Resident Evil: Extinction gave Russell Mulcahy the biggest hit of his chequered career in 2007– so it's surprising the Aussie director hasn't been inundated with offers.
Mulcahy seems trapped in a 1980s time warp, working with B-grade actors in genre films which I suspect, in general, are facing diminishing returns in cinemas – if they even manage to crack a theatrical release – and on DVD.
Weapon, one of two Mulcahy projects that were announced during the Cannes festival, will feature Jean-Claude Van Damme alongside Vinnie Jones as rival assassins who are forced to team up to take down the head of a drug cartel. It's due to shoot in Vancouver in August.
His other new gig is Bait, which is being trumpeted as Australia's first 3D dramatic feature. The plot sounds silly: An action-adventure set in a coastal town where a freak tsunami floods and traps shoppers in a supermarket with an armed maniac and a pack of hungry tiger sharks that have been washed into the building. He'll write and direct the movie on the Gold Coast for Gary Hamilton's Arclight Films and Australia\'s Limelight.
Russell's most recent pic, Give 'em Hell Malone, stars Thomas Jane as a tough private eye who battles an army of thugs led by Ving Rhames to protect a valuable secret. As far as I can tell, the Hannibal Pictures production doesn't yet have distribution in the US or Australia.
Mulcahy has been announced as the director of several projects that haven't materialized. Last October, Variety reported he was to direct The Courier for Arclight. The saga of a daredevil courier who\'s pursued across the country by corrupt cops and rival crime bosses, it was to star Adrien Brody and shooting was supposed to start in January in Louisiana and Las Vegas.
In 2007, Universal Pictures was said to have signed him for The Scorpion King 2, the sequel to the 2002 hit which starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, directed by Chuck Russell. The same year, he was pegged as the director of Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires, based on Steven-Elliot Altman\'s three-part book series about a couple who are turned into vampires after being attacked on Manhattan\'s lower east side; after the woman dies, the man turns to Zen meditation to curb his blood-sucking ways.
All of that seems scant reward after Resident Evil: Extinction rang up $147 million at cinemas worldwide, and for a director who burst onto the scene with the killer boar caper Razorback in 1984, and followed that with Highlander.
B-grade movies without stars or hefty budgets are struggling more than ever to entice buyers in Cannes amid the global recession, spiralling piracy and a glut of low-budget productions, the Los Angeles Times reported last week. "Sales have been slumping for all kinds of movies, and the same market forces that are impairing highbrow art films are taking an equal – if not greater toll – on the crime dramas, erotic thrillers and horror titles looking for a home in the Cannes market,” the Times said.
Careful Russell, or those tiger sharks could turn out to be pretty toothless.