Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in over 200 credited roles that span a wide variety of television series, films, video games, and other mediums in the world of entertainment. With a star so multifaceted, you can say many things about the Nick Fury actor, but you could surely never call him basic. One Samuel L. Jackson mystery thriller, 2003’s Basic, is available to stream on Netflix and serves as an excellent barometer for how far the esteemed performer has come.
Basic, which reunites Samuel L. Jackson with John Travolta, is now streaming on Netflix.
Basic serves as one of the first feature films ever written by James Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt would later go on to write screenplays for massive blockbuster films and auteur art films alike, amassing credits for such movies as Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man, White House Down, Independence Day: Resurgence, Scream VI, and Adam Sandler’s most recent Netflix comedy Murder Mystery 2. The script for Basic was purchased after an intense bidding war, which eventually saw the film picked up by Phoenix Pictures for only $400,000 in the Spring of 2000.
After searching for a director for over a full calendar year, the studio eventually hired Die Hard filmmaker John McTiernan to helm Basic, citing his extensive experience with massive action blockbusters. In a shocking twist, Basic would serve as McTiernan’s final feature film, as he became embroiled in a bizarre legal case shortly after production wrapped, resulting in the filmmaker going to jail, spending time on house arrest, and eventually filing for bankruptcy. Though the director continues to claim to this day that he would like to helm another film in the future, the odds seem unlikely, as he has not worked in the industry in over 20 years.
Basic stars Samuel L. Jackson alongside John Travolta, Connie Nielsen, Tim Daly, Giovanni Ribisi, Brian Van Holt, and Taye Diggs. Jackson was said to have improvised a great deal of dialogue in the film, single-handedly causing the MPAA to change their original PG-13 rating to an R for his frequent use of curse words, which has since become something of a trademark for his performances.
Jackson was also a notable supporter and vocal proponent for director John McTiernan throughout his legal battles of the following years, calling on the justice system to provide leniency or clemency for McTiernan’s wire-tapping charges.
After searching for a director for over a full calendar year, the studio eventually hired Die Hard filmmaker John McTiernan to helm Basic, citing his extensive experience with massive action blockbusters.
Basic follows the hunt for a team of Army Rangers who are presumed dead following an armed conflict deep in the jungles of Panama. The search is led by a former Ranger turned DEA agent, John Travolta’s Tom Hardy, who is called in due to the only survivor of the attack refusing to speak to anyone below his rank. During his initial inquiry into the incident, Hardy quickly learns that there was a great deal of discomfort within the ranks of the Rangers, framing a number of potential suspects for the murders.
For starters, one of the trainees, Jay Pike, had become infamous throughout his basic training for refusing to follow orders and stay in line, while Samuel L. Jackson’s Master Sergeant Nathan West had garnered a reputation for being a ruthless tough-as-nails drill leader. Furthermore, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s son, Kendall, claims that the leadership turned on one another after arguing over an apparent “training accident,” resulting in a phosphorus grenade exploding in the camp.
Despite Basic‘s failure to turn a profit or impress critics, the film has become revered in recent years due to its action-packed story and interwoven narrative of twists and turns.
From there, the story of Basic becomes anything but, with a number of insane twists and turns that take the entire plot and spin it on its own head. Unfortunately, critics didn’t seem to care much for the delicately woven twists, as the film was critically panned, resulting in an abysmal 21 percent critic score on the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Additionally, the film failed to make its money back for the studio, resulting in Basic being labeled a massive box office bomb.
The film took in just under $43 million at the global box office against an estimated production budget of over $50 million, without accounting for additional financial backing, such as marketing costs. Despite Basic‘s failure to turn a profit or impress critics, the film has become revered in recent years due to its action-packed story and interwoven narrative of twists and turns.
If you’re interested in catching a high-intensity thriller that tragically bookends the filmmaking career of the auteur who helmed Predator, The Hunt For Red October, and Die Hard, Basic is currently available to stream on Netflix.