Every year there are films that are wonderful, yet are completely ignored by audiences, eventually attracting a cult following several years later. On the opposite end there are movies that critics and audiences alike think are giant piles of crap. Here are a couple of films misunderstood or over-loved by audiences this year.
Underrated: The Nice Guys
This one did well critically, but barely broke even in the box office. Russell Crowe is more engaged than he's been in years as Jackson Healy, a leg breaker who gets pulled into a far-reaching conspiracy featuring dead porn stars, the Department of Justice and Detroit auto manufacturers. He teams up with Ryan Gosling's private detective Holland March and the two of them become the finest buddy cop duo since the original "Lethal Weapon." While the plot is overly convoluted and pretty forgettable, Gosling and Crowe are so good together that it's hard not to wish for a series of movies following these characters.
Overrated: Suicide Squad
Landing in the opposite camp of "The Nice Guys," critics and audiences savaged "Suicide Squad," yet it still made $745 million at the box office. When I initially reviewed it, I gave the film the letter grade of "Z" because even though the film was obviously quite terrible, it's bad in such a way that's highly entertaining. From Jared Leto's Juggalo Joker and Cara Delevingne's worst archaeologist ever, to the nonsensical editing and pacing, "Suicide Squad" fails on every single level. There was a good movie inside "Suicide Squad" during filming, but post-production and reshoots turned it into a hollow and gaudy shell.
Underrated: Deepwater Horizon
There's nothing about this film that should have worked. Turning the explosion of an oil rig (and the subsequent oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico) into a disaster film should have been downright offensive. Somehow, director Peter Berg and an excellent cast led by Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez and John Malkovich create a respectful and powerful ticking time bomb of a film that ignores the politics of the event in order to focus on human heroics. Once the rig starts falling apart, "Deepwater Horizon" becomes one of the most intense action dramas in recent memory. The fact that this flopped and "Sully" didn't shows that maybe Americans don't want death in their heroic tragedies.
I know I'm in the minority here, but so much of this film feels like Clint Eastwood yelling at the clouds about big government bureaucracies. The story of Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger landing US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River is an amazing one filled with calm courage and quick thinking, but Eastwood's film manufactures controversy where none was needed. Tom Hanks reminded the world about his acting chops with "Captain Phillips" and telling the story of Sully in a similar fashion would have made for a much more powerful film about true American heroism.