The Flix List: Five Movies Suffering From Identity Crisis


Many filmmakers tried to mix several genres in one film, sometime it works nicely, i.e. Captain America: The Winter Soldier which is a superhero movie mixed with Cold War-era espionage intrigue. But most of the time, it turns out to be a disaster. Just look at Cowboys & Aliens, mixing Sci-fi with Westerns sounds like a crazy idea, but maybe it’s crazy enough that it could work. Alas, it turned out to be a bomb for Universal, as it barely made close to its $163 mil budget domestically.

So Ted comes up with five other films suffering from identity crisis which are also box office duds:


The Lone Ranger


This box office dud tried to be too many things and in the end it just didn’t work. The film sort of reminded me of some of Buster Keator or Charlie Chaplin films from the 30s but then it also tried to be this serious western action/adventure of the 60s and 70s. I understand what Johnny Depp and the filmmakers were trying to do, but I think they should’ve picked a genre and stuck with it. Despite so many bad reviews it received last summer, I still thought it was an entertaining flick (check out my review) and I think it might have a cult following the years to come.

Tears of the Sun


Antione Fuqua tends to mix genres in his films and this one was a good example of how NOT to do it. Originally the script was written as a Die Hard sequel but then things didn’t work out and Willis decided he wanted to make it a separate film. He even persuaded the studio executives to hire Fuqua to direct the film. Well, Willis ended up regretting that decision. When Fuqua took over the project, he decided to make it more into political drama instead of just straight up action/adventure. Apparently both Willis and Fuqua argued with one another during the entire shoot and vowed to never work with each other again. By combining real life tragedies and over-the-top action sequences, the film just didn’t work and when it opened in March of 2003, it failed miserably. The film only earned about $40mil at the box office and it cost around $70-90mil to produce, ouch!

The Devil’s Own


This big budgeted action/drama was plagued with behind-the-scenes drama. It seems Brad Pitt loves to be involved with films that has troubled production, (the infamous World War Z behind the scene issues and the ongoing arguments on the set of Mr & Mrs Smith), in this film the dramas involved Pitt and Harrison Ford. Both stars wanted the film to focus on their character, apparently Pitt was pissed when studio hired Ford to be in the film.

In the original script, Pitt’s character was the main focus and Ford’s character was just a supporting role. But when Ford read the script and demanded that he gets the cop part, the studio executives were more than happy to hire him, this was when Ford was still a box office champ, he had just starred in The Fugitive, Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games, all were box office hits. There were reports that Pitt wanted to leave the production of the film because he thought the film was going downhill fast after several rewrites. He even bad mouthed the film in an interview with Newsweek magazine, calling it “the most irresponsible bit of film-making.” He was unhappy with how the script has changed so much from the one he fell in love with, it was originally a dark and brutal drama thriller but then it switched into more of an action/thriller. And that was the problem with the film, it couldn’t decide if it wants to be drama or action, and it failed by combining both. The film reportedly cost $90-100mil to make and it only made about $40mil back.



Well this film actually was a huge hit when it came out but I thought it didn’t work at all, I actually named it one of the worst films from 2008. The original script was a much darker story about a superhero who hates saving the world and Michael Mann was attached to direct it in early 2000s. But with several rewrites and delays, Mann gave the job to his protégé Peter Berg. Berg wanted to make it close to the original script but pressures from studio heads forced him to make it into a mixed of light comedy and action/adventure but also with some dark moments. Seriously the tone of this film was so uneven, I wanted to walk out of the theater. I think this was a huge missed opportunity to make a film about a “real” superhero living in our society and sick of saving idiotic people but again it’s all about making money for studios so what they made was a crappy wannabe film.

Random Hearts


This film maybe the prime example of how not to mix several genres into one film, was this film supposed to be police drama thriller, mystery suspense or romantic drama? What’s so surprising was that the film was directed by Sydney Pollack, who was considered one of the good directors at the time. The behind-the-scene drama was more well known than the actual film, apparently Pollack and his leading man Harrison Ford constantly argued during the production of the film. It got so bad that they stopped talking to one another and vowed to never work with each other again. It’s kind of funny because while making Sabrina together a few years prior, they were good buddies. The film opened in the fall of 1999 with little fanfare and the studio hardly promoted it, probably because they saw it and decided it was a turkey and didn’t want to spend any money on promotions.


Have you seen any of these? If so what do you think? Feel free to list of other films you think suffer from an identity crisis.

29 thoughts on “The Flix List: Five Movies Suffering From Identity Crisis

  1. I’ve seen them all, and I agree they miss the mark either by combining genres unsuccessfully or just poor all around scripts even though filmmakers have the best actors to work with. I think of ‘Kate and Leopold’ (2001). A Hugh Jackman/Meg Ryan romantic comedy. I reckon you could add Meg Ryan with Nicholas Cage, too, with City of Angels.

    1. City of Angels is an example of how to not remake a great movie. Wings of Desire was a much more existential film that had some humor but was more focused on the idea of humanity. Plus, it had a way better ending.

      1. I still need to see Wings of Desire. I hate it when a remake dumbs down the original and make it more suitable for the masses. I feel that City of Angels is such a sappy rom-com.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah, it seems like he’d been involved in many production films. Good thing for him, WWZ was a hit and not the disaster many predicted.

  2. Oh, all of those films sucked. It’s just an example of how not to fuse genres. I’m trying to think of something that tried to be all sorts of things but didn’t work. I think Truffaut’s version of Fahrenheit 451 is a good example as I just saw it recently where it wanted to be a sci-fi film with dramatic stories about censorship and dystopia but it never really gelled as I think Truffaut was really out of his element as it is often considered his worst film though it has some good moments.

    1. Ted S.

      I haven’t seen Fahrenheit 451 in long time so I couldn’t remember much about it. But i loved the novel and hope they remake the film version soon!

  3. Haven’t seen Random Hearts or The Devil’s Own, but I’m a fan of your first two. Yes, the mix of genres may have put many people off, but I don’t mind it as much. I initially only ‘liked’ The Lone Ranger, but have grown to really appreciate the craziness Gore Verbinski infused in this western. Riffing off some from his Pirates of the Caribbean movies, for sure.

    I, too, am a fan of Antoine Fuqua’s work, especially Tears of the Sun. Yes, it wears its sentiments on its sleeve, without question. But it is its earnestness and message, along with some rousing action sequences, that has kept me as a supporter of the movie.

    Hell, I happen to love the film ‘Knowing’ and Nic Cage’s work in it, so that makes me kind of an outlier, anyway. Oh, and I kinda liked Hancock, even with that crazy twist it throws at the audience. Fine look at these, Ted 🙂

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Michael. I couldn’t recommend Random Hearts because it’s such a mess but you might want to check out The Devil’s Own, a great film is in there somewhere and if not for the drama behind the scenes, they might’ve produced one. The film was well directed and the performance by the leads were very good, it’s just that the script was so messy.

      You know I loved the action sequences in Tears of the Sun and Hans Zimmer’s score was great too but I couldn’t get into the film, the overly serious tone just turned me off. The funny thing was that the original script was meant to be Die Hard 4, it would’ve been John McClane and his son trying to survive in the jungle. Unfortunately we did get a Die Hard film with the McClane boys but it’s an awful one. LOL.

      Never seen Knowing, I hardly remember about that one. I really hated Hancock, nothing worked for me in that film, haha!

  4. Great commentary, Ted. I agree on most of them.

    Though I thought part of Hancock really good. The first and second halves definitely don’t mix, though.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks James. I know I’m in the minority for hating Hancock, heck it’s one of the biggest hits of that year. But I just really despised that movie, nothing worked for me.

      1. I despised the second half and have heard a number of others second that point in varying conversations since its release. So. I won’t judge you too harshly for that opinion. 🙂

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  6. You know Ted I haven’t had any interest in seeing any one of those films including Cowboys & Aliens. Now Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity is how you do a Sci-fi western.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Donnie Darko. If I remember right you didn’t care for that film. I personally loved the film and the way it juggled 80’s teen high school, sci-fi, drama and comedy genres. On the other hand Kelly’s Southland Tales is a good example of a film that had a real identitiy crisis which turned out to be a lighthearted dystopian comedy. I liked it more than most but I could see where it was kind of a mess. An ambitious mess but still a mess. I also thought Kelly’s The Box set as a Twilight Zone, sci-fi conspiracy theory, 70’s period piece was misguided. It’s a shame because Richard Matheson’s original story “Button, Button” was so brilliant. Hey I give Kelly an A for effort in trying to do something different but the latter two films didn’t pan out.

    Bruce Willis not getting along with another director… I sense a pattern here. Kevin Smith called working with Willis on Copout “soul crushing”. In his book, “Tough Sh*t”, he said of Willis “Where was the happy-go-lucky charmer who made Maddie Hayes fall so madly in love?” Smith writes. “There were no staff limbo parties like there’d been at the Blue Moon Detective Agency whenever Bruce was around. The singing pitchman who made me believe that Seagram’s Wine Coolers were a manly enough spirit to chug at a high school kegger? He turned out to be the unhappiest, most bitter, and meanest emo-bitch I’ve ever met at any job I’ve held down. And mind you, I’ve worked at Domino’s Pizza.’

    1. Ted S.

      Hey Dave, I still haven’t seen Serenity, believe it or not. Also, I’ve never watched Firefly so maybe that’s why I didn’t seek out Serenity.

      You know I didn’t mind Donnie Darko as much but I HATED both Southland Tales and The Box, that’s when I realized Kelly’s a hack. He seems to think he’s in the same level as some of the big filmmakers like Nolan or Tarantino but he’s not. I hate to say this but I’m glad his career isn’t going anywhere after both Southland Tales and The Box got tons of bad reviews and didn’t make a dent at the box office.

      I never read Smith’s book but that’s so funny of what he said about Willis. I believe it, I always have a feeling that Willis is an asshole and if I was directing him in a film, we’d sure be arguing quite a bit. LOL.

      1. Yeah Ted I’d hold off on Serenity until you see Firefly. Although short lived it’s one of my favorite TV shows. Nathan Fillion can do no wrong. Check it out.

        Kelly also penned Tony Scott’s Domino with Kiera Knightly. So there’s that. I don’t think Kelly’s full of himself… I just think he’s a one hit wonder that will never be able to live up to his cult film Donnie Darko. Interestingly enough it was Terry Gilliam’s Brazil that inspired him to direct. Brazil being my favorite film I feel a kinship with him and what he’s trying to do. I will say this, like Gilliam, Kelly’s not afraid to shoot for the moon with his ambitions. I’d rather have that than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Ya know?

        Here’s his next project with Nic Cage titled Amicus. It’s based on the true story of Lawrence Horn, a former record producer and Motown Records exec who is currently serving a life sentence in prison for hiring Detroit-based hit man James Perry to murder his wife, quadriplegic son and the wealthy family’s overnight nurse at their suburban home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Horn’s son was the victim of medical malpractice and as the result of a subsequent lawsuit, had a trust worth nearly $2 million, which his father stood to inherit in the wake of his death. Detectives discovered that Perry, who was sentenced to death in 1995 for the brutal crime, used how-to book “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors” as a guide to execute the murders. The families of the victims went on to file a class-action lawsuit against the Colorado-based publisher Paladin Press. The attorneys representing the families then hired Smolla, a First Amendment attorney and professor at William & Mary Law School, to consult on the historic case, which took five years to settle amidst a series of shocking and bizarre developments.”

        We shall see if he can pull it off.

        1. Ted S.

          Thanks for that info about Kelly’s and Cage’s new flick Dave, I knew nothing about it. If this one turns out good then I’ll give Kelly a break, like you said he showed promises in Donna Darko but his last two films were just awful, to me anyway.

    1. Ted S.

      Yup, Hancock was a huge mess of a film. Had they went with a serious tone, the film would’ve worked much better but combining comedy, action and drama it’s a failure in my book.

  7. Great post Ted! Boy I haven’t seen ANY of these films but I’m most interested in seeing Devil’s Own. I’m not fond of Pitt in general but I can see why he’s ticked off by how the movie turned out.

    1. Ted S.

      You should check out The Devil’s Own, I like I said to Michael, there’s a great film hidden in there some where. But because of the drama behind the scenes, we just didn’t get to see it. With the exception of his annoying Irish accent, Pitt was quite good in the film, so was Ford. The problem was the script was so messed up and the film didn’t work at all.

  8. I can agree with Hancock, it’s a bit of a mess, though I still enjoyed it nonetheless.

    As for another film suffering from identity crisis, first one that came to mind for me was End of Watch. By no means a bad movie, but I really do wish it would’ve decided whether or not it wanted to be a found footage movie or not, because the constant back and forth was a huge distractor for me throughout the whole thing.

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah I totally agree about End of Watch, I got so annoyed by the way they shot that movie. For a while it’s found footage then it’s a movie again, I just went WTF! I think that was an experiment that went so wrong and I’m thankful no other action movies try to imitate it.

  9. Hey good stuff Ted and a fun post to read! The only movie that I tend to disagree on is “Tears of the Sun”. I actually quite enjoyed it despite its predictability and at times hokey scenarios. I also thought The Lone Ranger was a huge drag and it was only saved by its ludicrous ending which actually felt like an entirely different film. I really struggled to make it through the film.

    That said I completely agree with you on Hancock. I can’t stand that movie. The tone was completely off.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Keith. I was so excited to see Tears of the Sun because it’s supposed to be a Die Hard in the jungle (originally it’s written as Die Hard 4 and apparently Ben Affleck was going to play John McClane Jr.) but when I saw the film, I was quite disappointed. It wasn’t bad by any means, just too dark for its own good.

      I thought parts of Lone Ranger was a drag too, they either should’ve made a true slapstick comedy action or a straight western action/adventure. Combining so many genres just didn’t work at all.

      I really hated Hancock, the whole film didn’t know what it wanted to be.

  10. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ted:

    You’ve chose five films that were fractions of decent films. With ‘The Lone Ranger’ looking and feeling very much like a bad idea weeks before cameras rolled. And ‘Tears of The Sun’ having a very “shot in the saddle’ look and feel with no end mission or exit strategy in sight.

    While ‘Hancock’ was a mood swinging mess. Proving Peter Berg is a gifted stage, television and screen actor…. A director? Not so much.

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