Action stars old and new, gun fights, punch ups, explosions, Gerard Butler saving the US president — if it says Millennium on the tin, it’s generally easy to imagine what’s inside. To celebrate 30 hugely successful years in the business, the company has picked out 10 films from its library that best represents its rise to, including multiple franchise-starters and one decidedly un-gung ho prestige moment.
16 Blocks (2006)
The first film to bare the Millennium name. Avi Lerner’s Nu Image had been producing films since 1992, but this gung-ho crime-thriller — starring Bruce Willis as a boozed-up, burned-out NYPD detective — was the debut outing from its, then, subsidiary label Millennium Films. It was also the final movie from legendary Hollywood director Richard Donner.
John Rambo returns! Two decades after his last outing (and with rights eventually acquired by Millennium via Miramax), Stallone donned the famed bandana once more and the franchise — now one of Millennium’s “most successful,” according to CEO Jeffrey Greenstein — was reborn. Rambo: Last Blood would follow in 2019.
The film that amassed some of the biggest movie muscle (Sly! Statham! Li! Lundgren!) and kick-started one of the most successful franchises of all time (the fourth is out next year). “It was a beautiful surprise,” says Greenstein. “And it’s now a franchise grossing nearly three quarters of a billion dollars.” And who can forget the Cannes moment in 2014 to mark the third film when tanks rolled down the Croisette?
The Mechanic (2011)
Fresh from The Expendables, Jason Statham was back flying the Millennium flag, this time as a hitman in Simon West’s action-thriller alongside Ben Foster and Donald Sutherland, and another franchise-starter. After making more than $75 million, the sequel Mechanic: Resurrection was released in 2016. “We do have hopes of doing more with the franchise,” notes Greenstein.
The Paperboy (2012)
This unlikely step away from action with director Lee Daniels may not have been a box office hit, but it did push Millennium into prestige drama territory, premiering in Cannes and landing Nicole Kidman Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations. “It was just something cool, and we’re really proud to have done it,” says Greenstein.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Millennium can take major credit for resurrecting Gerard Butler’s action star status thanks to his turn as the gun-toting, president-saving Mike Bannon. Olympus Has Fallen would earn $170 million, spawning two hit sequels and with more set to come. Notes Greenstein: “We’d done the romantic comedy Playing for Keeps with Gerry and we just said, dude, people loved you in 300 and want to see you kicking ass again.” He did. And continues to do so to this day.
This Statham-starrer set among meth labs and biker gangs in small-town Louisiana — a “great action film with some dramatic chops to it,” according to Greenstein — did decent business for Millennium on release. But almost 10 years later Homefront dramatically resurfaced on Netflix, claiming the number 1 film spot.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
Two of the biggest names in the business — Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson (plus Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek) — teamed up for this wildly successful action comedy, that amassed a global box office of $176 million. “When I first brought it Avi (Lerner) told me I was out of my mind,” recalls Greenstein. “Of course, now he says he’s always loved Hitman’s Bodyguard.” Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard would follow, and a third could well see another family member thrown into the chaos.
The Outpost (2020)
Starring Scott Eastwood, Orlando Bloom and Caleb Landry-Jones, This was a new kind of offering from Millennium, a gritty war film set in Afghanistan and showing the real-life struggles of US army veterans as they came up against the might of the Taliban. . “It was this incredibly heroic event where these guys just said that we need to stick together and we’re not giving up,” says Greenstein.
Till Death (2021)
Megan Fox led this icy thriller, that was noted for being one of the first shot during the pandemic and a film that never looked like it would happen as travel bans erupted across the world and countries began shutting down. But through perseverance, it happened. “We found a way to get it going and we did it safely, with no COVID cases,” says Greenstein. Millennium is now about to start on its 10th since the lockdown.
This story first appeared in The News84Media’s Nov. 4 daily issues at the American Film Market.
Check the latest Hollywood news here.