When it comes to frothy genre flicks powered by a pair of renowned and supremely gifted A-listers, the general rule of thumb is that audiences will prefer the end product to critics. While the latter camp is actively seeking flaws in the construction and execution, paying crowds simply want to have a good time. With that in mind, 2009’s Duplicity turned out to be a very curious case indeed.
Written and directed by current Andor showrunner Tony Gilroy (who was hot off the back of making his feature-length debut wielding the megaphone on the awards season favorite Michael Clayton), Julia Roberts and Clive Owen share the screen as former spies who now work in the private sector earning big bucks from committing corporate espionage.
Naturally, sparks fly when the duo enter into each other’s orbit, leading to a romantic entanglement that threatens their personal and professional livelihoods when a brand new product set to earn billions for whoever secures the patent pits the lovers on a collision course. So far, so standard, with Duplicity carrying all the hallmarks of a crowd-pleasing hit.
And yet, the $60 million flick could only earn $70 million at the box office, with a user rating of 37 percent on Rotten Tomatoes falling way behind a 65 percent critical score. That doesn’t happen very often, but the consensus hasn’t prevented Duplicity from becoming one of the top-viewed titles on a major streaming service anyway.
Per FlixPatrol, Gilroy’s sophomore feature is a Top 10 hit in 19 countries where HBO Max is available, skyrocketing it to 20th position on the platform’s global ranks. Not bad for a commercial disappointment that left the public feeling surprisingly cold.