Taylor Hackford's career hit a flat spot after he directed the Ray Charlies biopic Ray in 2004. If he's pinning his comeback hopes on Love Ranch, his first feature since the film which won an Oscar for Jamie Foxx, he's likely to be sorely disappointed.
The saga of a couple who owned one of the first legal brothels in Nevada, starring Hackford's wife Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, it opened in a handful of locations in the US on June 30 to withering reviews.
Variety branded Love Ranch “a tawdry look at the early days of Nevada's legalized brothel business that plays more like Lifetime fodder than the Martin Scorsese pics that serve as its model.”
The Hollywood Reporter praised Mirren's performance as the daughter of a prostitute who winds up falling for a heavyweight boxer from Argentina but noted, “If any film about prostitution can be called anti-erotic, then Ranch surely is it.”
Huffington Post's Marshall Fine likened the film to “two hours of watching Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci huff and puff, trying to breathe life into this sad, sour enterprise.”
It's the first time Mirren had worked with her husband since White Nights in 1985, and it was a difficult shoot, the actress has revealed. “Taylor was under a lot of stress also making this film because the financial situation was very difficult as it is nowadays with independent film," she told About.com Hollywood Movies. "He was the producer as well as the director. It was very, very stressful for him. We didn't have enough time to shoot it. We were very much under pressure. He's tough, my husband. There were days when I was planning how we were going to divide the property.”
The 65-year-old Hackford made his name in the 1980s as the director of An Officer and a Gentleman, Against All Odds and White Nights. But he made just two films of note in the '90s, Dolores Claiborne and The Devil's Advocate. The year 2000 probably marked a career low-point when he presided over the Russell Crowe/Meg Ryan clunker Proof of Life.
He's been listed as the director of three projects in the past couple of years, none of which has panned out. In October 2009, Jamie Foxx told MTV News he'd like Hackford to direct him in a biopic of disgraced boxer Mike Tyson.
In October 2008 Variety announced that Hackford would direct Merchant of Shanghai, an English-language biopic about opium dealer and property magnate Silas Hardoon, who transformed Shanghai in the 19th century.
A few months earlier the mag reported Hackford would make Tenn, a drama about the formative years of playwright Tennessee Williams, replete with a scornful father, depression, conflicts about sexuality and watching his beloved sister institutionalised and lobotomised.
Hackford takes a philosophical view about the often arduous, time-consuming process of making independent movies. “Ray took me 13 years to get the script done and make the film. And two years to make it, so 15 years in all,” he said in a recent interview.
Love Ranch came together much faster but he said it should have been released a year earlier, a delay apparently caused by the time it took to nail a US distributor; as yet it doesn't have a release date Down Under.