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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Ben Affleck

01.09.2017

In our last column, we examined the career of actor Brian Cox. This week’s subject is one of the biggest actor/directors of our era, but a controversial figure to be sure...

 Ben Affleck

ben affleck batman v superman dawn of justice

For some reason, people seem to hold major grudge against Ben Affleck, and around the time his career as a young, twenty-something lead went kaput, people seemed to really wish the guy ill. I never got why. Sure, his time as a tabloid fixture opposite JLo didn’t do him any favors (people just got sick of him), nor did a string of terrible vehicles like SURVIVING CHRISTMAS, PAYCHECK, the infamous GIGLI and more. Even still, given the right role Affleck could be great, as in CHANGING LANES and CHASING AMY, and while many mocked his portrayal of Matt Murdock in DAREDEVIL, I’d say he was perfectly adequate considering the kind of film it was.

ben affleck good will hunting

It had been a quick rise to the top for Affleck, and part of the reason his career went awry early on may be the way people resented his success as a co-writer/co-star of GOOD WILL HUNTING, as if somehow he hadn’t earned it. Of course, Affleck proved all the naysayers wrong big time with his directorial vehicle, GONE BABY, GONE, which proved his bona-fides as a writer-director, with his follow-up, THE TOWN, giving him the ideal opportunity to reinvent himself as a mature actor, which he did, and with ARGO and GONE GIRL minting him as a reborn superstar.

ben affleck argo

Even still, when he got hired to play Batman, people mocked the choice and took pleasure in the scathing reviews the movie earned (unfairly in my opinion), making “Sad Ben” memes, and the like. No wonder he’s wary of the press when people seem out to get him. Hate BATMAN V SUPERMAN all you like, but Affleck’s performance is right-on. A similar thing seems to be happening with LIVE BY NIGHT, a movie WB may have, unwisely, rushed into Oscar-season, when a lower-key release like the successful one they plotted for THE ACCOUNTANT, might have made more sense. Critics have been rough on it, even though it’s an ace-period action flick (read my review). In an era of big tent-pole movies, Affleck uses his clout to make adult dramas which, more often than not, are terrific. And if that’s not bad ass, I don’t know what is.

His Best Work
ben affleck casey affleck gone baby gone

For this, I’m choosing GONE BABY, GONE, even though GOOD WILL HUNTING is the better film. My reasoning is that Affleck didn’t have Matt Damon or Gus Van Sant to lean on, with it likely a particularly tough production as his star was at an all-time low when it was made. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, Affleck pumped-out a thought-provoking thriller that also gave his brother, Casey Affleck, one of his first big lead roles. It’s a gem that’s too often overlooked when examining Affleck’s career, and in my mind it’s a mini-masterpiece.

His Most Overrated Work
ben affleck the sum of all fears

I’d argue THE SUM OF ALL FEARS is the true nadir of Affleck’s “young lead” career. While he made far worse movies, his performance as Jack Ryan is abysmal, which is a shame considering how well-made a thriller it is otherwise. Liev Schreiber all but walks away with the movie as Tom Clancy’s John Clark (I wish they’d do a spin-off of the Clancy canon with him), and Affleck seems totally un-engaged. The movie was still a success at the box office, but a Jack Ryan franchise for Affleck was not to be, and to be sure he didn’t earn it (although I think he’d be a good Jack Ryan now). As a side note, I was an extra in this movie and I’m even on-screen! I’m the kid in the middle with the goofy parted-in-the-middle haircut.

chris bumbray the sum of all fears
His Most Underrated Film
ben affleck the company men

John Wells’s THE COMPANY MEN should have been a much bigger deal than it was. A fantastic drama centered around the financial crisis, the movie suffered a bit after being acquired at Sundance in 2010, when the ending was softened a bit to give it a cheerier resolution. Even still, Affleck’s performance as a laid-off white collar boss forced to scale-back his lifestyle and re-prioritize ranks among his best-ever, while Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Costner and (especially) Chris Cooper are similarly good.

His Best Scene

Outside of GOOD WILL HUNTING and CHASING AMY, the first time I really realized Affleck had chops was in his BOILER ROOM cameo. While it’s imitative of Alec Baldwin’s Mamet-monologue in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, it’s still a seriously great, charismatic piece of acting.

His Five Best Films

5. THE TOWN
4. GONE GIRL
3. ARGO
2. GONE BABY, GONE
1. GOOD WILL HUNTING

Up Next

Affleck’s probably going to be playing Batman for quite awhile, with JUSTICE LEAGUE due out in November, and theoretically THE BATMAN (which he should be directing) out sometime in 2018. Hopefully he’ll squeeze in some non-DC parts as well, as he’s too good to stick to one thing only.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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