Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pirates Give Film Fans the Lowdown

MTTodd Anthony panned "Murder by Numbers," but pirates picked up his review anyway.
Experienced buyers of pirated movies are used to vendors alerting them to the poor quality of some of their wares. But now pirate video producers themselves have gotten in on the act.

A slew of pirated videotapes has hit the streets of Moscow with blurbs helpfully warning customers that the films they are considering buying are among the worst Hollywood has to offer.

"'Murder by Numbers' just doesn't add up," reads a quote lifted from a review in the South Florida Sentinel newspaper and emblazoned across the front of a pirated copy of the recent thriller starring Sandra Bullock.

"Critics have given the film very mixed reviews. Unfortunately most of them seem to be on the negative side," says the back of the box of "No Such Thing," a film by Hal Hartley starring Sara Polley. "But don't let that stop you. Check out this film ... and decide for yourself," it optimistically concludes.

The box for "Road to Perdition," recently released in U.S. movie theaters and starring Tom Hanks as a hitman, makes use of a web site run by one of the actor's biggest fans.

"A change of pace for Hanks and maybe something to shut all of those people up about how overhyped he is," the blurb reads. "He is the Jimmy Stewart of our times and should be praised now ... not later. OK, enough of the ranting."

What the oddly chosen blurbs and quotes have in common is that they appear on movies that have only recently been released in movie theaters. With no DVD or video cover to scan, pirates are forced to turn to the Internet for material, resulting in the apparently random choices reproduced on the boxes.

"I don't know why they do that," said a seller of pirated movies at Smolenskaya metro of the bad sales practice. "They used to write that a movie was at least average."

Unfortunately for legitimate video makers, the badly chosen propaganda is unlikely to have any effect on sales of pirated movies in Russia. If anything, the market is becoming more entrenched.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow urged the Russian government to take stronger action against software piracy, saying Russia has become the world's second-largest producer of counterfeit music and video products after China. Vershbow asked Press Minister Mikhail Lesin to investigate plants suspected of producing illegal music and videos, the U.S. Embassy said.

The embassy said copyright infringements cost Russia and other countries $1.5 billion in 2001 alone.

For the moment though, pirate video producers seem happy to carry on regardless.

When the spoof horror film "Scary Movie 2" first went on sale, pirated tapes lifted a quotation from an unnamed web site, which previewed the movie before filming even began: "Since there is no script yet, there can't very well be a premise. But it will probably borrow freely from one or two other movies in terms of plot and then just throw jokes at the audience."

And, perhaps feeling that Todd Anthony's review of "Murder by Numbers" in the South Florida Sentinel was not trenchant enough, pirates have turned to its sister paper, the Orlando Sentinel, for an objective opinion about the sex comedy "Tomcats."

"This is the first movie of this genre I can recall that actually hates women," wrote a dismissive Roger Moore in his review.

"That's very funny," Moore said in a telephone interview when told of the use of his quote. "That's the line I wrote trashing the movie."