Usually, in any given year, you’ll find a cesspool of abhorrent cinema swirling in January. A month of the damned, if you will. This month has seen precious few good flicks, as per usual, but it’s been a fine time for Hollywood’s coffers, with each weekend nicely increasing over 2017. Will the two actioners this weekend help keep up the trend?
12 Strong (Warner Bros.)
On paper, Nicolai Fuglsig’s 12 Strong is damn solid. It has a fine cast (Chris Hemsworth, Michael Peña, Michael Shannon among others), it’s grounded in a true story that can connect with military families, and it carries a modest $35 million production cost.
It’s also kind of mediocre, supposedly, dashing any and all dreams of a performance akin to 2014’s American Sniper ($350.12m). American Sniper is an unreasonable comparison, to be fair, as 12 Strong is far likelier to play closer to 2016’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi ($52.85m) or, if it’s lucky, 2012’s Act of Valor ($70m). Chris Hemsworth is Thor, yes, and last year’s Thor: Ragnarokwas a smash, collecting $313.13m (it’s still playing in a couple hundred theatres or so, if you’re interested), but I’d argue that people like Thor played by Chris Hemsworth a lot more than Chris Hemsworth himself. Hemsworth’s box office average sans Thor (and after the first movie, for fairness) is $59.76m and his box office average as a lead character is $51.42m. Michaels Pena and Shannon are certainly respectable, but neither really draw crowds.
There’s also the problem of competition; namely, popular fare like Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Fox’s The Greatest Showman, adult-skewing fare like Fox’s The Post, and action-oriented fare like Lionsgate’s The Commuter, to say nothing of other prevalent movies like Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi or the Sunday NFL playoffs, which I understand to be a Big Deal. There’s a lot to see these days and a movie like 12 Strong needs to click with general audiences to survive. 13 Hours opened to $16.19m with the benefit of releasing over MLK weekend. Without that, along with a tad less buzz, expect 12 Strong to open slightly lower.
Prediction: $14 million, #3 rank
Den of Thieves (STX)
Love him or hate him, Gerard Butler tries. The guy has starred in his fair share of flops, 2017’s $120m-budgeted Geostorm ($33.7m, but $210.1m global for transparency’s sake) being the latest, with his last resounding hit being 300 ($210.6m), a movie that turns 11 this year.
So, Den of Thieves, then. Its closest comparisons aren’t overly comforting – specifically, 2013’s Broken City ($8.27m opening/$19.7m total), 2016’s Triple 9 ($6.11m opening/$12.64m total), and last year’s Sleepless ($8.34m opening/$20.78m total). Den of Thieves’ reception hasn’t quite helped either. You could say this’ll end up closer to 2012’s End of Watch ($13.15m opening/$41m total), but that was a different beast – “found-footage” cop drama with acclaim in its corner. As competition will likely stifle 12 Strong, Den of Thieves will suffer more so (even better, both movies are competing for the male demographic).