John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are dominating Netflix with one of their past collaborations, and we’re not talking about Pulp Fiction. We’re talking about 2003’s Basic, which is currently sitting at #3 on Netflix’s top 10 list, according to FlixPatrol.
While this film was a monumental flop on both the critical and commercial front upon its release, it seems that Basic is being discovered by new audiences, and getting a second chance.
Basic, starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson is a hit now that it’s streaming on Netflix.
Basic marks John Travolta’s second collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson after Pulp Fiction, which revived the former’s career while in many ways putting the latter’s on the map. While Pulp Fiction famously used non-linear storytelling in a way that’s wildly entertaining and revealing, Basic has been considered to be needlessly convoluted and difficult to decipher when you consider how many unexpected plot twists are presented in the third act.
Though many have praised John McTiernan’s direction, as well as Travolta’s and Jackson’s performances, Basic is a prime example of how raw talent and star power alone cannot make a film successful.
Basic’s story centers on DEA agent Tom Hardy (Travolta), and Master Sergeant Nathan West (Jackson). After a live fire exercise goes terribly wrong in the jungles of Panama, Hardy suspects foul play when he starts to investigate the incident that not only resulted in the supposed death of West, but also several trainees who all died, but whose bodies were not found.
The audience is also presented with the ominous symbolism that comes in the form of the number 8 being written down by survivors.
Basic marks John Travolta’s second collaboration with Samuel L. Jackson after Pulp Fiction, which revived the former’s career while in many ways putting the latter’s on the map.
It’s revealed that a number of trainees were illegally selling prescription drugs on the black market, and that West was somehow involved in blowing their cover. But through a series of flashback sequences and witness testimonies gathered by Hardy, the viewer is left in the dark as to who orchestrated the incident, and what’s exactly at stake if investigators find out what’s actually going on.
But the problem that most reviewers had with Basic was that although we have a pretty compelling story on our hands, the delivery failed to execute the storyline in a way that’s not totally confusing.
Positive reviews (of which there are many) praised the acting and direction, and say that the film is worth watching for that reason alone.
Upon its release Basic was critically panned, garnering a 21 percent critical rating against an audience score of 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Normally, a disproportionately high audience score indicates some form of commercial success, but Basic didn’t even break even on its production cost, earning a meager $42.8 million against a reported budget of $50 million.
Roger Ebert said it perfectly when he stated that Basic was “all smoke and no mirrors.” He went on to say that he’d probably be able to decipher the film’s logic if he were to watch it multiple times, but suggests that it’s not worth seeing twice. One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes suggested that you could fall asleep, miss most of the movie, and wake up just as clueless as everybody who actually watched the entire film.
While Basic’s complicated plot, attempts at misdirection, and overall confusing delivery seems to be a deterrent for many viewers, the positive reviews (of which there are many) praised the acting and direction, and say that the film is worth watching for that reason alone.
It goes without question that Travolta and Jackson have iconic chemistry, which was made evident in 1994 when they co-starred in Pulp Fiction. But even the positive reviews are a little backhanded, and suggest that the film is “compellingly watchable” even though it mostly makes no sense.
Basic is one of those movies that you simply have to see to believe. And given the current numbers, a lot of people are either giving the film a second chance, or witnessing it for the first time. This wouldn’t be the first time that a critically panned film saw a renaissance when a new audience discovered it, and if you’re a fan of both John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, then it’s safe to say you’ll appreciate their over-the-top performances in Basic.
In other words, even though Basic was considered a failure upon its release, it’s clearly winning over audiences in droves at the time of this writing. Whether Basic’s spike in viewership is a result of it being “so bad it’s good” or the fact that it was misunderstood and ahead of its time upon its original release is up for debate, the numbers don’t lie, and it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of complicated thrillers.