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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Benicio Del Toro

09.13.2015
Hola amigos! You're probably wondering where the great Chris Bumbray is after you read "by: Nick Bosworth" and yelled out loud..."What the hell Bosworth...what have you done with Chris?!". Well I'm here to assure you that Chris is perfectly fine (unless he makes me angry and/or tries to escape). Hehe...kidding of course. In actuality, my good friend is currently very busy reviewing countless films for our readers like yourselves at the Toronto International Film Festival and has deemed me worthy enough to take over the column this week. Last week, Chris took a look at the career of legendary horror writer/director Wes Craven who sadly passed away recently and leaves behind an incredible legacy. This week's subject is also legendary for a number of reasons and once you see who, you'll understand why we chose him.
Benicio Del Toro

One of my all-time favorite actors without question, the deep raspy-voiced Benicio Del Toro has blazed such an incredible path of success and roles that have since become classic and yet he shows no signs of slowing down. Originally born in Puerto Rico, Benicio moved to the mainland U.S. with his family at a young age and attended university in the pursuit of becoming a lawyer. That all changed however when he got a taste of the dramatic arts and then set his sights on acting full-time. He had bit supporting roles here and there throughout the late 80's and early 90's (we all remember him in James Bond's LICENSE TO KILL) but everything changed when a then young up-and-coming director named Bryan Singer casted him in probably his most recognized film to-date, THE USUAL SUSPECTS . After winning an Independent Spirit Award for his cult-classic role as Fenster, that's when his climb up the fame ladder really picked up speed.

It wasn't long before Benicio started getting more upfront supporting roles and even leads in films such as EXCESS BAGGAGE alongside Alicia Silverstone or as the legendary Dr. Gonzo in Terry Gilliam's FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS alongside Johnny Depp a year later. While these roles and other parts were very kind to him at the tale end of the 90's (despite his role in Fear and Loathing giving him a bit of a strange image to cinema-goers at the time), nothing could compare to the events of 2000 when Benicio found himself to be the talk of Hollywood and abroad with his epic portrayal of a Mexican police officer battling the drug cartels/government politics in Steven Soderbergh's TRAFFIC. Despite the film having a gigantic A-list cast, Benicio stood out over all of them which led to multiple award wins including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Many out there think Joaquin Phoenix should have won that year for Gladiator but I've always disagreed believing that Benicio's performance is far more enduring and paved a path for future films and roles regarding the brutal drug wars in Mexico and the United States.

Since then, Benicio has gone on to have an incredible filmography of work that again is showing absolutely no signs of letting up. From his hilarious and classic bit-role in Guy Ritchie's SNATCH in 2000 to his amazing character Jack Jordan in Alejandro González Iñárritu's 21 GRAMS in 2003 (which gave him another Independent Spirit Award and Oscar nomination), Benicio has proven himself to have an incredibly wide acting range. Having settled down only a few years ago with his partner Kimberly Stewart (Rod's daughter) and having a baby, Guillermo still stays very busy as he expands into every genre of film. From portraying THE WOLFMAN to becoming the Collector for Marvel's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Benicio continues to show his extreme versatility as an actor and is always keen on taking new and challenging parts despite his stereotyped voice/look and earlier body of work.

His Best Work

The film that Benicio won the Oscar for is without a doubt his best work in my opinion. His portrayal of Officer Javier Rodriguez gave the film its emotional core as you could see the pain and frustration in his performance. Benicio carries us along us on a tidal wave of hell throughout his part of the film as he takes on a corrupted Mexican General, a drug cartel using him as a pawn to destroy the competition and finally having no choice but to work with the DEA to wipe them all out for good. You really felt like you were right there with him on the front lines of a failing drug war that had no end in sight and his impeccable and believable transitioning from one situation to the other is so rewarding to watch. If there was ever a film that truly depicts the complete and utter collapse/failure of the war on drugs in that region of the world, this one is it. That raw emotion combined with the brilliant direction of Soderbergh and writing from Stephen Gaghan created a character that like I said earlier carved a path for future actors that took on similar-themed roles. If you've never seen Traffic, I can't recommend it enough.

His Most Underrated Film

While for the most part Benicio's roles have been well-received and now most are in a state of classic awareness with fans, this epic two-part film from director Steven Soderbergh just seemed to fall through the box office cracks for some reason. Back in a time when Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT was smashing box office results and making critics and comic book fans go wild, Benicio also released part one and two of CHE which was the story of Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara who led the Cuban Revolution in the 1950's. It was an intense and powerful pair of films that depicted the rise and fall of the revolution and Benicio's performance was greatly loved, especially at Cannes that year when he won Best Actor. However the reason I say it's underrated is because other than the Cannes win and some smaller random awards, CHE never found a big spotlight here in North America or abroad. It fell under the radar very quickly for audiences and as such it didn't gain any momentum during awards season of 2009. It's an excellent set of films together as one and highly recommended.

His Most Overrated Film

While I am a big fan of Oliver Stone's earlier work, SAVAGES was an incredible misfire for the famed director and it took down everyone with it. While Benicio didn't really give a bad performance in general as cartel inforcer for Salma Hayek's character, his character was poorly written but that's not saying much as pretty well the entire movie is a mess (not to mention one of the worst movie endings in recent memory). It's a film that most critics and film fans forgot about very quickly to say the least. To be honest this was actually a difficult category to choose for as Benicio in general has been very careful with the parts he picks. THE WOLFMAN was also a weak entry in his filmography but it did still have great random moments and Benicio did the best he could with the character and story presented.

His Best Scene

This was a damn tough decision to make for me cause as much as I love TRAFFIC and as much as I love FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS...*sigh*...the lineup from THE USUAL SUSPECTS is one of the greatest cult-classic film scenes of all-time. When someone says the words "police lineup" to you, this is the scene that jolts into the back of your brain. You'd be hard pressed to find a movie fan that doesn't know this scene word for word and Benicio's bit is hilarious.

His Five Best Films (as a lead)
5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS
4. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS
3. CHE: PART ONE AND TWO
2. 21 GRAMS 
1. TRAFFIC
Up Next

To say that Benicio has a lot of work coming up is an understatement. Not only does he have the now critically-acclaimed action thriller SICARIO coming out very soon (click here to watch Chris Bumbray's 10/10 review) but you can also see him soon in a currently untitled Terrence Malick film and then taking a massive step into the Star Wars franchise as the possible villain of EPISODE VIII under director Rian Johnson. I'd say it's safe to assume that we'll be seeing a lot more of Mr. Del Toro in the future and that makes this writer quite joyful. Thanks for reading everybody...in English.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: Benicio's badass reputation also extends to the gorgeous celebrities he has dated including Valeria Golino, Alicia Silverstone, Heather Graham and Catherine Keener.
Source: JoBlo.com

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10:23PM on 09/15/2015
The Wolfman is a fine film. Not sure why it still gets slammed.
The Wolfman is a fine film. Not sure why it still gets slammed.
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+0
3:20PM on 09/14/2015

So much love for this guy?!

I still think he gives hammy over wrought actors a bad name
I still think he gives hammy over wrought actors a bad name
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7:30AM on 09/15/2015
Scriptwriters can be overwrought. That's not the actor's responsibility.
Scriptwriters can be overwrought. That's not the actor's responsibility.
11:53AM on 09/14/2015
Badass indeed. I'd say his best work is his villainous role in License To Kill. Yeah, he was effin' badass in that movie.
Badass indeed. I'd say his best work is his villainous role in License To Kill. Yeah, he was effin' badass in that movie.
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9:20AM on 09/14/2015
I actually like Savages in a guilty pleasure way. My favorite role has to be Usual Suspects: the line up is unforgettable.
I actually like Savages in a guilty pleasure way. My favorite role has to be Usual Suspects: the line up is unforgettable.
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8:06AM on 09/14/2015

Nick here...

"The Way of the Gun" is also a terrific movie, it was tough creating a top 5 list for him.
"The Way of the Gun" is also a terrific movie, it was tough creating a top 5 list for him.
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7:36AM on 09/14/2015
One of my all-time favorites. Very excited about seeing him in Sicario. The guy just about doesn't do bad performances.

Special note: part-way through the third paragraph Benicio turns into Guillermo.
One of my all-time favorites. Very excited about seeing him in Sicario. The guy just about doesn't do bad performances.

Special note: part-way through the third paragraph Benicio turns into Guillermo.
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5:31AM on 09/14/2015

Swimming With Sharks

even if a supporting character, great performance for a great movie !
My top 5:
1. the way of the gun
2. swimming with sharks
3. 21 grams
4. the usual suspects
5. the hunted
even if a supporting character, great performance for a great movie !
My top 5:
1. the way of the gun
2. swimming with sharks
3. 21 grams
4. the usual suspects
5. the hunted
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+1
5:23AM on 09/14/2015

Fail

Way of the Gun is his best work. End of story.
Way of the Gun is his best work. End of story.
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11:52PM on 09/13/2015
I agree with most of this article, except for Che. Del Toro is good in it, but that movie wasn't very good. I rented both parts with my dad, and he found the first part so boring he refused to watch the second. I think Soderbergh, who's normally very good, tried to make this a little too artsy, and it didn't work.
I agree with most of this article, except for Che. Del Toro is good in it, but that movie wasn't very good. I rented both parts with my dad, and he found the first part so boring he refused to watch the second. I think Soderbergh, who's normally very good, tried to make this a little too artsy, and it didn't work.
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5:34AM on 09/14/2015
agree with Che
good performance, but not interestings movies.
the 2nd one is even bad
agree with Che
good performance, but not interestings movies.
the 2nd one is even bad
11:44PM on 09/13/2015
My favorite film of his is Way of the Gun. The opening scene is awesome.
My favorite film of his is Way of the Gun. The opening scene is awesome.
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10:46PM on 09/13/2015
The guy is a terrific actor and am always excited to see him lend his craft to any film. My favorite film of his is probably Things We Lost in the Fire. A real underrated gem (in my opinion), in which he gives a great performance.
The guy is a terrific actor and am always excited to see him lend his craft to any film. My favorite film of his is probably Things We Lost in the Fire. A real underrated gem (in my opinion), in which he gives a great performance.
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