In the UK some film reviewers have mocked Russell Crowe’s directing debut and his performance in The Water Diviner, while audiences seemed unenthused.
Entertainment One launched the Turkish-set drama last Friday, fetching a modest £521,000 ($A1 million) in three days at 420 locations.
To be fair, the UK market was dominated by Universal’s juggernaut Fast & Furious 7, which rang up $24.8 million, part of a global haul of $US392 million.
Still, that’s a disappointing result for a film which has grossed a fine $15.7 million at home and $US5.7 million in Turkey. In Italy it’s earned just $US1.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
The next major tests are in France on April 15 and, via Warner Bros., the US on April 24.
Typifying the sniffy reviews in the UK, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw observed, “Russell Crowe makes his feature directing debut with this laborious, well-intentioned movie about the aftermath of Gallipoli…. It is fervent and fanciful, and Crowe’s own lead performance is self-conscious and underpowered.
“This is a sugary drama, in which Crowe’s big emotional moment looks as if some assistant director applied a trickling tear to his cheek with an eyedropper.”
Some critics found it hard to swallow the relationship between Crowe’s Connor and the gorgeous Turkish hotel owner played by Olga Kurylenko.
Empire magazine’s Ian Freer opined, “A sincere ambitious, handsomely put together war drama that couldn’t give a fig about the 16-24 demographic, The Water Diviner at times rises above its old fashioned qualities to suggest levels of cultural complexity but also gets mired in a gooey romance that would make your gran vomit.”
The Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan derided the film as a “handsome, earnest bit of piffle.”
More positive was the Financial Times’ Nigel Andrews, who said, “With The Water Diviner we get what we expect from a film directed by and starring Russell Crowe. Bread and butter craftsmanship, with a thick slice of ham.
”It’s good ham, though, as Crowe’s bereaved outback farmer, skilled at finding desert springs where surface life has perished, just like his sons and wife, hauls off to Gallipoli. He wants to find the bodies of his battle-slain kids and take them home.
“It’s at its best, this likable cine-yarn with a beginner’s swagger, when Crowe is at his best: fighting officials, knocking ninnies, making foes eat Crowe pie. He can also shed — credit where due — a good fatherly tear.”
Even more flattering was the Daily Telegraph’s Tim Robey, who sparked to a “stirring, unprententious account of an ordinary man's search for truth in the battlefields of Gallipoli which is by no means the chest-puffing vanity project you might instantly suspect.”
Robey said Connor is one of the most ordinary men Crowe has ever played – not a leader, barely a hero. “Crowe mounts the story in square, gruffly emotive fashion, but his best achievement is wrestling with a truculent, famously thin-skinned leading man, and extracting the most soulful performance he’s given in years,” he wrote.
“Of all directors to remind us a relaxed subtlety can be Russell Crowe’s forte, who’d have guessed it would be Russell Crowe?”