While I was compiling my most recent Unfortunate Movie Posters column, I spotted something intriguingly weird. Let’s take a look at the posters for a movie called Inseparable. This movie was made in China and released there on May 4th. There is as yet no American release date. That’s not the odd part.
Okay, so it’s a superhero movie — apparently a lighthearted one at that. Aside from the cameo from the fish from the Faith No More “Epic” video, there’s nothing particularly unusual about a comical costumed-hero movie from the Asian film industry.
But not usually like this. Watch as this guy is joined by a partner-in-crimefighting…
Does the profile of the caped gentleman on the left look familiar? Squint.
Still hard to tell? Here, let’s open it up…
Well there’s the name and a closer look, but can we get a picture without the mask?
BAM! Kevin Spacey!
Wait — what?
That is indeed esteemed actor Kevin Spacey, American star of movies as uniquely American as The Ref, Seven, The Usual Suspects, L.A. Confidential, American Beauty, Horrible Bosses, Casino Jack, and Margin Call, and he is indeed up there wearing a cape in a Chinese-only movie.
And he will be joined by Peter Stormare, man of a thousand accents. You know Peter Stormare from his villainous roles in movies such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Constantine, and Lockout, and I can pretty much guarantee you sight-unseen that he plays a villain here too.
What else do we know about the story of Inseparable? Well, according to the internet, the official site is coming soon, but the placeholder does offer us this image:
So it looks like Kevin Spacey makes some friends while he’s over there!
And, instead of having to battle one, he gets the chance to be a superhero:
This article at The Playlist sheds a little more light, explaining that Inseparable is about a suicidal young businessman who is saved and befriended by a mysterious American (who favors 1980s LL Cool J tracksuits) — they find purpose in life by making costumes and heading out to the streets together to fight crime. The girl pictured above, it turns out, is the young man’s wife, a reporter who apparently gets her own costume eventually. The Playlist links to another article that explains how the film was financed and made in China but shot partly in English, which is slightly reminiscent of how most of the “spaghetti” Westerns of the 1960s and 1970s were produced.
I think it’s great, by the way. I’m all for it.
It’s now a badly-kept secret that American movie stars often collect major paychecks for appearing in commercials in the Asian marketplace, far away from the judgment of American audiences. (It’s famously a running joke in Lost In Translation.) That’s not what this is. At a reported budget of $4-6 million, this is a relatively modest production, but it’s a notable development. The foreign market is exceedingly and ever-increasingly important to Hollywood. Have you noticed that the huge Hollywood summer movies have been premiering overseas even before we get them here? The Avengers is a colossal hit here in America, but would you believe that the rest of the world actually got to see it a week before we did?!? It’s a noticeable development.
We can interpret this mounting trend in two different ways. One, it’s an alarming portent of how Hollywood, in a pursuit of foreign audiences (and revenue) will continue to forgo character and nuance for spectacle and costumes, since action scenes, giant robots, and explosions are always the easiest story elements to translate.
All that’s true, but I prefer the more optimistic interpretation, which is that dropping American stars into Chinese films (to take the example on the table) is a fun and fresh way to create a multicultural mash-up. We’ve already seen Kevin Spacey interact onscreen with just about every name actor we could possibly think of — maybe pairing up such a recognizable and reliable talent with some foreign faces will produce some refreshing results.
At the very least, maybe all this multinational branding experimentation will one day bring us an actually awesome new Godzilla movie.
More mysteries of life solved daily on Twitter: @jonnyabomb