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A wretched off-kilter murder mystery that inadvertently relaunched a megastar pursues an undue reappraisal

There was only one winner to emerge from this cinematic trainwreck.

via Warner Bros.

When you name the movies that turned Robert Downey Jr. from a has-been into an A-list superstar, the first two that come to mind are no doubt Iron Man or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. While both are true to a certain extent, the chain of events that kick-started the actor’s ascension to the top of the Hollywood tree technically began with 2003’s Gothika.

RDJ was such a liability at the time that 40 percent of his salary for starring in the film was withheld until after production had ended, just in case he went off the rails again. That sounds like somebody on their last career legs, but a set of circumstances presented themselves that ultimately led to the longtime Tony Stark becoming one of the biggest names in the business.

Gothika was produced by Susan Levin, and marked the first time the future Mrs. Downey would meet her current husband. Not only that, but fellow producer Joel Silver is a regular collaborator of Shane Black, which played a huge part in the writer and director settling on the fallen favorite as his number one choice to lead Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.


If that wasn’t enough, Black’s action comedy noir caught the attention of Jon Favreau, who realized Downey Jr. would be perfect to play the main character in a certain superhero blockbuster he was developing for Marvel Studios. Looking back, there was only one winner to emerge from Gothika, which ended up being trashed by critics.

It might have been a decent box office success after netting $141 million on a $40 million budget, but respective Rotten Tomatoes scores of 14 and 45 percent do not paint a pretty picture. And yet, a Reddit thread has popped up claiming the supernatural murder mystery is “surprisingly good”, although it’s safe to say not everyone is in agreement.

We’re inclined to say Gothika does not deserve a reappraisal because it remains as terrible as ever, but it nonetheless gets a lifetime pass for the long-term effect it had on Downey Jr.’s career.

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Scott Campbell

News, reviews, interviews. To paraphrase Keanu Reeves; Words. Lots of words.