The role of a good producer is often undervalued. We tend to hear Harvey Weinstein-esque horror stories about executives wielding their power and crushing the creative integrity of a film. But what we hear less of are the common tales of a producer collaborating with a filmmaker, making insightful notes, and giving them the resources they need to reach their full potential. According to Deadline, the box office bomb “Child 44” could’ve used that kind of guiding hand.
One of the year’s biggest flops, the dour drama starring Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joel Kinnaman, Noomi Rapace, and Jason Clarke earned awful reviews and woeful box-office returns, taking in just $1.1 million domestically (by comparison, even Johnny Depp‘s “Mortdecai” managed to tally $7.6 million). And this is even more disheartening given the talent involved (including a script by “Clockers” and “The Wire” writer Richard Price), the source material (a best-seller with franchise potential), and a director in Daniel Espinosa who, at the time, was still considered something of a commodity thanks to “Safe House” and “Easy Money.” So what happened? Apparently, a production that could’ve used some oversight.
According to the trade, Epinosa’s first cut of “Child 44” was a sprawling five-and-a-half-hours. And even though Espinosa managed to get it down to 137 minutes for theaters, sources say the finished movie “still needed 10 minutes of plot clarification.” But here’s the kicker. Even with all of this, “Child 44” won’t be a big bust. Thanks to pre-sales, tax credits, and more, Lionsgate may only wind up losing $4-5 million.
But the takeaway from all this is perhaps more of an appreciation that sometimes, producers are needed to step in and give an objective view of a movie, and try and right some issues before it’s too late. Perhaps that could’ve fixed “Child 44,” perhaps there was a better movie in that mountain of footage. Perhaps not. But it certainly would’ve been better than what wound up on screen, a big, star-studded, missed opportunity that seems like it was given up on before it had even half a chance.