The Good, the Bad and the Badass: Tom Cruise
Last week, we took a look at the career of the gorgeous Angelina Jolie. One of her most popular films, SALT, was actually conceived as a star vehicle for this week's subject, a guy who's been arguably the biggest star on the planet for close to thirty years now...
Tom Cruise has been making movies for as long as I've been alive. I was born in '81, the year he first showed up in TAPS, although as a proper movie star his career really began two years later with RISKY BUSINESS. As far back as I can remember, I've been a huge fan of his. TOP GUN was a touchstone movie of my youth, with it being a cable staple throughout my childhood. I've easily seen it two or three dozen times. As a kid, I thought he was the coolest guy alive. When COCKTAIL came out – I was seven – and my folks bought me the cassette soundtrack, which I rocked 24/7. I was so taken by the flair bar tending that I started mixing juice around the house, chucking plastic cups in the air and whatnot. Made a huge mess, but hey – I was seven. It was cute. RAIN MAN was another big cultural phenomenon at the time. I remember being on a school bus where everyone broke out singing the theme song, “Iko Iko”. As for THE COLOR OF MONEY, well – to this day – whenever I get on a good run playing pool I start humming “Werewolf of London”. Simply put, I thought he was the coolest . Still do actually. For a whole generation of moviegoers, he was like the cool older brother we all wanted.
In the nineties, I got more into the super-macho action stars of the day, but I always respected Cruise. A FEW GOOD MEN, JERRY MAGUIRE, THE FIRM, all of these were great movies. What's odd is how after he took two years off to do Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT, Cruise came back as a sort of he-man action star, something he had never been up to that point. I guess that's what got me back into his movies, but as I get older, I wish he'd go back to doing the occasional drama or romance as of his filmography, those are the movies that have the real staying power.
That said, deciding on what movies of his to highlight has been exceedingly difficult. There are tons of amazing movies left out of this article that demand consideration, and with only one or two exceptions, all of his films have been good to excellent.
I'm going to cheat and choose two, with one being from the early part of his career, and the other more recent. The first is Oliver Stone's BORN OF THE FOURTH OF JULY. This was a ballsy movie for Cruise to take. In COLOR OF MONEY and RAIN MAN he played second fiddle to established leading men like Paul Newman and Dustin Hoffman, but here Cruise does all the heavy-lifting, playing paralysed Vietnam vet Ron Kovic. He was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for his work here, and the way he conveys Kovic's transition from gung-ho marine to physically tormented, and disillusioned vet is astonishing, standing as one of his great performances.
The other movie I'm highlighting is COLLATERAL. People scoffed at the idea of a pretty boy like Cruise playing a bad-guy in a Michael Mann movie, but once they caught of glimpse of him as the coldly efficient, gray-haired killer who torments Jamie Foxx's cabbie, they shut up quick. This was a real attempt by Cruise to subvert his image, and the film works beautifully. I wish Cruise would try another edgy role like this, as it's something he really excelled at.
MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. Overall, I like this series of films, and it can't be denied that they've been money in the bank for Cruise, with the recent (excellent) GHOST PROTOCOL having cemented his comeback in a big way. That said, the series got off to a rocky start with Brian De Palma's original. They tried too hard to adopt the style of the TV show it was based on (in the next film, John Woo established the action-packed formula they seem to stick with nowadays) but the movie is very inconsistent, confusing, and often boring. The train-sequence, which was considered amazing back in '96, now looks hideously dated. The only part of the movie that really works is the vault break-in, but even this isn't as good as it's cracked up to be as it's partially lifted from a sixties caper-movie called TOPKAPI.
My choice for underrated has to be VANILLA SKY. In 2001, people seemed to be expecting another JERRY MAGUIRE, as this reunited Cruise with Cameron Crowe, but instead they got a gonzo psychological thriller-romance, that bests the Spanish film (OPEN YOUR EYES) that it's remaking. In Crowe's filmography, VANILLA SKY is a sharp contrast to anything else he's done, but he made it brilliant by crafting a kind of pop-culture dream world that's both familiar and unnerving, and Cruise has never been better than as the tormented, vain-millionaire that's gruesomely disfigured and then tries to buy himself a one-way ticket to dream-land. It's a masterpiece.
I've always been partial to Martin Scorsese's THE COLOR OF MONEY, and it has one of my favorite pieces of acting by Cruise, as he demolishes a roomful of pool-hall hustlers with his crazy-skills as Warren Zevon's “Werewolf of London” blares on the soundtrack. It's the perfect example of Cruise's appeal at this time in his career, with him being a mega-charismatic hustler you couldn't help but root for, although later both his performances and persona would get more heartfelt..
One thing that must be made clear is that Cruise rarely makes bad movies. Sure, some are better than others, but for the most part he's crazy consistent, and this week's EDGE OF TOMORROW seems to prove that point (look for my review Friday). Well into his fifties, Cruise seems eternally youthful, and hopefully he'll be making movies for decades to come.
|Extra Tidbit:||Look for more Tom Cruise stuff on JoBlo.com this week, including a ten-best video, a full-review of EDGE OF TOMORROW and more!|