The red band trailer is a curious phenomenon. The notion that it’s the celebration of violence, sex, or language that will somehow make a trailer more effective is an odd one, yet it’s also strangely effective. Perhaps it’s the titillation factor — people see the red band tag and think “ooh! dirty!” and become intrigued. Most times, red band trailers are rather disappointing, showing a spurt of blood or a flash of side boob or a scattered “shit” or “fuck,” and not much else.
However, this week two films that we’d already premiered trailers for, The Mechanic and the embarrassingly titled No Strings Attached, released new, red band trailers, and for once, they’re actually worth discussing in terms of their content. They both actually provide a somewhat new take on the films, and for once they’ve actually succeeded in making the films more intriguing.
The first one, The Mechanic, is a remake of a 1972 Charles Bronson film, about a hit man who takes on a protege. It adheres to the plot of the original in the loosest sense, which is actually a good thing, because it actually seems to be a somewhat different film — a remake in name only, if you will. Regardless, the new trailer amps up everything — there’s more violence, more sex, some random nudity, and a lot of blood. While it does feel like you’re basically seeing a two minute encapsulation of the film rather than a preview, it serves an important function — to let you know that it’s not some watered-down PG-13, milk-and-honey action flick. Instead, it’s clearly shooting for gritty, unapologetic violence. And for the most part, it succeeds.
Now, how necessary that was to the film’s marketing is questionable — the film’s already got a good deal of talent attached — The Statham, Ben Foster (who continues to be sadly underused), Donald Sutherland, and Tony Goldwyn (taking a break from his relatively successful directing career). That’s enough to draw in a lot of film junkies, although having Simon “Put tha bunneh back in tha bawx” West as a director earns it a demerit. Regardless, it’s a strong, if somewhat extraneous, trailer.
Next we have No Strings Attached, a movie that was, based on the prior trailer, basically fucked — no pun intended (seriously). It debuted right around the time that the trailer for Friends With Benefits (another lame title) debuted, and the two films have basically the exact same plot. Two friends start having casual sex, and feelings complicate things. Friends With Benefits has a lot going for it — it’s directed by Will Gluck (Easy A), it stars Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, both of whom are coming off of strong performances in Black Swan and The Social Network, respectively. And Friends With Benefits was by far the funnier, more effective trailer.
So what to do about No Strings Attached? Go for the dirty bits. Show that the reason that the first trailer sucked is because much of the film’s merits are dependent on its naughtier, R-rated aspects. And it does so in spades — it’s chock full of sex, profanity, and flashes of Natalie Portman flesh (no, nothing too explicit). Which is good, because God knows I needed something to get me to see past the fact that it co-stars Ashton fucking Kutcher (and apparently his bare ass). But it worked. The trailer is much better than its green-banded predecessor. It showcases more of its supporting cast, including the excellent Mindy Kaling, not to mention the underrated Jake Johnson, the always-welcome Kevin Kline, and even a bit of Greta Gerwig to satisfy the arthouse crowd. Kutcher still looks like a high school jackass who stumbled onto a movie set, but still, it works far better. Does it look good? I’m not sure. But I’ll say this: it sure as fuck looks better, and in this case the red band trailer gives it a fighting chance against its clone competition.
So there you have it. Two rare occurrences that demonstrate the effectiveness of a red band trailer. Doesn’t happen often.
I hope you enjoyed this little examination of blood, boobs and butts.