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Face Off: Josh Brolin vs. Jeremy Renner

01.30.2014by: Dave Davis
In last week's Face-Off column, movie monster-mashers VAN HELSING and HELLBOY had to duke it out, and the vast majority of you agreed with the assessment that Big Red used the Right Fist of Doom to severely pummel Hugh Jackman's pretty-haired creature-killer.

This weekend, Josh Brolin joins Kate Winslet in LABOR DAY, the new drama from JUNO and UP IN THE AIR director Jason Reitman. Let's put Brolin up against another versatile actor with a familiar face, Jeremy Renner.
EARLY WORK
The son of veteran actor James Brolin, Josh got off to a good start by proving he was good enough for the 80s fave THE GOONIES, then played the lead in the skateboarding drama THRASHIN’ and portrayed "Wild Bill" Hickok on three seasons of “The Young Riders” TV series.

Brolin was also a contender for the lead role on "21 Jump Street", but narrowly lost it to Johnny Depp.
After starting out as a mischievous underachiever in NATIONAL LAMPOON'S SENIOR TRIP, Renner made lots of TV appearances (“Angel”, “CSI”, “The Net”) before getting attention for his portrayal of sadistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the indie DAHMER.
COMIC BOOK ADAPTATIONs
Brolin strapped on his six-guns as the scarred Old West anti-hero JONAH HEX (based on the DC/Vertigo Comics character), and then offered an eerily precise version of young Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K in MEN IN BLACK 3 (a franchise based on a 1990 comic from indie publisher Aircel).
After briefly popping up as Hawkeye (aka S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Clint Barton) in Marvel's THOR, Renner joined the all-star superhero squad in the blockbuster THE AVENGERS.

Granted, Hawkeye may have spent most of the movie in the thrall of villain Loki, but THE AVENGERS remains the third-biggest movie of all time.
MAN OF ACTION
Besides MEN IN BLACK 3 and the generally scorned JONAH HEX, Brolin has:

- faced off against invisible lunatic Kevin Bacon in HOLLOW MAN

- played cat-and-mouse with Javier Bardem's coldblooded hitman in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

- joined up with Ryan Gosling as a 1940s cop in GANGSTER SQUAD

hammered his way to revenge in Spike Lee's remake of OLDBOY
In addition to demonstrating his bow skills in THE AVENGERS, Renner has:

- battled rage-infected humans in the sequel 28 WEEKS LATER

- dismantled explosives during the Iraq War in THE HURT LOCKER

- joined Tom Cruise's spy team in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL

- taken over for Matt Damon as a new rogue CIA operative in THE BOURNE LEGACY

- slaughtered hundreds of evil witches in HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS
SCUM AND VILLAINY
Brolin menaced Paul Walker and Jessica Alba as a rival salvager in INTO THE BLUE, got infected by a horrifying virus and tried to kill his cheating wife in GRINDHOUSE: PLANET TERROR, tried to strong-arm Russell Crowe as a corrupt cop in AMERICAN GANGSTER, gunned down gay rights activist Harvey Milk in MILK, continued Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" motto as an oily hedge fund manager in WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS, and evaded Jeff Bridges' bounty hunter as a murderous outlaw in TRUE GRIT.

(Depending on your political perspective, you could also include Brolin's portrayal of George W. Bush in Oliver Stone's W. in this category.)
In addition to playing the infamous sadistic psychopath in DAHMER, Renner fired shots at Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell as a cop-turned-criminal in S.W.A.T., harassed Charlize Theron in NORTH COUNTRY, ruthlessly robbed banks with Ben Affleck in THE TOWN, and got pulled into Christian Bale's scam in AMERICAN HUSTLE (okay, he may have an unwitting participant, but... he's still a politician.)
MAJOR AWARD RECOGNITION
Oscar nomination for MILK

Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for AMERICAN GANGSTER and MILK

Screen Actors Guild Awards winner for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Outstanding Performance by a Cast)

Oscar nominations for THE TOWN and THE HURT LOCKER

Golden Globe nomination for THE TOWN

Screen Actors Guild Awards nomination for THE TOWN and THE HURT LOCKER

Screen Actors Guild Awards winner for AMERICAN HUSTLE (Outstanding Performance by a Cast)
HIDDEN TALENT
Spends time as a swing trader in the stock market, and once said he makes more from that than his acting
Is a successful "house flipper", purchasing homes and making groovy renovations, then reselling for a tidy profit
UPCOMING PROJECTS
- SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR
- INHERENT VICE
- EVEREST

Brolin takes over for Clive Owen as Dwight in the Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller SIN CITY sequel, and climbs the big mountain in the fact-based thriller EVEREST, but most enticing is a major role in filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson's sprawling period crime tale INHERENT VICE, adapted from Thomas Pynchon's novel.
- KILL THE MESSENGER
- THE BOURNE WHATEVER
- THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

Universal wants to keep the BOURNE name alive with Renner despite the lackluster LEGACY, and KILL THE MESSENGER is a modestly budgeted ensemble crime from Michael Cuesta, a director best known for cable work ("Six Feet Under", "Dexter", "Homeland"). But c'mon, regardless of the size of Hawkeye's role, is there anyone who doesn't welcome the next AVENGERS movie with massive amounts of anticipation?
IT'S A TIE!
Both Brolin and Renner always turn in solid performances, even when they're better than the movie itself and despite the fact that neither has been handed a statue for their efforts yet.

Brolin has been in the game a bit longer, but Renner has come on strong in the past few years, never missing an opportunity to jump into a major franchise. Sure, he may have gotten the shaft (pun intended) as underutilized costumed hero Hawkeye when the AVENGERS assembled, but just about any association with Marvel can be considered gold.

They each have plenty of talent, and mugs with lots of character. I like 'em both!

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