It should come as no surprise that The Grey AKA Liam Neeson Fights Some Goddamn Wolves topped the box office on Friday. The Hollywood Reporter predicts an $18 million weekend, which would be more impressive if it weren't competing against so many shitty movies. In second place, the Katherine Heigl vehicle One for the Money, which has the distinct disadvantage of no wolves and a fairly contentious star. Even Heigl, at one point, admitted that no one liked her.
In case you were wondering, One for the Money currently boasts a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Naturally, most critics are attacking Heigl's performance. Boxoffice Magazine's David Ehrlich writes, "Katherine Heigl will not rest until every last person on earth is a misogynist." RedEye's Matt Pais may be the first film critic in history to suggest Snooki would have been better suited for a role.
And yet, people continue to see Katherine Heigl movies. What's interesting is the way this weekend has pitted her against Liam Neeson, an actor who often makes less-than-great films but is, by most accounts, fun to watch kicking ass. Reviews for The Grey are much more favorable — by contrast, it's currently at 77% — but the focus is often on Neeson's awesomeness. In Jeff Meyers' review for The Detroit Metro Times, he admits that the appeal of Neeson's character is primarily the actor.
Neeson is a master of brooding badassery in a role that might've gone to Charles Bronson 40 years ago. Though his character could use more shading and depth, the actor brings both stature and gravitas, elevating his role as both survivor and reluctant savior.
So Liam Neeson can fight off wolves — and weak scripts. I haven't seen The Grey, so perhaps that's unfair. I'm just saying, he and Heigl come with some pretty distinct associations that seem to dwarf their respective movies.
And you have to wonder who remains on Team Heigl. That One for the Money overperformed is surprising not only because of "sluggish tracking," but also because it looked truly terrible, with a star who's far from being America's Sweetheart. Here's an experiment: cast Neeson and Heigl alongside each other in an romantic comedy thriller. Could they emerge triumphant, or would their divergent appeals cancel each other out? My guess is, a slew of middle-of-the-road reviews, almost all including a variation of the phrase, "This shouldn't work, but it does."
[Image via AP]