Good People, bad film. The Netflix conundrum

What a nasty little film is Good People.

You might wonder why I’d bother to mention it. It’s a 2014 film that appears to have gone straight to video in America, and made less than $1m box office elsewhere in the world. So embarrassing was its performance that it’s either too hard for me to find, or the production budget is a well-hidden secret.

So why bother, two years after the event?

Netflix, that’s why.

Netflix throws up all sorts of surprises: excellent documentaries, some good ‘Netflix Original’ serial dramas – Narcos, Orange Is The New Black, Jessica Jones. There’s also House Of Cards which I’ve tried to watch, but failed to enjoy. But everyone else I talk to loves it.

But, Lordy, there’s some tripe too. Good People enjoys a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 10%. (No zero missing there, just so we’re clear). But Anna Friel’s in it. How’s that possible? And Tom Wilkinson. Starring the sublime Kate Hudson and (I’m told) the relatively attractive James Franco, it’s a relentlessly dull drama. Except for the bits where it’s not – and in those bits it’s unpleasantly violent and violently unpleasant.

It’s almost like someone mustered this brilliant little cast and thought, “Let’s make a film as nasty as Straw Dogs“. But Straw Dogs – controversial as it was – had a point to make about the thin line between civilisation and savagery.

And let’s face it, once you’ve made Straw Dogs, you don’t really need another Straw Dogs. The $25m 2011 remake surely proved that once and for all? It took in less than half of its budget at the box office, whereas the original made four times its budget in US box office alone.

Gold vs bat guano

And this is the Netflix conundrum. So much product, so much rubbish. How do you find the gold?

I thought I’d struck on a good idea. I Googled ‘Netflix best’ and found all sorts of Top 10s, Best Films, Top 100 Best Netflix Shows and more. But, whoops, most of the stuff you’d choose to watch from these lists isn’t there when you search.

How’d that happen? Maybe, I thought, I was looking at dated lists, and the Netflix licensing deal had run out. But no. A list of Top 100 programmes was dated October 2016. So we’re left with the conclusion that it’s another ‘lazy journalist’ list. Obviously no-one would compile a list like this through the long process of watching 100 programmes. But at least they might check before publishing that the programme is still there?

So I haven’t, as yet, figured out a short-cut to finding the gold among the dank caves of Netflix bat guano.

But I have, accidentally, come across gems like Robot & Frank, robotfranka lovely, funny film about ageing and technological progress with the fabulous Frank Langella; Sample This, a documentary about the roots of hip hop and sampling, and the massive importance of The Shadows’ Apache (who knew!); West Of Memphis, an absolutely gripping true life murder story of wrongful imprisonment; and a little gem of a movie called Walt Before Mickey, about Walt Disney’s early days.

We need to talk about Kelvin

Best of all, so far, has been One Rogue Reporter – revealing the nasty underbelly we all know exists among the UK’s tabloid press. Tabloid reporter Rich Pepiatt absolutely skewers – on camera, right in front of you – the hypocrites who run the UK’s ‘rags’. There’s a wonderful joke at the expense of Kelvin McKenzie which makes the whole documentary worth watching (and it’s all good stuff) just for the moment when Kelvin ‘makes his excuses and leaves’.

Meantime, if anyone out there has figured out a foolproof, or even halfway decent way of sorting the Netflix wheat from the chaff, I’d be eternally grateful.

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