Kevin Costner’s The Postman – 1997

Let’s be clear: this movie is not to be confused with the Oscar-nominated II Postino (released in the US as The Postman) one of the most profound and beautiful films ever to come out of Italy. By complete contrast, Kevin Costner’s The Postman heads several ‘Top Ten Career- Killing Movies’ lists, which is a surprise only because most people have never heard of it, having lost interest after Waterworld.

The Postman is another post-apocalyptic wham-bam, spliced with an extra 45 minutes of dithering morality. James Berardinelli’s Reelviews website kindly suggested that ‘with all its rampant jingoism, cliched melodrama and shameless attempts at emotional manipulation, [it] could easily be viewed as a clever satire of epic adventures’, but admitted that although its ‘cloying dose of patriotism’ enabled the rest of the world to enjoy its comedy, it wasn’t meant to be a joke. It was, said The New York Times, ‘a bald-faced exercise in cinematic self-deification’.

Costner plays another loner, a wandering minstrel doing one-man Shakespeare shows for bread and alms. Fleeing conscription into the racist, psychopathic army of thugs that runs America (the year is 2013), he finds a dead postman in the Utah Salt Flats and takes both uniform and full mailbag off the skeleton. Siddartha in a US Postal Service jacket, he sets out to deliver mail, wisdom and nobility of purpose. Will he? Won’t he? Can he? Can’t he? inspire the shattered outposts of decency to a common weal, aided by the usual ‘crazy’, called Ford Lincoln Mercury, and the usual girl, Abby, whose big line is ‘you give out hope like it was candy in your pocket’.

Heaven only knows what Costner was thinking. Apart from losing $63 million, The Postman stripped him of any credibility remaining from the excellence of Dancing With Wolves. It was a disaster for the actor, the director, and intelligence itself.

When: 1997

Where: USA

Toll: It’s all been downhill for Kevin Costner. The steady stream of work confirms Hollywood’s belief in his core talent, but his choices have done little or nothing to redeem his reputation. Even the political comedy Swing vote (2008) lost millions on a meagre budget of $21 million. Happily, however flawed, there’s still something very likeable about the man.

You should know: Since 2007, Costner has been touring extensively with his country music band ‘Kevin Costner and the Modern West’. Though it’s usual to dump on middle-aged men fulfilling boyhood dreams of rock stardom, and plenty have – one review called the band ‘so unbelievably cornball it becomes laugh-out-loud funny’ – he’s actually pretty good, in any case, all his films are about fulfilling impossible dreams, so why should his band be any different?

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