Renny Harlin has made so many lousy movies in Hollywood over the past 10 years, could he do any worse back in his Finland homeland?
You'd hope not, considering his resume is dotted with artistic and financial disasters such as The Covenant, Mindhunters, Driven, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Cutthroat Island, alongside hits Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2.
Mannherheim marks the 49-year-old director's first Finnish film since the ultra-violent Born American in 1986, which was banned in Finland but became his ticket to Hollywood. It's the saga of Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, who was Commregain his Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish army in World War 2 and served as the sixth President of Finland from 1944-1946. Described as Finland's most ambitious and expensive film ever, Mannerheim starts shooting in March.
With any luck, the film may help boost Harlin's flagging reputation, in much the same way that Black Book gave some much-needed credibility to Paul Verhoeven. Depicting the betrayal and murder of Dutch Jews in WW2, it was nominated for a BAFTA award for best foreign film and was the Netherland's foreign language entry in the 79th Academy Awards.
Despite that critical kudos, the film got a hostile reception at home. “Some Dutch critics have said that my film is superficial, perverted, decadent," Verhoeven told The Guardian. "Don\'t they know I have heard these criticisms before? It was the same for me in Hollywood, isn\'t it?"
The director of Basic Instinct, RoboCop, Total Recall and the execrable Showgirls, has since returned to the Hollywood treadmill. His latest effort, MGM's The Thomas Crown Affair 2, with Pierce Brosnan as the billionaire thief, doesn't inspire much confidence; it's based on the 1964 movie Topkapi, which starred Peter Ustinov.
Foreign-born directors such as Harlin and Verhoeven can't rest on their laurels or blot their copybooks too often nowadays as Hollywood reaches out increasingly to overseas filmmakers. This influx of new talent brings a fresh perspective and an ability to work on modest budgets.
“The list of directors now making the jump from local fare to US wide releases with surprising speed is wide and varied,” Reuters reported recently, citing such cases as producers Graham King and Martin Scorsese recruiting French director Jean-Marc Vallee for The Young Victoria, which features Emily Blunt as the monarch; Iceland's Baltasar Kormakur helming Run for Her Life, an organ transplant thriller starring Sam Shepard, Rosanna Arquette, Jordi Molla and French star Vincent Perez; Paramount signing Germany's Christian Alvart for Case 39, which follows Renee Zellweger as an idealistic social worker who saves an abused 10-year-old girl only to discover the girl isn't as innocent as she thinks; and Brazilian Fernando Meirelles' Blindness.
"Foreign directors have always been in Hollywood," Rich Klubeck, a partner at the United Talent Agency told Reuters. "I think what really changed is that they\'re now in studio tentpoles."