As they say, revenge is a film best served with Liam Neeson in it and Summit Entertainment hopes that holds true next weekend with ColdPursuit. The action thriller casts Neeson as a snow plow driver avenging the murder of his son with his particular set of skills. Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland is behind the camera and costars include Laura Dern, Emmy Rossum, Tom Bateman, and William Forsythe.
We are a decade past the star’s career resurgence with the sleeper hit Taken and its two sequels. What followed were $20 million plus openers like Unknown and Non–Stop. The sub genre of Neeson tough guy flicks, however, has seen its grosses dwindle in recent years. AWalkAmongtheTombstones, RunAllNight, and last year’s TheCommuter all debuted in the low double digits to low teens range.
Reviews have been surprisingly strong and the Rotten Tomatoes score is at 93%. Several critics have praised an apparent well-placed sense of humor. Yet I’m skeptical that will give ColdPursuit a hot premiere. I’ll predict this falls right in line with his later entries.
ColdPursuit opening weekend prediction: $12.8 million
For my TheLegoMovie2: TheSecondPart prediction, click here:
Director Jaume Collet-Serra and his aging action star Liam Neeson collaborate for the fourth time with TheCommuter. If you remember their 2014 effort Non–Stop quite vividly, good for you because I had forgotten much of it. That pic put Mr. Neeson in a precarious position on a long flight in which he was forced to commit potential crimes commanded by shadowy villains. Four years later, this one puts Mr. Neeson in a precarious position on a long train ride in which he is forced to commit potential crimes commanded by shadowy villains. If that makes you think TheCommuter doesn’t exactly aim high, you’d be correct.
The trick with these movies is whether we can successfully put our brains aside and just enjoy the junk food genre offerings. This time around, the director and star don’t make it very easy for us. Neeson is Michael, an ex NYC cop turned life insurance agent for the last decade. He’s 60 (as he reminds us a few times) with a wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and son about to enter college. It’s tough for the family man to make ends meet and that’s thrown into chaos when he’s unceremoniously fired. Each day he makes a long commute home and on the day of his unexpected dismissal, more surprises follow. He’s approached on the train by Joanna (Vera Farmiga) and she offers an opportunity. There’s $100,000 for Michael if he can identify and place a GPS tracker on a passenger who goes by Prynne. Farmiga’s Conjuring hubby Patrick Wilson turns up as Michael’s old partner.
This is all tied to a murder investigation and Prynne is a witness. Joanna’s benefactors want Prynne eliminated and Michael is their ticket to make that happen. All this leads to Michael having to make a series of moral decisions while intermittently kicking an appropriate amount of baddie butt. We also are introduced to the train’s other passengers – some of whom are given perfunctory subplots while we await Prynne’s grand reveal.
TheCommuter, quite frankly, is totally ludicrous and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The same could certainly be said of Unknown (the first Collet-Serra/Neeson joint) or Non–Stop. Yet I found both to be slightly more entertaining than this. The screenplay (which somehow took three people to write it) does too little to engage us with its silly plot and a couple of decently choreographed action sequences aren’t enough to save it. Neeson gives it his earnest and occasionally intense all. Bless his heart for not coasting as the story does.
It’s been nine years since Liam Neeson reinvented himself as everyone’s go to elder action star with Taken. The last couple of years have seen him focusing on other genres, but he’s back in kick ass mode next weekend with TheCommuter. This marks his fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra after Unknown, Non–Stop, and RunAllNight. Costars include Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga (presumably doing no conjuring work), as well as Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, and Elizabeth McGovern.
Mr. Neeson’s first two pictures with this director came while he was still packing in audiences with the Taken franchise. That helped propel Unknown and Non–Stop to openings above $20 million. RunAllNight (and another more recent Neeson action flick AWalkAmongtheTombstones) both failed to reach the teens in their debuts.
TheCommuter has received decent reviews so far and sits at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, recent evidence has shown the star’s box office potency in the genre has waned. I’ll predict this reaches low to possibly higher teens for its four-day MLK weekend debut.
TheCommuter opening weekend prediction: $14.6 million (Friday to Monday estimate)
President’s Day weekend has arrived at the box office with three new titles debuting over the four-day holiday frame: Matt Damon’s action epic The Great Wall, Ice Cube/Charlie Day comedy Fist Fight, and Gore Verbinski’s horror thriller A Cure for Wellness. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each of them here:
None of the trio is likely to dislodge the Caped Crusader and his Lego friends from the top perch in its second weekend. In fact, this particular February weekend often sees holdovers experience smallish declines. The Lego Movie dipped just 9% in the 2014 PD weekend and I expect the same type of minor dip for its spin-off.
With the #1 film safely (I think) determined, the rest of the top five is much more unpredictable. Looking over the past few President’s Day weekends, newbies opening in the mid to high 20s is commonplace. This applied to titles such as Unknown, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, A Good Day to Die Hard, Safe Haven, About Last Night, and Robocop. I foresee both Wall and Fight falling in this range for a photo finish for #2.
Then there’s Fifty Shades Darker and John Wick: Chapter 2, both in their sophomore weekends. I don’t see Darker having a 74% drop like its predecessor Fifty Shades of Grey experienced (it had a much bigger opening for one thing). However, I could see it losing half its audience easily as grosses for this franchise are front loaded. Wick may lose less than a third of its debut crowd for a solid hold. And that could create another photo finish between these sequels.
This leaves A Cure for Wellness. Strong reviews may have helped this, but it’s not getting them and I’m diagnosing just a low double digits premiere for a probable sixth place showing.
And with that, my top 6 projections for this busy weekend:
1. The Lego Batman Movie
Predicted Gross: $49.4 million (representing a drop of 6%)
2. The Great Wall
Predicted Gross: $25.6 million
3. Fist Fight
Predicted Gross: $25.1 million
4. John Wick: Chapter 2
Predicted Gross: $21.5 million (representing a drop of 29%)
5. Fifty Shades Darker
Predicted Gross: $21.3 million (representing a drop of 54%)
6. A Cure for Wellness
Predicted Gross: $10.2 million
Box Office Results (February 10-12)
The Lego Batman Movie took the top spot, though not with as much ease as many thought it would. The critically acclaimed animated spin-off grossed $53 million, a decent number but not near the $69M made by The Lego Movie in its inaugural weekend and under my $65.8M projection. That said, as mentioned above, its drop this weekend should be slight.
Fifty Shades Darker opened in second at $46.6 million, in line with my $44.8M estimate. This is far from the $85 million achieved two years back by Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s actually above some of the predictions from prognosticators in the past week or so.
John Wick: Chapter 2 capitalized on the goodwill left over from the 2014 original with a strong $30.4 million, more than doubling the $14M earned by its predecessor two and a half years back. It easily eclipsed my $20.7M estimate.
Holdovers rounded out the top five with Split dropping to fourth at $9.5 million (I said $8.2M) for a $112M total and Hidden Figures at fifth with $8 million (I said $6.9M) for a $131M overall haul.
And that’ll do it for now, folks! Until next time…