting the aid of Proctor in the hunt for those responsible for the plane crash that killed her family years ago. He warns her it won’t be worth it and could be dangerous for her but she’s determined, to the point she takes matters into her own hands, finding and killing them herself. Her actions have consequences, of course, as they upset some powerful and dangerous people, but she remains undeterred.
A second shorter trailer (1.6 million views on YouTube) came out just last week. It starts by showing Stephanie preparing for the mission she’s chosen to embark on and the training that entails. It goes on to show the lengths she’ll go to in her quest to exact more than a pound of flesh and the ways in which she keeps going despite the odds against her. It also makes it much more explicit that the producers of the Bond franchise are involved, hoping to lend some of that series’ appeal to this movie.
Online and Social
There’s essentially nothing on the movie’s official website, at least nothing you can’t find elsewhere. It exists largely to just sell tickets.
Advertising and Publicity
The movie was part of the studio’s presentation to exhibition executives at CineEurope in mid-July 2018.
The first clip released earlier this month offers an extended look at Stephanie engaged in a high-speed car chase with those she’s angered on her mission for vengeance. That same chase sequence was the subject of a short behind-the-scenes featurette released at about the same time. Additional clips offered more insights into Stephanie’s character and the allies she gathers along the way.
Short videos like this were used as social and online ads to drive traffic to the ticket-selling website. Other online ads used elements of the key art and other visuals to achieve the same objective.
Earlier this week the cast and crew attended the New York City red carpet premiere.
Media and Press
There were a few interviews with Lively and others in the cast, including Sterling K. Brown, but nothing of much note, at least not at this point in the cycle.
One interview with director Reed Moreno addressed the Bond connection that exists both through the story’s subject matter and Eon’s involvement in production. She was asked if she’d be interested in seeing a female Bond, something those producers recently nixed the idea of. While Moreno made a similar comment she did say seeing a Bond film with a female directorial perspective might offer a unique take on the character.
While the marketing is quite good and sells a compelling drama with a star apparently willing to push herself to physically sell the role, an increased emphasis on the inciting incident might have increased the emotional heft of the story being sold. As it stands there’s not much in the way of setup regarding the tragedy that has pushed Stephanie over the edge and into a life of violence, just an acknowledgement that something terrible has happened.
That being said, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, not the least of which is simply that it’s a woman who has taken justice into her own hands after realizing the bad people are going to remain unpunished by others. There might be enough audience interest to capture people’s attention during another slow new release weekend, but if current movies keep chugging along it could also get lost in a wave of apathy during the winter doldrums.
Picking Up The Spare
Lively stopped by “The Tonight Show” to share stories from the set and engage in hijinks with the host.
A postmortem of the movie’s disappointing fate included comments on how this is just the latest action film with a complex female lead to not connect with audiences.