Smokin’ Joe

Expletives undeleted: It’s true, although it doesn’t happen often: Sometimes, Bites gets it wrong. That’s one reason why the Bites fax (916-498-7920), voicemail (916-498-1234 x3333) and e-mail (<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script>) hotlines exist. If Bites pisses you off, don’t go running to Bites’ boss to complain. Not only is that a mite passive-aggressive, it’s also not going to get you anywhere. If you want results, go directly to Bites—it works every time. Just ask Sacramento filmmaker Joe Carnahan.

Last week in this space, while taking a potshot at Sactown Magazine, Bites claimed Carnahan’s latest movie, Smokin’ Aces, “utterly flopped.” While it’s a fact that—a Web site that features a national roundup of critical reviews for every major Hollywood release—rated the film a paltry 26 percent out of a possible 100, Bites didn’t mean to imply that Smokin’ Aces wasn’t financially successful. However, that’s exactly how Carnahan took it.

“Yeah, Bites, this is Joe Carnahan calling,” the hardboiled filmmaker growled over the hotline. “I hope you use these words in your chickenshit column. Since when does nearly $40 million in domestic box office and a projected $80 million in international box office, and another possible $100 million in DVD, constitute a flop, you fucking idiot?”

Ouch! Carnahan was slightly more direct via e-mail. The subject line of a missive conveying the same message simply stated, “Hey fuckface.”

Joe down: “If you have any balls, you’ll call me back,” the enraged auteur continued. “I would love to know who’s running me down in my hometown. So give me a call back unless you’re a complete coward. … I’d love an explanation, so give me a call … you fucking ponce. I’m looking forward to it, I really am. Let’s see if you’ve got any guts.”

My-oh-my! If Bites actually did have testicles, they would have retracted. It was a pleasantly surprised Carnahan who lifted up the receiver in Hollywood and accepted Bites’ apology for getting it wrong.

“You can say it was critically derided, that’s fine,” he said, in a tone decidedly more civilized than the previous communiqués. “But to say it flopped is not correct, man. That implies some kind of financial failure, and it wasn’t. It’s actually going to do quite well for Universal.”

They don’t call him Smokin’ Joe for nothing.

“It was a $20 million movie,” he said. “It’s going to outgross Zodiac, which was a $75 million movie, and Shooter, which was a $65 million movie. Is it a massive windfall? Hell no. But, for its budget, it’s going to do really well.”

Hollywood confidential: Carnahan said he was especially sensitive after being profiled in a January 25 SN&R cover story that he deemed a “hatchet job.” It’s true that the “part charity fund-raiser, part glad-handing photo-op” referred to in the article raised $20,000 for a good cause. But Bites wonders if the writer/director isn’t being just a tad sensitive. If you can’t stand the hatchets, don’t play with the Indians. However, Carnahan said he’s not averse to being scalped as a matter of principle.

“I was angry because I thought I was getting jammed,” he said. “Anywhere but my hometown—it’s precious to me.” He shrugs off the avalanche of negative reviews his latest film has received. “I knew going into that movie that there were going to be venomous reviews because of the shit I was attempting. I’m trying to do really broad comedy against really bleak drama. Those things don’t normally go together. It was experimental, in a lot of ways, from the jump.”

Up next for Carnahan is White Jazz, based on the James Ellroy novel and starring George Clooney. It’s scheduled to begin shooting at the end of the year.