By Dan Delgado
This year marks the ten year anniversary for the infamous movie failure called Gigli. For those of you who have forgotten, Gigli is a romantic comedy starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez as mafioso types who kidnap a mentally disabled guy (Justin Bartha) and hang out in a house for basically the entire movie. It’s not any good. It open and closed in three weeks. It cost $75 million to make and grossed about $7 million. And lastly, it was written and directed by Martin Brest, who has not written or directed anything since then.
I can’t say if Brest’s, now decade long, absence from the silver screen is self-imposed or if movie studios are just wary of working with him again. I can say ten years is long enough. It’s time to get back to work, Martin Brest.
Maybe everyone forgot that Brest has some great work in the past. His name is on several good movies, I don’t think it’s any accident. Brest was always able to mix comedy, action and pull some heartstrings as well. No easy feat.
Go back to 1979 to his debut feature film, Going in Style. I will be honest and tell you that I am no fan of the movie, because it ultimately becomes one the most depressing things I’ve ever seen. However, the story of three old men (George Burns, Art Carney and Lee “The Method” Strasburg) bored with retired life who decide to rob a bank, IS fun for a while. Watching the three old acting vets play off each other is amusing while it lasts.
Brest followed that up in 1984 with Beverly Hills Cop, which I really shouldn’t have to explain. If you’re not familiar with the movie that put Eddie Murphy into leading man status, earned a staggering $234 million 1984 dollars (worth more than 2013 dollars) spawned a couple of sequels and a TV series (coming soon) than you need to be seeking it out poste-haste!
Four years later Brest followed one action comedy hit with another, Midnight Run. This is one of my favorite all time movies, so I may be more than biased here. That said, Brest gets the most out his pairing of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin as a bounty hunter and a mob accountant heading cross-country while being chased by the mafia, the FBI and a rival bounty hunter. The balance of comedy and action is never better than in Midnight Run but what really makes it excel are the dramatic moments.
Again four years later Brest would return with what is his most acclaimed movie to date, though you might not believe it. Scent of a Woman from 1992 was a movie that critics loved and was nominated for just about every Academy Award they it nominate it for. It’s the first an only the time guy has gotten a Best Director nomination (he loses to Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven). He even wins a Golden Globe for Best Director (for whatever that’s worth). Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Al Pacino and Hooah!! Yeah, Al hams it up and got an Oscar for it and has probably been hamming it up ever since. Doesn’t change that Scent of a Woman is a very good movie with some great dramatic moments. Also worth noting that critically and commercially, Brest is four for four at this point.
Like clockwork Brest returns again in 1998 with Meet Joe Black. I will admit it. Here is the first true dud the guy has turned out. A remake of Death Takes a Holiday with Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins, the movie is way too long (three hours!) and really quite boring. It bombed at the box office making $44 million versus it’s $90 million budget. Here Brest was in straight drama territory. Maybe he missed the action.
And this brings us to Gigli. A terrible movie and a terrible failure for sure. But does this mean we’re all done with Martin Brest? Or is he done with us? I’m not sure if I made a flop as big and noisy as Gigli that I would want to crawl back out into the light and put something out there for everyone to judge again either. I am hoping that he does. There’s talk of a Midnight Run sequel that De Niro wants to do that is stuck somewhere in development. Maybe the time is right for Martin Brest to come back.