In the ever-growing shadow of the so-called “Me Too” movement, what level of responsibility do movie critics need to assume? After all, our reviews – whether positive or negative – are a form of (free) advertising for movies, so reviewers do play a relatively meaningful role when it comes to the potential success and legacy of certain films.
For the most part, reviews really don’t affect well-established franchise films with built-in audiences (JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM, for instance, has already cleared over $150M), but they can make or break smaller films. LADY BIRD was able to become a major contender this past awards season based on overwhelmingly positive notices, and the marketing team behind GOTTI was able to manufacture extra ticket sales by highlighting just how bad their press had been. Considering our part, however small, in the overall promotion of a picture, at what point do reviewers need to take a step back and question which movies are okay to review?
In the past, I haven’t shied away from critiquing any of Woody Allen’s work (mainly because the accusations concerning him are not as believable as previously thought), and I didn’t even think to avoid the aforementioned GOTTI (even though I do believe the allegations against its star, John Travolta, have some merit). Up until now, I haven’t had any issues with separating the artist from the art, but that muddled area between what’s appropriate and not has gotten much worse – and far more confusing – lately.
THE EXPENDABLES 4 was never in any danger of being considered a ‘good’ movie, but, suddenly, it’s now an incredibly important one. While testifying in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee (please let that sink in for a moment), Terry Crews announced his departure from the series due to an as-of-now unnamed producer’s attempts to pressure him into dropping a lawsuit against Adam Venit; the powerful WME talent agent who allegedly grabbed Crews’ testicles at an industry party in early 2016.
Suddenly, this isn’t just about potentially promoting a film either made by or featuring someone who has been accused of gross impropriety. This is now – openly – about a system that protects the accused while pushing out victims of abuse. This is about Rose McGowan. And Asia Argento. And Terry Crews.
But it’s, obviously, also about Sylvester Stallone. And Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, quite frankly, anybody else attached to THE EXPENDABLES 4.
I can’t and don’t speak for the entire podcast crew, but I am in no way comfortable reviewing any project that was knowingly made after a cast member was wrongfully forced out because of an attempted cover-up. Yes, I do realize that, behind-the-scenes, some of my favorite movies are probably just as (if not more) problematic than the EXPENDABLES franchise… but this situation is the one we actually know.
In terms of art, Roman Polanski was completely removed from my thoughts years ago, but I never thought to ‘cancel’ all of the entertainers (Natalie Portman, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, Penelope Cruz, David Lynch, Darren Aronofsky, Tilda Swinton, Wes Anderson, etc.) who defended or supported him. And, maybe, that was wrong.
And, maybe, it’s also wrong to promote THE EXPENDABLES 4… as well as anyone attached to it.