Netflix spent $200 million on The Gray Man, cast Dhanush to woo India. It still wasn't enough

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaJul 26, 2022 | 20:26

Netflix spent $200 million on The Gray Man, cast Dhanush to woo India. It still wasn't enough

Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in The Gray Man (photo: DailyO)

The Gray Man released on Netflix on July 22 and is reported as the streamer's most expensive original at whopping $200 million budget. But given the unprecedented subscriber loss that Netflix has been facing and the terrible reviews that the movie has generated, The Gray Man might be the last of its kind. 

Bad for business: In 2019, Netflix partnered with seasoned veteran Martin Scorsese for his gangster drama The Irishman that was made at a budget of $175 million. While the film garnered rave reviews and a bag full of Oscar nominations, Netflix originals like The Irishman might not be economically feasible in the long run. Despite hype building up for The Gray Man this year, Netflix had to resort to a change of plans for its future trajectory. 


As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Netflix is now focusing on a "bigger" and "better" approach but with bigger not necessarily meaning The Irishman or The Gray Man-level budgets. Instead of releasing them consecutively (like last year's big-budget action flicks Army of the Dead, and Red Notice), Netflix execs plan to take a "quality over quantity" approach. This makes sense given how most of its big-budget productions (Extraction, The Man from Toronto, 6 Underground and so on) aren't exactly critical favourites. Yes, Netflix is surely producing awards contenders like The Irishman and The Power of the Dog but it's the "masala" entertainment that is far more in quantity. 

With Netflix reporting its largest quarterly loss ever by losing 9,70,000 global subscribers in this year's second quarter, the company definitely needs to reduce its pace on churning out $200-million productions. The company has anyway been resorting to layoffs and facing growing competition in the US with services like HBO Max, Hulu, Apple TV+, and and also, trying to put a price on password sharing.  

Not making a mark in India: Despite casting a popular star like Dhanush as one of the main characters, The Gray Man took some time to trend on Netflix India. Despite having a Friday release, the spy thriller could climb up to the top spot on Netflix Top 10 only from Monday onwards (with the recent true-crime docu-series Indian Predator securing #1). 



Audience reactions in India are also mixed, but most agreeing on Dhanush's potential to be wasted. If you follow Indian movies, you would know the talent Dhanush brings to the table. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that he is one of the best actors in the Indian subcontinent today, on par and perhaps better than many of his Western counterparts. So, for Netflix to cast him, cash in on his popularity, and then criminally wasting him seems like a betrayal to Indian viewers.

 Even though he is present in three crucial action sequences, Dhanush's role feels more like an extended cameo of sorts despite all the hype that Netflix India's promos were trying to create. To think of it, the Russo Brothers even flew down to India to promote the movie! 

Marvel hype might not work always: While the MCU continues expanding every month, The Gray Man writer/director duo Joe and Anthony Russo could potentially win over Marvel fans as they reunited with their frequent collaborator and Captain America Chris Evans. Starting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, the Russos earned worldwide acclaim with Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, both of which turned out to be some of the highest-grossing blockbusters of all time. Fresh off their Avengers fame, the Russos failed to create a worthy follow-up as their 2020 Apple TV+ movie Cherry had a fairly mediocre run on the streaming service and drew negative reviews. 


In terms of critical reception, The Gray Man has had a similar response with not even high-profile stars like Ryan Gosling and Ana De Armas being able to save the screenplay (that is being called "dull" and "lacklustre" by many). Even on the critics consensus website Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently stays at "Rotten" with a core of 48%.

Viewers will still have to give Netflix some time to reveal The Gray Man's numbers (like it has done with other big-budget originals such as Bird Box and Extraction). But assessing from the aforementioned factors, Netflix might want to avoid a Gray Man for its slate of future releases. 

Last updated: July 26, 2022 | 20:31
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