Monday Morning Critic – Weighing In On The Joe Eszterhas and Mel Gibson Judah Maccabee Controversy, Matt Hamill and The Hammer

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

Considering that this week’s slate of film is so bad I’m probably going to skip it to watch The Ultimate Fighter live, and the Alvarez-Aoki fight in Bellator, there’s nothing about this week’s slate of film worth talking about. I mean I could talk about the choices that Zac Efron is making post High School Musical but that’s not all that exciting; he’s talking about being someone like Leonardo DiCaprio or Joseph Gordon-Levitt career-wise but isn’t taking the type of roles as those two actors were at the same point in their career. He’s still playing teen idol, they were trying to be actors, but that’s not all that exciting to talk about. You know what is?

Mel Gibson, Joe Eszterhas and the craziness that has come out of their failed attempt at getting the saga of Judah Maccabee onto the big screen.

The big story this week was that a letter from the scribe of F.I.S.T and Showgirls was publicly released with all sorts of really nasty stuff about Mad Max in it. Gibson responded in kind, mentioning how sucky of a job he thought the Music Box scribe did on their combined Maccabee effort. Eszterhas responded in kind claiming he had tapes of everything Mel had to say. It’s kind of hilarious in an odd way. There’s a handful of great outlets covering the story, which you can view here, here and here to get up to speed.

If you really think about it, the Maccabee film being cancelled was much more of an indictment on Eszterhas than Gibson. Hollywood is still leery of working with Gibson, admittedly, but he’s got what I like to refer to as “Wrath of God” money. If he wanted to buck the studio system and make his own $100-200 million blockbuster, complete with marketing as well as p&a, then he could cut that check on his own without breaking a sweat. It makes “eff you” money look like what you’d find in the couch cushions. It’s one thing to be able to empty the piggy bank and fund a $50 million passion project on your own. It’s another to cut a check that would bankrupt a small country without breaking a sweat.

Few in Hollywood have that kind of pull; Jerry Bruckheimer, for all his swagger and ability to get a blockbuster created, is still dependant on getting a studio to back him with the cash. So does Michael Bay. James Cameron and George Lucas, though, have that kind of money to pull it off that Gibson does. Gibson, for all his faults, has this sort of cash.

Gibson doesn’t need a studio to back him if he really wants to make Judah Maccabee: The Epic Adventures of Jewish Braveheart; having someone like Warner behind him would make for a much easier time. It’s why George Lucas tried to pitch Red Tails to studios for so long despite being able to make the film himself with his profits from the Star Wars Blu-Ray release. Cutting the check may be something you can do but people don’t get rich all that often by using their own money. Some studio control isn’t necessarily a bad thing either; having someone with an objective opinion can give you perspective in terms of how you view a project. They may find things you miss because you have blinders on.

My guess, especially looking at the statements that both Gibson and Eszterhas made, is that both are in the wrong here. Eszterhas was incompetent and delivered a subpar script that didn’t match the vision about the Judah Maccabee film that Gibson has in mind. And Warner Brothers passed on the film after looking at the script too; it was either way too expensive or too horrible for them to get behind. My guess is that it would be the latter because if anything Battleship proves that $150-200 million films are something Hollywood doesn’t exactly demand Inception level scripts for.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Eszterhas declared a lot of things that Gibson said were very rotten and possible anti-Semitic, as well as perhaps reeking a bit of misogynistic undertones. And here’s the thing that bugs me: so far nothing has come out with Gibson being this screaming lunatic. Apparently Eszterhas has tapes but won’t release them yet and people are automatically presuming Gibson is a scumbag who said horrible things and got caught on tape again. And people presume these things exist, of course, because Gibson’s track record isn’t exactly spotless. But here’s the thing that bugs me. Is Gibson dumb enough to get caught on tape being a jerk again?

Until I hear the tapes I’ll think of them as occupying the same space that lady’s lottery ticket did in McDonald’s: an imaginary one. Maccabee was the film that was supposed to rehab Gibson’s image, as well as return Eszterhas back into some measure of glory. The scribe hasn’t had a hit in a genuinely long time; you could argue most of his career is based off having written Basic Instinct and funneling that into the epic Showgirls. Rumors that his first feature F.I.S.T was rewritten by Oscar winner Sylvester Stallone, of course, and this was perhaps his final run at a big film.

Working with Gibson, for as much of a potential P.R nightmare as it could be, was more of Gibson choosing than Eszterhas’s choice. Gibson, for all his faults, still has substantial pull behind the camera. If people are still working to work with a child rapist like Roman Polanski than someone with Gibson’s faults isn’t quite persona non grata in Hollywood yet.

Another incident of him being a raving anti-Semite will probably do it; sexism isn’t quite as big a deal in Hollywood. If you can advertise for a female part in a Pirates of the Caribbean film and mention that a bounce test will be done to double check to see if a woman’s breasts are fake or not, without backlash outside the usual suspects, then him being a jerk to his ex-wife in the most graphic of terms will be more of a punch line than anything.

Arnold Schwarzenegger took a beating for his love child debacle that set off his divorce but it didn’t stop anyone from wanting to get into the Schwarzenegger business.

Money talks in Hollywood and an epic tale of bravery and badassness from Biblical times could be a big hit. No one thought The Passion of the Christ would gross anything substantial but it was an epic hit in both domestic and foreign box offices. That’s what’ll end up getting this film made once a script worthy of $200 million or so of someone’s money is put to paper. When Gibson gets a hair up his butt about something when it comes to making a film odds are it’ll get made. He wanted to make a film about Christ and no gave him a dime; the rest is history. It could repeat itself again but most likely Gibson will get a shooting script worthy of making, polish it to Braveheart caliber and then monies will get ponied up.

So far no one besides Eszterhas has claimed that this was a brilliant, brilliant script ala The Beaver and that Gibson was wrong. You’re not hearing anyone off the record from Warner talking about how they passed on it for any number of reasons other than it was a bad script. At a minimum you’d think that the script for the film itself would’ve leaked, if only to show the world that he was right and everyone else was wrong. No one and nothing has come out screaming about how this was a great script but Warner passed on it for some other reason, perhaps just not wanting to work with Mel Gibson on a project this size.

For all the bluster Eszterhas is just playing into the image of Gibson as this lunatic, nothing more.

It’s akin to hearing a story about someone and believing it because of their past history, like the playboy who cheats on his girlfriend. You can believe to a certain point something that isn’t true, like him having a three-way with two girls he picked up at a strip club while dating her. While the truth might be he paid for a stripper in a Champagne room to have a little x-rated fun, you can buy the other story if his past is littered with tales of debauchery while he masquerades as a faithful boyfriend. It’s easy to think of Mel Gibson as this lunatic because there are lots, and lots, of audio clips citing him as such. But until we hear him screaming at Eszterhas or near him the usual sort of ranting he’s known for now then we ought to wait before passing judgment on the man.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Hammer

A lot of people own The Hammer, a biopic of world class deaf wrestler turned cage fighter Matt Hamill. Unlike a lot of people my copy of The Hammer is autographed by the man himself. Tis one of the perks of following the UFC on Twitter; sometimes they have cool contests and give away cool stuff. I got a signed program from one of the events from one of the guys who founded TapOut and other stuff from the past couple months.

It pays to pay attention on Twitter, it seems. It got me a free movie!

One of the most amazing stories in sport was that of Hamill. Born deaf, Hamill would become one of the greatest deaf wrestlers of all time at both the collegiate and international levels with three NCAA Division III titles and earned a number of medals at the Deaflympics in both styles. He would later go on to further fame as a stalwart of the UFC light heavyweight division. He retired in 2011 but his story is a fascinating one. Thus we get The Hammer, also the name of a funny Adam Carolla film as well, a biopic on Hamill’s life.

Hamill was a kid from small town Ohio who was born with a couple of things. The first was the ability to be a tremendous wrestler, something useful in a state that loves the sport. The other was being profoundly deaf. The film follows his life as a youngster, dealing with the difficulties that being profoundly deaf gave him. The film follows him as a youngster, dealing with his disability, and how he handled it, and ends with his first national title at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

It’s an interesting film but not a particularly good one. This is more of a coming of age film than anything else as Hamill has to find himself as a wrestler, and as a member of the deaf community, than his life story. Plus the amateur wrestling in it is really bad; not quite Vision Quest level bad but it’s not exactly raising the bar for movie amateur wrestling. It is a good story just poorly told; it was really disappointing as a fan of the fighter and as a fan of cinema but it still was a good view though.

Slightly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Chimpanzee – A Disney nature documentary about a chimpanzee.

Skip It – Are chimps the new penguins?

The Lucky One – Zac Efron is a soldier who finds a picture of a chick and tracks her down to thank her with his penis, apparently.

Skip It – It’s a Nicholas Sparks film but with war instead of cancer.

Think Like a Man – Based off the novel of the same name, an ensemble “comedy” about modern dating.

Skip It – Outside of the Three Stooges film, no other film has had as rancid trailer as this.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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