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Scarlett Johansson Battles the Mob for ‘Rub & Tug’

Uh… no way they keep this title.
Scarlett Johansson Lucy
By  · Published on July 2nd, 2018

Uh… no way they keep this title.

While we wait around twiddling our thumbs in anticipation of a Black Widow movie. Scarlett Johansson is not wasting any time to kick ass. The actress is looking to get gritty for her next role. She has had plenty of fun goofing off in the comic book action arena and attempting a girls trip with Rough Night, but the time has come to return to her powerhouse performance status.

Deadline reports that Johansson has signed on to Rub & Tug. Yeah, yeah, that title sure is something, but let’s ignore it for now. Under the direction of Rupert Sanders (Ghost in the Shell, Snow White and the Huntsman), Johansson will portray transgender massage parlor¬†kingpin Dante ‘Tex’ Gill.

In the ’70s, Gill ruled Pittsburgh as a mini-crime boss for the mob. With an iron grasp on a network of massage parlors and an underground market of steroids supplied to the Steelers football team, Gill infiltrated polite society and dominated headlines until captured in the fall of 1984. To simply label Gill larger-than-life is a tremendous understatement. American crime has known few bigwigs as tyrannical.

If Johansson is looking to dig into a notorious performance, she has found it here. Every actor wants their Goodfellas. Rub & Tug offers Johansson her chance to revel in the seedy good life where others like Ray Liotta, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio earned darling awards attention. But for every The Wolf of Wall Street, there are a dozen wannabe War Dogs.

Sanders certainly fails to elicit excitement. His films have gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. Despite an awesome Charlize Theron villain-turn, Snow White and the Hunstman garnered attention mostly for its tabloid behind-the-scenes antics involving the director’s relationship with star Kristen Stewart. Ghost in the Shell was a horrendous miscalculation, transforming one of the most popular manga and anime titles into an awkward act of whitewashing. Not only were the fans disgusted, but even more damning, the non-fans failed to show up.

Then there is that title: Rub & Tug. Hardy har har. You see, Gill ruled over her city through her grip on men’s libidos. Very cute, folks, but that title launches eye-rolls rather than a clever wink, wink, nudge, nudge. No way the moniker makes it through pre-production.

For the last five years, Johansson has mostly been trapped in butt-kicker mode. As much as I love Natasha Romanov and Lucy, the films of hers that I gravitate the most towards are Under the Skin and Lost in Translation. Those are flicks that give her the opportunity to stretch across a wide range of emotional experience.

Johansson can sure sell a kick, but she’s also a master of stillness. She owns the pauses between words, the breaks in the action. Another rewatch of Her will reveal how her vocal capability can utterly devastate sentiment, and question the very definition of¬†Academy Awards consideration.

Rub & Tug may very well be what’s missing from her recent filmography. We need a good reminder of what she’s capable of apart from The Avengers.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)