The News

Randall Emmett

“On Wednesday, January 13, Randall Emmett presided over a crime scene near one of America’s few tropical rain forests in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. Robert De Niro, dressed as a small-town Georgia sheriff, emerged from a sun-faded mobile home and walked solemnly past a black van marked CORONER, looking like a man uneasy about the ordeal ahead of him. In Wash Me in the River, the feature film Emmett had just started shooting, that ordeal was to pursue a recovering opioid addict exacting revenge on the drug dealers he holds responsible for his fiancée’s death. Off-camera, De Niro’s ordeal was no less daunting — somehow, the great actor had to keep Hollywood’s worst filmmaker from ruining the movie they’d set out to make together. Emmett, who is 50, has directed just one other film, which has yet to be released. But as a producer, his credits include more than 110 movies, which have grossed in excess of $1.2 billion, most of them bad enough to require a category all their own. Among these, a few are impressively dreadful, like Neil LaBute’s 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, starring Nicholas Cage; others are the forgettable detritus of a bygone era, like the 2007 thriller 88 Minutes; most, however, are cheap paint-by-numbers action flicks such as Survive the Night, with Bruce Willis; Mercenary for Justice, starring Steven Seagal; and Backtrace, which brought Sylvester Stallone and Matthew Modine together for one of cinema’s more improbable partnerships. Such a bleak filmography would seem an unlikely lure for collaborators like De Niro and John Malkovich, who also appears in Wash Me in the River. But over a career spanning more than two decades, Emmett has made a fortune producing bad movies; that he has done so while pissing off investors, directors, and screenwriters — and, arguably, misleading audiences — hardly matters in Hollywood, where feature films have become increasingly difficult to finance and box-office receipts recently approached a forty-year low.”

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