There are second acts in American life, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, but in Hollywood there can be extended grace periods. That’s how I’ve thought of Kevin Costner’s last decade of film as Costner, who 20 years ago was a huge movie star and 30 years ago was a burgeoning actor of substance, has now graduated to leading man of substance and gravitas. I think it’s the only way we can look at Costner’s career right now, as he’s gone from being the man to being something else entirely.
With some actors it’s a matter of just kicking the demons. Robert Downey Jr. went from brilliant but troubled actor to the ideal professional and A-list superstar he should’ve been earlier. Mickey Rourke took several decades of bad choices and turned them around, culminating in a redemptive role in The Wrestler that put him back into the spotlight in a good way for once. Plenty of other actors have found a second wind in their career, a grace that has led to a sort of professional redemption of sorts, over the years.
But for Kevin Costner it’s not one of anything he did that he hadn’t been doing already. Costner was always a consummate professional with no one really having much of an issue with him. None of his dirty laundry ever really came out because he never had a reason to. The only negative about him really has been the string of flops he headlined in the 90s as he went from being a movie star to a faded movie star in a span that started with Wyatt Earp and ended in Open Range.
Crazy to think that two Westerns punctuated his career freefall, especially in light of the fact that his professional peak arguably revolved around him winning a number of Oscars for Dances With Wolves. But since The Upside of Anger, released after Open Range, he’s had only one real misfire (The New Daughter) and a number of films that either allowed him to use his gravitas or were the right sort of film for him to headline.
Mr. Brooks, Swing Vote and 3 Days To Kill may not have set the world on fire but both were solid roles in smaller budget films that didn’t require him to be a box office superstar. All he had to do is draw in an audience big enough to not be embarrassing, and big enough to make money, and Costner’s status as an actor is more than enough to bring an audience of that size in. And it’s the sort of filter that him headlining Draft Day, a month before the real NFL draft, that makes that film intriguing to me.
Man of Steel and the Jack Ryan reboot were films of substantial budget that he took a smaller role in. He lent gravitas to both Chris Pine and Henry Cavill, two actors who could be massive stars in the future but aren’t right now. Without him both of those films suffer … but they are still huge hits without him. Neither of those films needed him to succeed … but they succeeded significantly more with them. Costner added his gravitas as a mentor, something a lot of veteran actors in his spot wouldn’t do. Being Superman’s dad is a bit of a thankless role and I imagine a lot of actors wouldn’t want to take it for any number of reasons.
It takes an actor willing to not be the star, and to be more interested in helping for a film franchise he won’t probably be around for, to take on that role. And Costner took it and hit it out of the park; it was the one thing nearly everyone agreed about the film. Costner took what could’ve been a thankless supporting role and made it matter.
It’s why Draft Day is an interesting film and it’s typical of Costner’s second run as a combination of solid veteran supporting actor / secondary level leading man. It’s counter programming in the beginning of the summer box office season, a small drama coming right after one of the biggest films of 2014 (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and has a couple of weeks to make back its budget before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 truly kicks off the summer box office season.
There may be no second acts in American life, much less for an actor … but this is an interesting rebound for an actor many people had written off as relevant in the modern world of cinema. Draft Day may wind up being a pretty crappy film … or it could be pretty mediocre …. But it’s interesting and Kevin Costner’s presence makes it all that much more potentially interesting as a film.
Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq
Didn’t do much this week, writing wise, on my own but a couple of my colleagues did. Here’s a piece I wrote for Inside Fights about the reasons being a potential Rousey/Carano fight, so check it out yo.
Mike Noyes reviews Prince Avalanche on DVD.
Travis took on Captain America 2 right here.
And now on MMC … we watch some Doctor Who badassness … seriously, love this scene.
If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….
A Movie A Week – The Challenge
DVD Film I Saw on Netflix – Empire State
So I opted to cut the cord and go without cable television, watching anything I want on television at a bar or my folks place, but needed something to occupy my time. I have a Chromecast, as well, so I wanted to be able to take advantage of it other than using YouTube with it. Thus I opted for Netflix because of this, with its built in ability to use the Chromecast, over Hulu. And thus this week I opted away from a DVD and went to Netflix for this week’s film.
It’s a true life tale of a heist that was so big it took over the news cycle in the ’80s … and in retrospect was hilarious in how it was pulled off.
Chris (Liam Hemsworth, better known as Thor’s little brother) can’t get into the police academy and decides to become a rent a cop instead. His scummy friend Eddie (Michael Angarano) finds out about Chris’s company’s lax security standards and wants to rob the place. Finding a pair of low rent mobsters, Chris and Eddie pull off the heist but wind up with a haul much larger than they ever expected … and much bigger problems, too. Everyone wants the money, including the cop (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) assigned to solve the case.
The thing about Empire State is that it’s actually an interesting character piece about a man (Thor’s little brother) trying to balance his need for karmic justice against the actual act of stealing from his employer. Chris is essentially a decent guy, screwed out of the NYPD because of a teenage decision at the behest of his best friend to smoke pot at a concert, who sees an opportunity to right a wrong. Stealing from his company, which he wound up serving prison time for, seems like a good idea because they have no problem screwing over the people who work for them.
It’s an interesting character study in that aspect. The problem is that Michael Angarano, who I’ve enjoyed in a number of other films, nearly single-handedly wrecks this film with one of the most baffling performances I’ve seen on film. He’s trying to go for the Long Island accented flim flam type of guy and it’s just awful to experience. It kills most of the film as Angarano, who’s actually really talented and has always been what Shia LaBeouf would be as an actor without the punchable face and “Tap Out Guy” persona, just takes every scene down with him.
There’s a reason this went DTV/Netflix/Redbox instead of in theaters despite the presence of box office superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and it’s in part because of Angarano. I’ve never seen a film get tanked by an actor so profoundly that it couldn’t have been saved in post-production as this seems like one of the weirdest and most baffling performances from an actor I’ve seen. It’s not like I dislike the actor, either, as Angarano is a guy who I don’t pay a ticket to see but will at least get me to consider doing so.
Angarano just tanks every scene he’s in and it’s not like he’s trying to do so, either. I get the character he’s playing, and the real life person he’s portraying, BUT it’s just so obnoxious it takes you out of the scene while watching it. It’s kind of a problem for a film to have an actor doing this and he’s such a big part of the film you can’t edit around it.
It’s a solid Netflix viewing but I wouldn’t recommend buying this until you watch it first. Just saying.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
Draft Day – Kevin Costner tries to rebuild the Browns in the NFL Draft. Shenanigans ensue.
See it – It’s got the full cooperation of the NFL and could be something interesting. Plus Costner is in this second wave of relevance and hasn’t found a way to Travolta it up.
Oculus – One of Doctor Who’s companions is terrorized by mirrors or something.
Skip it – Terrible trailer and an unintentionally hilarious concept make this a completely skippable film.
Rio 2 – The film about Brazilian birds gets a sequel? The film about Brazilian birds gets a sequel.
Skip it – I didn’t even realize this was a thing until I started to do this section. Not a good sign.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Kevin Costner, Liam Hemsworth, Michael Angarano, Monday Morning Critic