Assessing Clive Owen: Super Tiger Sex Commando & Unpredictable Box-Office Quantity
Date of Assessment: September 21, 2011
Positive Buzzwords: Rogue, sardonic, dangerous
Negative Buzzwords: Underrated, co-stars, choices
The Case: Whenever Clive Owen comes to mind (which is often), I unavoidably give pause and remember Ted Boynton's fateful description of him as a "Super Tiger Sex Commando" and "brusquely gentle British love ninja." Of course, it's not just men who will shamelessly confess their attraction to Clive -- the ladies also write him love letters as well. While he's not classically handsome, there's a certain brand of sardonic charisma for which Clive is appreciated. The man has a lived-in, creased-up face and a niche fan base of rabid women who want him and men who (obviously) want to be him. Once you're exposed to Clive Owen, it's impossible to disown the man; yet even with all of the panty dropping and loads of talent in his possession, he's still not a household name in the United States. Perhaps he never will be a topic of dinner conversation, but Clive can rest assured that he remains a perpetual subject of pillow-related talk throughout the world.
Naturally, Clive Owen is much more well known in his native England, where he puttered around in television work for about a decade until his breakthrough movie, Croupier, brought him to the attention of viewers on this side of the pond. Since then, Owen's gained quite the aura as a potential James Bond replacement, but he doesn't seem like the type that wants to get tied into a franchise. Instead, Owen has made his mark in smaller (yet no less respectable) films such as Bent, Second Sight, Greenfingers, Close My Eyes, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, King Arthur, and Inside Man. He's also made quite the impression both in the onstage production of Closer and in the film counterpart as well. Clive also fares quite well at the box-office when paired with worthy co-stars like Michael Caine (Children of Men), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age), and even in a small role alongside Matt Damon (The Bourne Identity). Ensemble flicks like Sin City (where he lovingly held Benicio Del Toro's head in a toilet and counted towards one hundred) are also quite kind to Clive's dashingly roguish mug.
However, box-office chemistry is tenuous balance to achieve with this specimen. The success of a Clive Owen movie depends on the presence of a co-star that can both feed upon his smoldering presence but not contrast too sharply against it. Put him up against Angelina Jolie (Beyond Borders) or Jennifer Aniston (Derailed), and the resulting movie is a goner both critically and commercially. Likewise where Julia Roberts (Duplicity) and Naomi Watts (The International) are concerned. Even more troubling is the fact that audiences don't necessarily turn up when Clive attempts to carry a movie largely on his own even with the help of Monica Bellucci -- Shoot 'Em Up earned an abysmal $12 million at the U.S. box office. What's worse is that The Boys Are Back and Trust never made it out of limited release. Poor Clive is so underrated and unappreciated by the masses.
Prognosis: If all goes well, Clive Owen can stay in his current position (which is where many of us would prefer) if he makes it a point to carefully select his projects and (more importantly) his co-stars. This weekend, Clive stars in Killer Elite alongside Robert De Niro and Jason Statham. Since the former has lost his former box-office stature, and the latter is about on par with Owen in terms of audience appeal, I predict a lukewarm response in ticket sales. What truly worries me is that Owen's in-production projects, Shadow Dancer and Hemingway & Gellhorn, pair him up with Gillian Anderson and Nicole "Frozen Face" Kidman. Kidman is now so well-known for her flops that prospective co-stars go running at the first mention of her name. Clive should do better than that. Starting with the rumored adaptation of the Raymond Chandler's Trouble Is My Business? Oh, yes. Wait ... it's going to be directed by Frank Miller? Oh, nevermind.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.