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5 Sure Signs Brad Pitt Is in Paycheck Mode

Skip the brainless blockbuster World War Z.

by
John Boot

Bio

June 21, 2013 - 9:00 am
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Brad Pitt is not the world’s greatest actor, but he does have talent and movie-star charisma. More important, though, he has good taste which proves he’s not a hack. Movies like Moneyball, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Tree of Life and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button prove he’s interested in quality material that isn’t necessarily commercial. He isn’t Sly Stallone or Steven Seagal.

So what is he doing producing and starring in World War Z when he could be doing something a lot more interesting than shooting zombies in the face? That’s easy. He’s in Paycheck Mode. He thinks he needs to carry a bona-fide blockbuster series in order to keep him in the style to which he’s become accustomed. Here are five ways you can tell he’s doing it strictly for the bucks.

1) The New Movie Is High-Concept, Meaning Low-Effort on the Part of the Audience.

You can’t explain the appeal of Moneyball or Jesse James in a sentence, but World War Z is simply a movie about your average ordinary expert UN diplomat/action hero/scientist/dad who singlehandedly saves the world from an unexplained zombie outbreak. Problem: the audience figures out early going in that this is pretty much going to be the whole story, so the only reason to stick around is to ogle the special effects and worship his Bradness. The movie is set up to launch a franchise that would replace the Ocean’s series with an easy way for Brad to replenish the bank account every couple of years, but with cost overruns driving the budget up to some $200 million — some say the true figure is closer to $300 million — the zombie thriller seems unlikely to spark a sequel.

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2) The Cast Is Full of Nobodies.

Mireille Enos? James Badge Dale? Daniella Kertesz? Fana Mokoena? Who are these people? Looks like there wasn’t much money left in the salary jar to hire anyone good after Brad took his cut. Or maybe every supporting actor who got a look at the script decided to pass because there wasn’t much for them to do. Which brings up….

3) It’s All About Brad.

In Pitt’s quality movies, he’s shown a lot of generosity in sharing the screen, allowing other characters to make an impact. Jesse James was an ensemble piece, Moneyball gave almost equal time to the Jonah Hill character and he was a relatively small element of the epics The Tree of Life and Inglourious Basterds. Even in his interesting failures, like Killing Them Softly, which featured Ray Liotta and the late James Gandolfini, Pitt has been willing to share the spotlight. Not in World War Z, in which all other characters essentially spend their time watching Brad be awesome. The film is as much a showcase for Brad as the similarly forgettable, lowest-common-denominator efforts Meet Joe Black and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. 

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4) Nobody Worked Up Much of a Sweat Over the Script.

Scripts matter more in movies about people talking than they do in movies about people screaming, running, climbing walls, hanging off helicopters and eating each other. The immense CGI spectacle of, say, thousands of zombies swarming Jerusalem or going nuts on an airplane with a hole blown out of its side gave the writers a sense that they didn’t need to worry so much about creating connecting tissue, much less delivering interesting dialogue. Just know that wherever there’s a problem, Brad will be there to ask a couple of questions, figure it out, then move on to the next hotspot and repeat. Brad is, apparently, fine with all this.

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5) There’s Absolutely No Need to See the Movie a Second Time.

Movies like Tree of LifeBasterds, Jesse James or even the tendentious left-wing mob drama Killing Them Softly develop actual ideas that repay repeat viewings, but World War Z is as mindless as a slasher movie. Once you know what happens next, it’s impossible to take any interest in it. Pitt has been in so many good movies that he has enough sense to know this, but he decided a stupid flick will always attract audiences if it’s big and loud and explosive enough. Not necessarily. There are a lot of effects-driven movies out there at the same time. People aren’t going to go see all of them.

John Boot is the pen name of a conservative writer operating under deep cover in the liberal media.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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I liked the book, and I like the movie. The book was fluff, a fun read, and the movie is fluff too. There's nothing wrong with fluff. It's fun sometimes. The only connection between the book and the movie that I could see was the title and the fact that the movie did have zombies in it. Past that, it was completely different. They also seemed to have cut out a fair amount of what was in the trailers. Russia was cut completely. But definitely worth seeing. Also, I adore Pitt. He's cute and I like his voice. Win-win.
40 weeks ago
40 weeks ago Link To Comment
No go, no see. It is a strange movie that can transform non-stop action into an exercise of boredom. Even the ads are boring with the ant-like hordes of zombies.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Our forefathers pledged their lives their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Many of the gave those lives and those fortunes.

Those of you who continue to support the ever more anti-America Hollywood spit on their sacred honor.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
So the meat of this review is don't go see it because you have some sort of class envy/artistic sell out issue with the guy? Where am I the village Voice? Saw it today, read the book (and am rereading it just for the heck of it) and the movie was a very fair compromise on the book. I'd have rather seen it as a 20 hr series on HBO or something along those lines but barring that it was a fair treatment. Let the zombies run so the plague spreads at warp speed and the story along with it. Ideal? No. but not a loser. Oh and all the supporting performances were fine to excellent. Just because they aren't the name of the week does not make them hacks. Really disappointing tone here.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Problem: the audience figures out early going in that this is pretty much going to be the whole story, so the only reason to stick around is to ogle the special effects and worship his Bradness."

For those of us who are zombie fans, the movie doesn't have to be that good. We have the Walking Dead for good drama. I plan to see the movie DESPITE Brad Pitt being in it.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem with the movie is that it didn't take the opportunity to distinguish itself from other zombie apocalypse movies, and the book offered this opportunity. World War Z could have made a great movie franchise, but it required a bit more imagination on the part of the scriptwriters and the producers.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Other than Kalifornia, Snatch - Pitt's BEEN in 'Paycheck Mode'.

Guy has been a sellout from the beginning. He lucked into the aforementioned movies as do most popular actors.

Look at Johnny Depp. He's billed as some odd albeit cool, strangely attractive hipster in his heyday. The same guy whom had a tattoo of then-barely legal Winona Ryder, 'Winona Foreva'. Depp should be thanking his agent each and everyday for selling him as 'mysterious'.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
James Badge Dale, I believe, was Lecke in "The Pacific." No need to rag on him
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Fair point on the cast, but James Badge Dale is excellent in quite a few other outings.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Pitt may lose money on this one, because he owns it.

I am glad Brad Pitt made WW-Z because I am considering framing his June 2013 Vanity Fair cover photo (credit to Fred R Conrad), although not sure I will see the movie after reading Laura Holson's account of the "Epic Battle" to make this film. Ok, I have to see it if only to find out which version made the final cut.

It's interesting that Pitt has avoided chick-flicks since his breakout in "Thelma and Lousie".
Too bad, because some of his 'serious' films are too post-modern to even pique my interest despite his appeal on the big screen.



42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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