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Face-Off: Braveheart vs. Gladiator

08.09.2016by: Brian Bitner
In our previous Face-Off, we visited the world of female-driven high school comedies in HEATHERS vs. MEAN GIRLS, with the latter coming out on top. Half of you agreed with the verdict and half of you dissented, which at the very least means it wasn't a lopsided match up! This week, we're changing gears ever so slightly from shoulder padded blazers and fetch pink tops...

I don't remember anyone asking for another BEN-HUR movie, but we're getting one anyway. The Timur Bekmambetov-directed epic hits theaters this weekend, and while it likely won't be one of the great historical action films of our generation, it affords us the opportunity to look back at some of the modern classics. BRAVEHEART and GLADIATOR are quite different films to be sure, but both retell historical scenes through the eyes of a protagonist seeking revenge for his slain family and rebelling against the powers that be in order to bring justice to the land he calls home. They're also both even longer than that summary. Which film will remain standing one the dust settles, though? Let's unleash hell, take lives, and find out.
LEAD
Mel Gibson brings his A game to William Wallace. We get to see a character who is charming, boyish, grief-stricken, ingenious, maniacal, enraged, tortured, and finally at peace, all of which Gibson delivers beautifully. As for the accent, it's mostly passable to American audiences, but most Scots dismiss it as a noble attempt at best.
If we're talking acting alone, Russell Crowe's Oscar winning performance would take this one down, but we don't see a great deal of range from Maximus throughout the two and a half hour film. Besides a heartbreaking scene wherein Maximus finds his family slain, the character mostly transitions between stages of stoicism and defiance.
SUPPORTING CAST
Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabella of France
Patrick McGoohan as King Edward Longshanks
Angus Macfadyen as Robert the Bruce
Catherine McCormack as Murron MacClannough
Brendan Gleeson as Hamish
Brian Cox as Argyle Wallace
Peter Hanly as Prince Edward
James Cosmo as Campbell
Tommy Flanagan as Morrison

BRAVEHEART boasts an impressive cast to be sure, but most of them don't get a ton of screen time or much of an arc. The Longshanks/Prince Edward/Princess Isabella scenes are certainly fun to watch, though.
Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus
Connie Nielsen as Lucilla
Oliver Reed as Antonius Proximo
Djimon Honsou as Juba
Derek Jacobi as Senator Gracchus
David Schofield as Senator Falco
John Shrapnel as Senator Gaius
Spencer Treat Clark as Lucius Verus
Tommy Flanagan as Cicero

GLADIATOR spends much more time with its supporting cast, allowing more depth to the characters. Joaquin Phoenix's accent isn't much to speak of, but his turn as the deceitful, spoiled Commodus earned the actor a great deal of well-deserved attention.
SETTING
13th century Scotland and England
2nd century Rome

Nothing against the setting here, but the earthy, primitive quality of BRAVEHEART gives the film a more distinct and memorable identity.
STORY
After his land is invaded and his wife killed by the English, William Wallace raises an army to seek revenge and secure freedom for Scotland.

Giving BRAVEHEART the point here due to how personal the story feels. We spend enough time with William, Murron, and the oppressed Scots to feel a genuine affinity for them, which in turn brings a bit more intimacy and urgency to the story than GLADIATOR.
After being sent to die and finding his wife and son slain, General Maximus Decimus Meridius is forced into slavery. Rising in the ranks as a gladiator, "the Spaniard" seeks revenge against the Emperor and to restore peace to Rome.
HISTORICAL ACCURACY


QUOTES
"I love you. Always have."

"Go back to England and tell them there that Scotland's daughters and her sons are yours no more. Tell them Scotland is free."

"Every man dies, not every man really lives."

"Your heart is free. Have the courage to follow it."

"Sons of Scotland! I am William Wallace."
"William Wallace is seven feet tall!"
"Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if he were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse. I am William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men... and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?"
"Fight? Against that? No! We will run. And we will live."
"Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"

"The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f*cked."

"Not the archers. My scouts tell me their archers are miles away and no threat to us. Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing."

"We all end up dead, it's just a question of how and why."

"I know you can fight. But it's our wits that make us men."

"Bring me Wallace. Alive if possible, dead... just as good."

"I don't want to wake. I want to stay here with you."

"Give me the strength to die well."

"The prisoner wishes to say a word."
"Freedom!"

"Death comes to us all. But before it comes to you, know this: your blood dies with you. A child who is not of your line grows in my belly. Your son will not sit long on the throne. I swear it."

"You have bled with Wallace, now bleed with me."

"In the Year of our Lord 1314, patriots of Scotland - starving and outnumbered - charged the fields of Bannockburn. They fought like warrior poets; they fought like Scotsmen, and won their freedom."
"Strength and honor."

"If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium, and you're already dead!"

"What we do in life echoes in eternity."

"At my signal, unleash hell."

"Have I missed it? Have I missed the battle?"
"You have missed the war."

"There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile."

"Won't you accept this great honor that I have offered you?"
"With all my heart, no."
"Maximus, that is why it must be you."

"Nothing happens to anyone that he is not fitted by nature to bear."

"Ultimately, we're all dead men. Sadly, we cannot choose how but, what we can decide is how we meet that end, in order that we are remembered, as men."

"Are you not entertained?!"

"We who are about to die, salute you!"

"My name is Gladiator."

"The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate; it's the sand of the coliseum. He'll bring them death, and they will love him for it."

"Today I saw a slave become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome."

"The time for honoring yourself will soon be at an end... Highness."

"I will kill Commodus. The fate of Rome, I leave to you."

"AM I NOT MERCIFUL?"

"Shadows and dust."

"Ancestors, I ask you for your guidance. Blessed mother, come to me with the Gods' desire for my future. Blessed father, watch over my wife and son with a ready sword. Whisper to them that I live only to hold them again, for all else is dust and air. Ancestors, I honor you and will try to live with the dignity that you have taught me."

"The general who became a slave. The slave who became a gladiator. The gladiator who defied an emperor."

"And now we are free. I will see you again, but not yet. Not yet..."
DIRECTING
For being one of his first times behind the camera, Mel Gibson directs the hell out of BRAVEHEART. The film suffers from the occasional mid-90's choppiness, but the production design, action, and overall presentation give the film a classic quality worthy of Gibson's Oscar win for Best Director.
Having already directed a dozen or so films, Ridley Scott brings his master craftsmanship to GLADIATOR. At times the action is frenetically edited, with the odd strobe and slo-mo shots feeling a bit out of place, but overall the film is a beautifully shot and stunningly crafted masterwork.
SCORE
James Horner delivers a haunting soundtrack rich with emotion and alive with the spirit of Scotland. Without ever being overly sentimental or intrusive, Horner's work adds a layer of warmth to a passionate film.
Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard's score blends a traditionally orchestral score with ethereal vocals and instruments of a forgotten era. The music ranges from delicate to grand, with a stirring swell of hope at the end.
BOX OFFICE & ACCOLADES
IMDB: 8.4 (Top 250: #76)
Rotten Tomatoes: 78% (Audience Score: 85%)
Metacritic: 68 (User Score: 8.6)
Domestic Total Gross: $75,609,945

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Best Makeup, and five nominations, including Writing and Score

Golden Globes: Best Director and three nominations

BAFTA Awards: Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, and three nominations
IMDB: 8.5 (Top 250: #46)
Rotten Tomatoes: 76% (Audience Score: 87%)
Metacritic: 64 (User Score: 8.8)
Domestic Total Gross: $187,705,427

Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Effects, Visual Effects, and seven nominations, including Supporting Actor, Director, Writing, and Score

Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Score, and three nominations

BAFTA Awards: Best Film, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Audience Award, and ten nominations
GLADIATOR
Another tough one. If you told me I could only watch one of these movies again for as long as I live, it would be BRAVEHEART, but that may just because I saw it when I was younger and more impressionable (to say nothing of my soft spot for Celtic and Gaelic culture). GLADIATOR comes out on top by being more polished and impressive all around, even though BRAVEHEART arguably tells a more poignant, heartfelt story. For two movies only five years apart, BRAVEHEART certainly feels like a classic, but GLADIATOR was ahead of its time and still feels like it could have been made yesterday. Am I not merciful? Let me know your thoughts as well as your favorite historical epic down below!



Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at brianbitner@joblo.com.

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5:43PM on 08/23/2016

Win for this quote alone

"The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f*cked."
"The Almighty tells me he can get me out of this mess, but he's pretty sure you're f*cked."
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11:19PM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart for me by a REALLY loooong shot

I loved Braveheart.
Gladiator was too maudlin, predictable, and long in the tooth. I also hated the attempt at recreating the "intensity" of Saving Private Ryan with the choppy video... doesn't work for a Roman gladiator theme at ALL. The CGI was shitty, and I just got bad vibes from it all around.
I'll put it this way: I watched Gladiator in the theater, hated it, and then an hour later I was watching BATTLEFIELD EARTH. I was thinking "Shit, this movie blows... but at least it isn't
I loved Braveheart.
Gladiator was too maudlin, predictable, and long in the tooth. I also hated the attempt at recreating the "intensity" of Saving Private Ryan with the choppy video... doesn't work for a Roman gladiator theme at ALL. The CGI was shitty, and I just got bad vibes from it all around.
I'll put it this way: I watched Gladiator in the theater, hated it, and then an hour later I was watching BATTLEFIELD EARTH. I was thinking "Shit, this movie blows... but at least it isn't GLADIATOR."
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10:46PM on 08/09/2016
I love both, but I'll give a slight edge to Gladiator.
I love both, but I'll give a slight edge to Gladiator.
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+1
10:02PM on 08/09/2016

-_-

Wrong....

Braveheart on so many levels, i feel like some of the categories were chosen specifically to slant the vote.

the film doesn't "suffer from 90's choppiness" there was no CGI used, he used real military soldiers for actors, they had drastic on site weather issues in the freezing cold and rain.. So many issues that they endured and made work. Watch both behind the scenes from both films, and special features and I'm sure even you will change your mind.
Wrong....

Braveheart on so many levels, i feel like some of the categories were chosen specifically to slant the vote.

the film doesn't "suffer from 90's choppiness" there was no CGI used, he used real military soldiers for actors, they had drastic on site weather issues in the freezing cold and rain.. So many issues that they endured and made work. Watch both behind the scenes from both films, and special features and I'm sure even you will change your mind.
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7:35PM on 08/09/2016

Tough choice

Both are excellent, easily two of my favorites. I gotta go with Gladiator for the win tho.
Both are excellent, easily two of my favorites. I gotta go with Gladiator for the win tho.
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+0
7:03PM on 08/09/2016
Braveheart wins.

Braveheart wins.

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6:10PM on 08/09/2016
I like Braveheart more, but both are fantastic. The historical epic is probably my favorite film genre, and it's so sad that Hollywood really doesn't make them anymore. All big budget productions these days have to be part of a franchise.
I like Braveheart more, but both are fantastic. The historical epic is probably my favorite film genre, and it's so sad that Hollywood really doesn't make them anymore. All big budget productions these days have to be part of a franchise.
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5:44PM on 08/09/2016

How did I know this site was going to pick Gladiator

Braveheart easily.
Braveheart easily.
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+1
5:01PM on 08/09/2016
Braveheart by a mile.
Braveheart by a mile.
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+1
5:00PM on 08/09/2016
Braveheart by a mile.
Braveheart by a mile.
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+0
4:59PM on 08/09/2016
Braveheart by a mile.
Braveheart by a mile.
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4:43PM on 08/09/2016
Spartacus > Braveheart > Gladiator
Spartacus > Braveheart > Gladiator
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4:05PM on 08/09/2016
They're both about as historically accurate as Lord of the Rings, and yet, both are incredibly entertaining... that said, I have to give the edge to Braveheart. It's so good.
They're both about as historically accurate as Lord of the Rings, and yet, both are incredibly entertaining... that said, I have to give the edge to Braveheart. It's so good.
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3:41PM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart

Yeah, it's Braveheart.
Yeah, it's Braveheart.
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1:32PM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart

Braveheart once stood atop my list of favorite movies (now I don't know if it's in the Top 10, but enough about that).

I like Gladiator. A lot. But I think it did the character of Commodus a great disservice by turning him into a pervy weakling (still, Joaquin Phoenix is arguably more memorable than Crowe in his portrayal). If you read up on the actual history of the time, this was not some pushover, but a full-blown psychopathic badass, and I think that would've made for a far more
Braveheart once stood atop my list of favorite movies (now I don't know if it's in the Top 10, but enough about that).

I like Gladiator. A lot. But I think it did the character of Commodus a great disservice by turning him into a pervy weakling (still, Joaquin Phoenix is arguably more memorable than Crowe in his portrayal). If you read up on the actual history of the time, this was not some pushover, but a full-blown psychopathic badass, and I think that would've made for a far more interesting story. I also take issue with the very simple revenge plot. I love a revenge story as much as the next guy, but one of the things Braveheart does right, is it transcends the revenge trappings. Also, after HBO's "Rome," I have an even harder time looking back at Gladiator, wondering what could have been.
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+0
1:23PM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart

This probably won't win me any popularity points, but while I think both films are great entertainments I would say that either of them is truly great in terms of quality, they're just kind of standard issue,underdog, Oscar bait films -- like the Pursuit of Happyness or something -- just with a historical backdrop and action scenes. Now that doesn't make them bad movies, I would even say that they are both good movies, just not GREAT ones. I think that Joaquin Phoenix's performance is the best
This probably won't win me any popularity points, but while I think both films are great entertainments I would say that either of them is truly great in terms of quality, they're just kind of standard issue,underdog, Oscar bait films -- like the Pursuit of Happyness or something -- just with a historical backdrop and action scenes. Now that doesn't make them bad movies, I would even say that they are both good movies, just not GREAT ones. I think that Joaquin Phoenix's performance is the best part of either film, however other than that I don;t think that Gladiator has much that is truly outstanding about that, I think Braveheart beats it in just about every other category.
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1:14PM on 08/09/2016

Gladiator

One of my all time favorites. I have only seen Braveheart once and while I was younger so it definitely deserves another look.
One of my all time favorites. I have only seen Braveheart once and while I was younger so it definitely deserves another look.
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12:32PM on 08/09/2016

Gladiator

Personally I enjoyed Gladiator more, but agree with everyone else that Braveheart is the better film
Personally I enjoyed Gladiator more, but agree with everyone else that Braveheart is the better film
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+1
12:08PM on 08/09/2016

Brave heart

Brave heart for me
Brave heart for me
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12:02PM on 08/09/2016

I AM ENTERTAINED!

Tough call indeed because Braveheart set the pace and Gladiator took it to a whole new level. Yes, Gladiator felt overrated but it somewhat revived the Sword & Sandles genre as evident by the Rome tv-series and its spinoffs as well Kindom of Heaven (hey! an underrated gem from Ridley Scott)
Tough call indeed because Braveheart set the pace and Gladiator took it to a whole new level. Yes, Gladiator felt overrated but it somewhat revived the Sword & Sandles genre as evident by the Rome tv-series and its spinoffs as well Kindom of Heaven (hey! an underrated gem from Ridley Scott)
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12:00PM on 08/09/2016
Braveheart for me. I always think Braveheart is underrated whereas Gladiator is way overrated.
Braveheart for me. I always think Braveheart is underrated whereas Gladiator is way overrated.
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+2
11:49AM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart

Gladiator is great, so is Ridley Scott's direction, but it can't beat Mel Gibson! For me, Braveheart is flawless.
Gladiator is great, so is Ridley Scott's direction, but it can't beat Mel Gibson! For me, Braveheart is flawless.
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11:45AM on 08/09/2016

FREEDOM

Both incredible movies... no way in hell Gladiator beats Braveheart, sorry
Both incredible movies... no way in hell Gladiator beats Braveheart, sorry
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1:25PM on 08/09/2016
Fixed! Thanks for the reminder- I was totally going to include him at the end of both lists and forgot.
Fixed! Thanks for the reminder- I was totally going to include him at the end of both lists and forgot.
11:47AM on 08/09/2016
also in supporting cast... you forgot the great TOMMY FLANAGAN in both movies!
also in supporting cast... you forgot the great TOMMY FLANAGAN in both movies!
11:35AM on 08/09/2016
Braveheart by miles.
Braveheart by miles.
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11:34AM on 08/09/2016
So happy to see all this Braveheart love! I thought for sure most of you guys would be Team Gladiator. It makes my day to see so much red on my column, haha. I love ya. Always have.
So happy to see all this Braveheart love! I thought for sure most of you guys would be Team Gladiator. It makes my day to see so much red on my column, haha. I love ya. Always have.
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+1
11:32AM on 08/09/2016
BRAVEHEART: 8/10
GLADIATOR: Worst good movie
BRAVEHEART: 8/10
GLADIATOR: Worst good movie
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1:34PM on 08/09/2016
Haha, I totally agree. They're both good movies, but I wouldn't call Gladiator a great movie, or even a "very good" one by any stretch, probably one of the weakest movies to win Best Picture in the last couple decades (although The English Patient still takes the cake).
Haha, I totally agree. They're both good movies, but I wouldn't call Gladiator a great movie, or even a "very good" one by any stretch, probably one of the weakest movies to win Best Picture in the last couple decades (although The English Patient still takes the cake).
+3
11:26AM on 08/09/2016
Team Braveheart. I'm one of those who always thought Gladiator was a ok movie.
Team Braveheart. I'm one of those who always thought Gladiator was a ok movie.
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+2
11:23AM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart wins this easily.

I liked Gladiator, but I think Braveheart is the finest epic ever made and is Mel Gibson's crowning achievement, both in direction and acting. The entire Stirling sequence, from the approach of the English army to Wallace's speech to his countrymen to the actual battle itself, might be my favorite setpiece of all time in any movie. And James Horner's score is just amazing.
I liked Gladiator, but I think Braveheart is the finest epic ever made and is Mel Gibson's crowning achievement, both in direction and acting. The entire Stirling sequence, from the approach of the English army to Wallace's speech to his countrymen to the actual battle itself, might be my favorite setpiece of all time in any movie. And James Horner's score is just amazing.
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1:38PM on 08/09/2016
I'm curious how you personally define "epic" since that always seems like a really ambiguous term when used as a genre (is LotR an epic? Is 2001?) In terms of historical epics, you've gotta see Lawrence of Arabia if you haven't already.
I'm curious how you personally define "epic" since that always seems like a really ambiguous term when used as a genre (is LotR an epic? Is 2001?) In terms of historical epics, you've gotta see Lawrence of Arabia if you haven't already.
11:16AM on 08/09/2016

no way...

I enjoy both movies, but Braveheart wins this hands down. It is a better movie on all fronts.
I enjoy both movies, but Braveheart wins this hands down. It is a better movie on all fronts.
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+4
11:08AM on 08/09/2016

Braveheart

I always disliked Gladiator's ending.. Why would Joaquin Phoenix's character (a pussy) was going to fight the best gladiator ever (even if he was wounded).. Gladiator is a good movie.. but for me Braveheart is way better.. Ive always loved the soundtrack and this: "hey may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"
I always disliked Gladiator's ending.. Why would Joaquin Phoenix's character (a pussy) was going to fight the best gladiator ever (even if he was wounded).. Gladiator is a good movie.. but for me Braveheart is way better.. Ive always loved the soundtrack and this: "hey may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"
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11:27PM on 08/09/2016
I almost always hate Big Hero Speeches just before a movie's Epic Battle.
However, the final scene and Robert the Bruce meekly states, "You have bled for Wallace, and now... bleed for me" was awesome.
I almost always hate Big Hero Speeches just before a movie's Epic Battle.
However, the final scene and Robert the Bruce meekly states, "You have bled for Wallace, and now... bleed for me" was awesome.
+4
10:54AM on 08/09/2016

BraveHeart

Mel is the Man
Mel is the Man
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10:26AM on 08/09/2016

MEL

This is a tough one...their both serious badass motherfuckers. But as of right now, all things included past and present you gotta give it to Mel. If it was just based on acting alone, itd be a tie, but Mel is an amazing director that I dont think any actor has more successfully made the transition to behind the camera then he has.(Affleck doesnt come close). Theirs also the fact that Crowe doesnt exude that same charisma he had, and he's dropping hard, where as Mel seems to be reinventing
This is a tough one...their both serious badass motherfuckers. But as of right now, all things included past and present you gotta give it to Mel. If it was just based on acting alone, itd be a tie, but Mel is an amazing director that I dont think any actor has more successfully made the transition to behind the camera then he has.(Affleck doesnt come close). Theirs also the fact that Crowe doesnt exude that same charisma he had, and he's dropping hard, where as Mel seems to be reinventing himself as his younger self, with some wear and tear, hes nailed that old, rabid dog with a heart of gold act down solid
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