Update with link to the review, which Variety finally restored:
Update on Thursday March 4:
The hilarity continues in the the comedy of errors that is the ill-conceived Oscar campaign of "Iron Cross" and the bid by Variety to help the indie film achieve its aims.
In the wake of the post below noting that Variety published, then made disappear, a negative review of the drama, I have been reliably told that in fact the producer promptly cancelled the $400,000 campaign. So it’s not clear that Variety made any money on this project. I was further told that a lawsuit was in the works.
Apparently that’s true. Gawker’s John Cook again turned up Joshua Newton, the producer of "Iron Cross," who — he told Cook- – (hilariously!) "We are currently reviewing our options. I can’t comment on the legalities, but suffice it to say — how can I put this? There are issues. There are valid issues."
I’m sure there are. The advertising contract must have read something like, "Variety will not disparage ‘Iron Cross’ in its editorial space." Otherwise, what kind of case could they have?
He explains: "We weren’t just simply advertisers," he says. "We did a joint venture with Variety to promote ‘Iron Cross.’ It was not a decent thing to do."
Oy. I’m not sure which is sadder in this story — the rube who thinks he has a "joint venture" with a trade that covers his movie, or the trade that goes after an easy advertising mark using its screening series and editorial as faux validation, then loses the account when the editorial goes off message.
I’m starting to think of Gawker’s John Cook as the official "gotcha" man for Hollywood media.
Mere months after uncovering Nikki Finke’s hilarious rewriting of history by tracking her diametrically opposed versions of the box office performance of "This Is It" (the movie went from "an extraordinary start" to a "disappointing" opening – whoops!), he discovers that Variety has mysteriously erased a negative review of the independent movie "Iron Cross."
That would be an enduring mystery, but for the fact that the trade had booked $400,000 in Oscar season ads from the producers behind the movie, a sum that these days Variety would be hard-pressed to jeopardize with unwelcome editorial … candor. It’s a Nazi-era revenge tale starring Roy Scheider in what turned out to be Scheider’s last film, one that the producers badly wanted to see recognized for an award.
This is Hollywood trade journalism at its most embarrassing: it appears that Variety quashed the review to mollify an angry customer.
And it didn’t take long for the angry customer to confirm the fact that Variety deleted the review.
In an email written by the film’s director Josh Newton (the date must be wrong: Cook says the email was written in December, but Robert Koehler’s review wasn’t published until January 20) he complained that reviewer Koehler managed to "sneak" his pan into print. It’s worth reading in full, as the director has a deliciously nonexistent sense of irony.
"One of the top staff journalists had been assigned to do a review after the Oscars campaign, but Koehler took it upon himself to review the film first and managed to sneak it into the publication. You can imagine the absolute embarrassment endured by Variety bearing in mind we have worked with them for months to develop an effective Oscars campaign. If you do a search, this will confirm that Variety have now deleted the article from the database. This is because Koehler’s review was considered sloppy and grossly unfair and that he described the events in the film incorrectly. Kindly note as follows: Roy Scheider does not imagine taking a chainsaw to a random German’s throat. Roy does not realise the guy they abducted is the wrong man. That is not the reason why he couldn’t pull the trigger. I set out below the film’s synopsis, which you can see is somewhat different to Koehler’s and your friend’s description."
The synopsis follows, which I’ll spare you.
Cook found the cached version of the review by Robert Koehler, who on January 20 called the film "hackneyed," "preposterous," "mediocre," "choppy," and "uncertain." I can’t speak to errors in the review, though Koehler is welcome to defend it if he so chooses.
The email continues:
"I can’t say why Koehler took such a negative view –- but his actions were sneaky and he must have known that his review would compromise our Variety campaign. He didn’t even mention the film’s wonderful score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra or the stunning cinematography."
Variety publisher Brian Gott had this to say to Gawker: "Unfortunately Variety does not comment on internal matters. I hope you understand."
We undertand completely. Hey Cook: Good on ya. And yes — we know you’re watching.