Critics hated Chris Pine's latest movie — but it's proving a hit on Prime Video

Chris Pine, Danny Devito and Annette Bening in Poolman.
Chris Pine, Danny Devito and Annette Bening in Poolman. (Image credit: Vertical)

When Hollywood actor Chris Pine decided to direct his first movie, fans of the Star Trek and Dungeons & Dragons star were excited to see the charistmatic leading man's vision. However when it came out, it became a total bomb — until its recent Prime Video release in the UK, which is starting to improve its reputation.

This movie is Poolman, which Pine wrote and starred in as well as directing. It also stars Danny DeVito, Annette Bening and DeWanda Wise, and it's a neo-noir story of a Los Angeles-based pool cleaner who stumbles into a plot surrounding the real estate of his beloved local community.

After playing in a few film festivals through 2023 (including London Film Festival, where this writer saw it), Poolman was released theatrically in select US cinemas in May of this year. In the UK, it was a lot harder to see, until it landed on Amazon's streaming service Prime Video in late June.

Poolman was a bit of a bomb in the US when it came out, and it's not hard to find out why when you peek at Rotten Tomatoes... it was absolutely shredded by critics and, in a rare example of unity between the two groups, also by audiences. It has a 22% score on the tomatometer and a 20% audience score.

Both critics and audiences seemed to enjoy Pine's performance but hated basically everything else about the movie: its weak script, its overexcited direction, its simplistic story, its incomprehensible messaging and the fact that it relies too heavily on references to other detective stories.

For better or worse, Poolman really seems like a passion project for Pine as he shows off his love of these noir detective stories. However if you don't know these stories, or don't enjoy the kind of sunny LA detective tale, you won't get much out of it.

Its poor reviews could have spelled doom for Poolman, but as previously mentioned, it's doing really well on Prime Video. At the time of writing it's the fifth most popular video on Amazon's streaming service; unlike on Netflix, Prime Video's ranking combines both TV shows and movies. So Poolman's popularity is incredibly impressive when you consider that the movie is butting heads with some massive Originals from the streamer.

In fact, sitting behind the newest seasons of The Boys and Clarkson's Farm, new show My Lady Jane and recent docuseries I Am: Celine Dion, Pine's Poolman is the most-watched video that isn't an Original for the streamer. It's even sitting above smash hit Fallout, Gen V (which has seen a resurgence with the newest season of The Boys, which it's a spin-off of) and another recent documentary Federer: Twelve Final Days.

That is to say, UK movie fans at home have really been watching Poolman in force. They don't seem to have been enjoying it any more than earlier watchers, given that there isn't a single new audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes above one star (at least, since the movie hit Prime), but they're clearly still watching it.

If you're a fan of Chris Pine and his crime thrillers but don't want to watch a movie with such a poor rating, ther'es an alternative. The 2022 movie All the Old Knives stars Pine alongside Thandiwe Newton, and while it's Rotten Tomatoes reviews aren't stellar, it's certainly better than Poolman.

Tom Bedford
Streaming and Ecommerce Writer

Tom is the streaming and ecommerce writer at What to Watch, covering streaming services in the US and UK. His goal is to help you navigate the busy and confusing online video market, to help you find the TV, movies and sports that you're looking for without having to spend too much money.