It grossed just $2.2 million at the U.S. box office, but "The East," the eco-thriller directed by Zal Batmanglij and starring Alexander Skarsgård and Brit Marling, topped The Times' fourth-annual poll for most underappreciated movie of the year, beating out Ron Howard's "Rush," which garnered the second-most votes.
Coming into this weekend, "Rush" was easily in first place. But a push for votes from Skarsgård fan sites such as this one launched "The East" into the top spot.
The film follows an undercover corporate spy (Marling) who infiltrates a radical eco-terrorist group run by a charismatic leader (Skarsgård) as they embark on a series of "jams" to try to take down corporate interests. Though upon its spring art-house release the film drew strong plaudits for its sense of suspense and complex political undertones, it failed to catch on with audiences.
"Rush" delves into the fact-based rivalry of Formula One drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt. It too drew strong reviews for both its racing scenes and complex interpersonal dynamics. The film was a big hit in the United Kingdom, where it finished in the box office top 2 three weeks running, but fizzled in the less F1-inclined U.S., drumming up just $27 million in wide release. It also notched a nomination for best picture-drama at the Golden Globes earlier this month.
Failing to climb out of the cellar was "The Counselor," Ridley Scott's drug-running thriller that marked Cormac McCarthy's screenwriting debut. After being pilloried by critics and flopping at the box office, the film has elicited a small but devoted following, but that following was not big enough to notch more than 5% of the overall vote.