C'mon, Hollywood: Let's give Robert De Niro some better material!
With GRUDGE MATCH being released and met with such lukewarm reception, it only reminds me that the once great Robert De Niro hasn't had the hottest track record of late. Now, every actor has his or her string of substandard films, but the amount that has plagued him lately is straight up unfortunate. There was a time when one thought of De Niro, films like CASINO, GOODFELLAS and HEAT came to mind. While those will never be crossed off his resume, movies like LITTLE FOCKERS, RIGHTEOUS KILL and KILLING SEASON are all recent critical flops he's headlined and there is something seriously wrong with this picture.
That's not at all to say that the guy has completely lost his punch. I'm sure given the chance, De Niro could prove once again why he's considered one of the absolute greats. Provided with the right material, he can still knock it out of the park. Just look at his performance in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK. It was awesome (he even kinda cried in that one part!). Why he's been starring in such lackluster films lately is anybody's guess, but with that performance, it showed us all that De Niro still has it in him. It even got him nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award at the Oscars and if he kept that stride, not only would he fix his reputation, but he'd be able to end his career on a strong note instead of fizzling out in a string of substandard films. So, where did it all go wrong?
The film MEET THE PARENTS played with the concept of De Niro's hard ass attitude and reputation and brought it to the comedy scene. It wasn't the first film to do this, but I do feel it was the most dangerous. While I love this movie, it directly led to MEET THE FOCKERS and the atrocious LITTLE FOCKERS to be released. I feel like this is around the time De Niro's career took a turn for the worst, with head scratchers like SHOWTIME, GODSEND and HIDE AND SEEK coming out and putting a permanent stain on De Niro's once glowing filmography. Seeing him embarrass himself by starring in third-rate movies that belong on daytime cable television is, well, embarrassing and it's still continuing.
I suppose something that isn't helping De Niro's situation is his age. The guy's already 70 years old, which might be forcing him to take the backseat to younger, fresher stars or to accept roles that are limited to the part any other older actor could pull off easily. Even if we can't have him in a leading role where he can deliver an intense, physical performance a la RAGING BULL or TAXI DRIVER, surely we can have him play a strong supporting role. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK proved that, but when most of the titles on his filmography of late include THE FAMILY and LAST VEGAS, it's almost as if De Niro is content in accepting roles that basically say, "Hey! I'm an old person! Ha-HA!" It's not like I'm saying De Niro shouldn't be in anything comedic; it's always cool to see a hard-ass poke fun at himself, but it'd be a hell of a lot easier to swallow if it were at least a little bit charming.
It's never too late to have a savory role that an older actor can sink his or her teeth into, though. Hell, just look at how badass Clint Eastwood made himself in MILLION DOLLAR BABY or even GRAN TORINO. Yes, he directed himself in those pictures, but what's keeping De Niro from doing that? I'd be interested as hell to see him give directing another shot (he did a fairly competent job with 2006's THE GOOD SHEPHERD). Of course, the most ideal situation would be to see De Niro and Martin Scorsese collaborate (at least) one more time. THE IRISHMAN would take care of that desire and with Joe Pesci said to be co-starring, this would be quite the movie event, but with it being teased and talked about for years now, who knows when or even if it will get made. I don't want to sound too harsh. I still love the guy, but if he doesn't shape up fast, we could see something along the lines of an Al Pacino like disaster, but we'll save that matter for another time.
So, C'mon, Hollywood! Let's give Robert De Niro some better material to work with. He's one of the greatest actors of our time and seeing him fizzle out is not an ideal way to see him continue into the golden stages of his career. I'm not saying that every movie he lands in from here on out has to be absolute gold, but when the guy's been in such consistent mediocrity (and, in some cases, complete shit) of late, it's an extremely disheartening thing to witness. There are some actors that can get away with this because they aren't that good to be called one of the greatest actors ever, but De Niro was that good. He's still that good. And we deserve to see his acting talents in something a lot better. "You talkin' to me?" Yes, De Niro. I'm talking to you. I hope you're listening.