As we fully immerse ourselves into a new decade (or not, depending on what side of the “Team 0” versus “Team 1” debate one may fall on—Team 0 for yours truly), hope springs eternal. No matter how many downs or valleys we may have had, the prospect of starting with a fresh slate in all aspects of life is tantalizing.
Not farfetched to believe there may be a few directors that share the same sentiment. Below is a list of directors who I personally—objectively, of course—believe can use a new decade to reestablish themselves and/or potentially flip the scripts on how movie-going audiences see them. Some have different situations to contend with, and some of these auteurs’ films I’m higher on than the majority. However, all share one aspect in common: None of these directors could be considered hacks; each has demonstrated talent before and can do it again with the right project(s). Away we go:
5. Guy Ritchie
Out of anyone on this list, Richie is the most stable and his inclusion could be considered questionable, starting the prior decade solidly with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. But, his last three movies, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Aladdin haven’t been collectively warmly received commercially or critically (save for Aladdin, commercially). I’ll always stan Legend of the Sword, and U.N.C.L.E is a little underrated, but at this point, it is clear Ritchie’s rapid, chaotic direction isn’t foolproof for every genre.
Many so desperately want Ritchie to return to the days where he was making a name for himself in crime capers Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Well, it seems like he wants to as well, as his latest, The Gentleman, is released in a few weeks, and early Rotten Tomatoes takeaways have this as a fun, bloody romp. And past that, he’s piloting a remake of French movie Cash Truck, reuniting him with longtime collaborator Jason Statham. Sometimes, good fortune requires a revisiting of the past. Stock: Up
4. Josh Trank
Out of anyone on this list, you could say that Trank is the one guy whose extended drought of success is at minimum 50% self-induced. The claims of studio sabotage he aired on Twitter regarding Fantastic “FANT4STIC” Four are real, corroborated by Toby Kebbell in full support of Trank’s darker, introspective vision. Still, the petulant, volatile behavior the director exhibited would seem to point to someone who likely felt as if he was already in the rarefied air of great directors after one movie, above anyone trying to provide help or constructive criticism. Sure, we may always have issues with some coworkers and higher-ups, but to shut everyone out with no effort to try is diva-esque with a capital “D.”
Still, he’s responsible for one of the best found-footage flicks in Chronicle, a realistic, character driven story of “What would really happen if high schoolers were gifted/cursed with unstoppable powers?” It’s never too late to course correct and learn from the error of our ways, and the thirty-five year old Trank’s, next confirmed work is Fonzo, centering around the infamous gangster Al Capone’s mid-40’s life after prison, starring Tom Hardy and scored by the underrated, eclectic rapper/producer El-P. Sounds interesting, but I feel like Trank should take a shot and do something completely small and out of left-field with unknown cast members. Get with Blumhouse or A24 and really surprise people. Stock: Neutral
3. John Hillcoat
I’ve enjoyed Hillcoat, potentially more than most. Whether it be The Proposition, Lawless, The Road, or Triple 9 he’s a directorial name that doesn’t get talked about a ton but has done a great job in creating grimy, hopeless worlds across many settings showcasing impressive action. With that said, almost all of his films aren’t written as well as they’re directed, losing something in narrative and character. Stronger stories in all could have made Hillcoat a household name by now, and his future works should make a concerted effort to have deeper, compelling screenplays.
His next scheduled work is Witchfinder, a horror remake of 1968’s Witchfinder General/The Conqueror Worm. The movie will be produced by the never-duplicated-in-style Nicolas Winding Refn. It would be a different turn for Hillcoat, and perhaps he can make his own version of The VWitch. There’s no definitive release date, and with the film still in the pre-production stage with no decisions on casting made, it could be some time before further details are revealed. Stock: Down
2. David Ayer
When the word gritty comes to mind as it pertains to directors and writers, Ayer’s work fits the bill. After all, he’s heavily responsible for Denzel Washington’s Oscar in Training Day, creating one of the best bromances of the past decade (and of all-time) in End of Watch, and capturing the horrors of war in Fury. Each of these movies is Ayer at his best, and even with a big whiff, Sabotage, occurring in the same year of Fury, he was trending up going into Suicide Squad.
Then, that movie, albeit Oscar-winning, happened, seeing similar creative differences on a lesser scale comparable to Trank and his superhero endeavor. Bright followed that, an ambitious yet disparate Netflix release. A sequel for Bright is incoming at an undetermined date…I have no substantial interest in that. 2020 also seems to point to a release of The Tax Collector, skim on details save for a description stating this as urban crime drama starring Shia LaBeouf. Say what you will about LaBeouf, he’s dedicated to his craft, often doing whatever it takes to get into a character. A brief synopsis would be great, but the optimist in me sees this as something Ayer fans such as myself can be mildly excited for. Stock: Up.
- Neill Blomkamp
Man, oh man does it hurt to put Blomkamp in this spot on the list, and it’s a detailed reminder on how fast one’s fortunes can change in anything in the span of roughly a decade. In 2009, Blomkamp made an amazing arrival into cinema with District 9, a South African science-fiction that was smart, moving, and socially aware with superb pacing, direction, and acting. We all waited with intense interest as Elysium came in 2013, which Blomkamp himself says he’d do differently if he had the chance two years later. Then came Chappie, which even the most ardent of supporters have to acknowledge it’s clunky.
I’m actually a little higher on both than most; nonetheless, they’re a far cry from the potential he showed in D9. In crafting set-pieces, he’s probably one of the best. His stories though, all crediting him as at least a co-writer, will often devalue characters in the name of themes. Blomkamp is deeply interested in humanity and where we’re going, and I wonder if he’s a guy who can’t always see the trees for the forest, a reversal for the age-old idiom because as important as the big picture can be, some attention to details are needed equally at times.
Since Chappie, Blomkamp has been tied to helming an Alien sequel and a direct sequel to the classic 1987 RoboCop. Both projects have effectively been canned or in development hell, with the latter Blomkamp removing himself from. He’s said he’s excited about taking on a new horror-thriller, of which there’s no nugget of details whatsoever. Honestly, it’s probably for the best if Blomkamp steps away from Johannesburg and sci-fi for a while, tackles a new genre, and comes back re-energized. I totally want to see a resurgence from him, but his stock is currently the lowest of anyone on this list. Stock: Way down
Bonus: Tom Ford
Ford has only two films to his name, A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, two great works released within seven years of each other with Nocturnal Animals hitting theaters in 2016. For a director who’s shown an extremely stylistic hand, it’s just frustrating that he’s not more prolific. With a net worth somewhere north of $500 million, it’s not as if he needs a reversal of fortune, figuratively or literally. Running a global fashion label is full time, but it’s perfectly fair to wonder what he could achieve if filmmaking was more than a cool and infrequent hobby.
Photo credits go to syfy.com, slashfilm.com, theguardian.com, collider.com, blogs.colum.edu, and recoilweb.com.
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