The Weinstein brothers need a hit on their hands and are banking on Tarantino to deliver one.
26 May 2009 - 12:02 PM  UPDATED 6 Nov 2012 - 9:30 PM

To borrow the title of that terrific Dustin Hoffman/Emma Thompson movie, could it be Last Chance Harvey for the once-mighty mogul Harvey Weinstein and his lower-profile brother Bob?

Some pundits believe the future of the brothers' embattled Weinstein Co. is hanging in the balance—and that Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds could seal its fate either way.

“The movie is shaping up as a make-or-break proposition for the Weinstein Co., which can\'t shake rumours that it\'s insolvent,” reported from Cannes last week, where Tarantino's $US70 million wartime drama was screened. Gawker quoted a rival film executive as saying, “If Inglourious is a misfire, it\'ll hurt them... If it\'s a hit, I don\'t know if it\'ll save them.”

Since the brothers' acrimonious split in 2005 from the Disney Co., home to their Miramax banner for 12 years, the Weinstein Co. (TWC) has released a string of duds including Tarantino's Death Proof (Robert Rodriguez' companion title, Planet Terror, went straight to DVD here), The Nanny Diaries, Rambo (shared with Lionsgate, another flailing indie), Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream, George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead and Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

True, TWC had two Oscar-winning films this year in Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (a co-production with Mediapro and Wild Bunch) and Stephen Daldry's The Reader, but neither was a break-out success. All that is a far cry from Miramax's salad years when the brothers basked in critical and commercial hits Good Will Hunting, The English Patient, My Left Foot, Shakespeare In Love, Pulp Fiction and Chicago.

No doubt there is a lot riding on Inglourious Basterds but it's overly simplistic to say it could make or break the Weinsteins. For one thing, the film is co-owned and co-funded by Universal (which will release it in Oz on August 20) and additional financing came from co-producers Henning Molfenter and Charlie Woebcken of Berlin\'s Babelsberg Studios, where it was shot. So while that cushions the risks, it also means the profits will be shared.

Moreover, the buzz is building for TWC's musical Nine, which stars Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard and Daniel Day-Lewis, directed by Chicago's Rob Marshall; it's due out here in January.

Critics in Cannes were sharply divided over the merits of the Nazi drama, for which Austria's Christoph Waltz collected the fest's best actor trophy. “By turns surprising, nutty, windy, audacious and a bit caught up in its own cleverness, the picture is a completely distinctive piece of American pop art with a strong Euro flavour that\'s new for the director,” opined Variety's Todd McCarthy. “Several explosive scenes and the names of Tarantino and topliner Brad Pitt promise brawny commercial prospects.”

Conversely, The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw slammed the movie as awful, declaring, “It isn\'t funny; it isn\'t exciting; it isn\'t a realistic war movie, yet neither is it an entertaining genre spoof or a clever counterfactual wartime yarn.”

As for Tarantino, who rushed to get a print ready to screen in Cannes, he's gone back to the editing room.