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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Christian Bale

Dec. 1, 2013by: Chris Bumbray

Last week, we took a look at the career of master director Spike Lee, one of the most controversial directors of his time. Switching gears, our subject this week makes his living on the other side of the camera, and is known as one of the most committed A-list actors of our generation...

Christian Bale

Christian Bale has always been a breed apart as far as actors go. This was apparent right from the get-go, when he was a child actor in films like MIO IN THE LAND OF FARAWAY. His performance in Steven Spielbergs EMPIRE OF THE SUN, made when he was just eleven years old, is a testament to that. Even when he was a teen heartthrob- in the unfortunate NEWSIES and the not-so-bad SWING KIDS- Bale had the goods. By the time he re-emerged as a full-blown leading man with AMERICAN PSYCHO in 2000, it was obvious that Bale was going to be one of the major actors of our generation.

Regardless of the genre hes working in- be it a mammoth movie like BATMAN BEGINS or a smaller film like THE MACHINIST- Bale always brings the same 100% method commitment to the part an actor like Daniel Day-Lewis is celebrated for. If anything, Bale could be accused of going too deep at times, to the detriment of his own health and sanity. Just look at him in THE MACHINIST. Sure, theres nothing wrong with losing weight for a part, but Bale looks positively skeletal. If you consider that his next film was BATMAN BEGINS, which saw him beef up to 220 pounds, and then quickly drop another twenty pounds upon Christopher Nolans request to get leaner, one cant help but be worried about his health.

Alas, thats just the kind of actor Bale is. The fact that we have a full-blown star thats so willing to take himself to extremes for his craft is remarkable, and if anyone Ive profiled in this column deserves to be called a bad-ass its Bale.

His Best Performance


This is a tough one. Im tempted to throw THE MACHINIST in here just for the sake of the physical transformation. Bruce Wayne/Batman would be another obvious choice, as whatever the controversy there is surrounding his Batman growl, it cant be denied hes probably given the best superhero performance of all-time outside of Christopher Reeve in SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE. Christopher Nolan's THE PRESTIGE also deserves some consideration. If you've seen the film, you'll know that Bale has to convey two distinct personalities throughout, and it's a performance that's difficult to fully appreciate unless you've seen it a couple of times. Still, my choice here is AMERICAN PSYCHO. As the psychopathic Patrick Bateman, Bale has to walk a tightrope. On the one hand, Batemans a disgusting pig of a man, but then again, hes not just playing a straight-up psycho. Rather, the character is more of a grotesque sideshow exaggeration of the worst of eighties yuppie excess, with the greed and callousness being so overwhelming that he becomes a killer just to see if he can get away with it- which he does. In the hands of a less talented actor, AMERICAN PSYCHO would have you reaching for the eject button on your DVD player, but Bale makes Bateman both morbidly fascinating AND funny.

His Most Overrated Performance

Overrated is a word thats tough to apply to Bale. I dont think hes ever given a performance Id actually call overrated. Like Ive had to do in many other columns here, I think Im going to have to highlight a work thats just plain bad rather than overrated. TERMINATOR: SALVATION was a film that was almost universally reviled when it hit theaters. Rather than relaunch the franchise, it pretty much put it out of commission for another half-decade. Bales presence in such an uninspired cash-grab of a film seems uncharacteristic of him, and its one of the few paycheck films hes done (lets not forget he turned down truckloads of cash to do another Batman post-Nolan). It was also a film that resulted in a lot of negative press due to his infamous on-set meltdown- which was inexplicably recorded and leaked- although by seeing what a bad movie it ended up being, his frustration is understandable.

His Most Underrated Performance

Underrated- now THATS a term thats better suited to Bale. There are several films on his CV that Id call underrated. Among them: 3:10 TO YUMA, HARSH TIMES, RESCUE DAWN, heck- even REIGN OF FIRE. But to me, the most underrated of all is EQUILIBRIUM. This movie never even got a theatrical release, with the Weinsteins consigning it to the direct-to-DVD bin at Blockbusters everywhere (when there was such a thing). The movie picked up a nice cult-following, and when Bale was announced as Batman, those of us that had seen this knew he was the perfect choice. It was the first movie he did that proved his mettle as an action hero, with his gun-kata fights and physique. Its not a perfect film, with the blend of dystopian influences not quite meshing all the time. Still, its a cool little flick. Its worth noting that I worked at a Blockbuster around the time this came out on DVD. It hit the stores around the same time THE MATRIX RELOADED did. Whenever Id get people renting RELOADED, Id send them home with this too. 99.9% of the time theyd come back agreeing that EQUILIBRIUM was way better.

His Most Memorable Scene

Again, I was tempted to choose something from one of the Batman movies, but I couldnt make up my mind as to what scene really stood apart from the rest of the films. If I had to choose one for Heath Ledger, no problem. For Bale, its much harder. Thats not to say hes not as good as Ledger, its just hes so damn consistent throughout. Rather, Im going to go with my favorite scene in AMERICAN PSYCHO, where Bateman starts by explaining the finer points of Huey Lewis to Jared Leto, and then flies into a murderous rage. Great stuff.

His Top-Five Films

5. OUT OF THE FURNACE
4. THE PRESTIGE
3. THE FIGHTER
2. AMERICAN PSYCHO
1. THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY

Up Next

Bales got a whole slew of movies coming out, with his AMERICAN HUSTLE due to hit theaters in just a few weeks. From the looks of it, itll be another highlight. Follwing that, hes in THE KNIGHT OF CUPS, a Terrence Malick movie (his second- following THE NEW WORLD) and also teams with Ridley Scott for the biblical epic EXODUS.

Source: JoBlo.com

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5:18PM on 12/02/2013
My favorite actor, since American Psycho. Outside of Terminator Salvation I have loved or liked every movie he has done, including Harsh Times. He is an actor's actor and a true artist. He never puts fame before art. He constantly challenges himself and gives his all in every role he has been in. I loved several of his performances too much to just rate one as his best. I would say his most underrated was Machinist just based on the fact that he deserved a lot more recognition for what he
My favorite actor, since American Psycho. Outside of Terminator Salvation I have loved or liked every movie he has done, including Harsh Times. He is an actor's actor and a true artist. He never puts fame before art. He constantly challenges himself and gives his all in every role he has been in. I loved several of his performances too much to just rate one as his best. I would say his most underrated was Machinist just based on the fact that he deserved a lot more recognition for what he did in that movie. He also played my favorite character of all time as Batman, which will always be a major plus on his resume for me.
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4:39PM on 12/02/2013
My favorite actor. He's one of the few stars that I'm willing to see any movie they are in, even another Terrence Malick exerimental flick about god knows what, which he made recently. I'm really excited for both Out of the Furnace and American Hustle and I hope for some action films in the future as well. Out of the great dramatic actors, he's also very believable in action scenes and I hope he doesn't abandon this genre completely like many before him.

As for his best performances - it's
My favorite actor. He's one of the few stars that I'm willing to see any movie they are in, even another Terrence Malick exerimental flick about god knows what, which he made recently. I'm really excited for both Out of the Furnace and American Hustle and I hope for some action films in the future as well. Out of the great dramatic actors, he's also very believable in action scenes and I hope he doesn't abandon this genre completely like many before him.

As for his best performances - it's easily American Psycho for me as well. He's amazingly scary and funny at the same time. He's also fantastic in Fighter, Mechanist, Rescue Dawn, TDK trilogy, Empire of the Sun, 3:10 to Yuma, Prestige or Velvet Goldmine. As for his best movies, I agree with Bumbray, except for Furnace, which I haven't seen yet.
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2:27PM on 12/02/2013
Bale is awesome, big year for him. My favorite performance of his is in The Fighter. Btw, can we stop acting like Harsh Times is some hidden gem? That movie was a disaster with the worst screenplay of all time.
Bale is awesome, big year for him. My favorite performance of his is in The Fighter. Btw, can we stop acting like Harsh Times is some hidden gem? That movie was a disaster with the worst screenplay of all time.
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10:57AM on 12/02/2013
hes probably given the
best superhero performance of all-time outside of
Christopher Reeve in SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE ? Really?! What about Michael Keaton,Tobey Maguire,Hugh Jackman,Robert Downey.Jr? Can't imagine those Superhero roles without them
hes probably given the
best superhero performance of all-time outside of
Christopher Reeve in SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE ? Really?! What about Michael Keaton,Tobey Maguire,Hugh Jackman,Robert Downey.Jr? Can't imagine those Superhero roles without them
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11:50PM on 12/02/2013
I agree all those actors were also awesome in their respective roles. Reeve, Bale and Jackman are pretty much tied for me as the greatest portrayal of iconic comic characters. You also can't really deny what RDJ has done and accomplished with Ironman. I just like Batman, Superman and Wolverine better I guess. Keaton and Tobey were also great as Batman and Spider-man, but I don't feel they completely embodied the characters the way the others did.
I agree all those actors were also awesome in their respective roles. Reeve, Bale and Jackman are pretty much tied for me as the greatest portrayal of iconic comic characters. You also can't really deny what RDJ has done and accomplished with Ironman. I just like Batman, Superman and Wolverine better I guess. Keaton and Tobey were also great as Batman and Spider-man, but I don't feel they completely embodied the characters the way the others did.
9:33AM on 12/02/2013
Granted it's been ages since I saw Mio in the Land of Faraway, but I had no idea he was in that. I do remember him opposite Charlton Heston in Treasure Island. And Equilibrium did get a theatrical run, at least where I was. I didn't go see it then, but it came out in early December of 2002, was quickly labeled a Matrix rip-off, and disappeared just a quickly. And it's a good choice for an underrated performance, though my favorite is still probably Harsh Times.
Granted it's been ages since I saw Mio in the Land of Faraway, but I had no idea he was in that. I do remember him opposite Charlton Heston in Treasure Island. And Equilibrium did get a theatrical run, at least where I was. I didn't go see it then, but it came out in early December of 2002, was quickly labeled a Matrix rip-off, and disappeared just a quickly. And it's a good choice for an underrated performance, though my favorite is still probably Harsh Times.
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8:48AM on 12/02/2013
Bale is one of the best but it's too hard to pick his best role. I think his best is yet to come and can't wait to see his future projects.
Bale is one of the best but it's too hard to pick his best role. I think his best is yet to come and can't wait to see his future projects.
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-19
8:23AM on 12/02/2013
3:10 to Yuma, reign of fire, prestige all over rated. Really, batman is as well, especially the third one. Glad u went with American psycho tho, as tho he did a good job, it's not that difficult a part (especially in 3). It's really 85% Nolan that made that possible
3:10 to Yuma, reign of fire, prestige all over rated. Really, batman is as well, especially the third one. Glad u went with American psycho tho, as tho he did a good job, it's not that difficult a part (especially in 3). It's really 85% Nolan that made that possible
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8:32AM on 12/02/2013
I don't dislike CB, I'm just not as crazy ab him as others are. He can go "method" all day and lose 200 pds in a pretty weak, obvious, unoriginal movie, but Daniel Day Lewis he is not, nor will ever be. The couple appearances he made in charity are wonderful tho (bat kid, and visiting some of the ppl hurt at the opening of TDKR
I don't dislike CB, I'm just not as crazy ab him as others are. He can go "method" all day and lose 200 pds in a pretty weak, obvious, unoriginal movie, but Daniel Day Lewis he is not, nor will ever be. The couple appearances he made in charity are wonderful tho (bat kid, and visiting some of the ppl hurt at the opening of TDKR
7:09AM on 12/02/2013

Yes Yes

He's a genius. BTW, anything is better than the last two Matrix movies.
He's a genius. BTW, anything is better than the last two Matrix movies.
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4:02AM on 12/02/2013

I quite like Equilibrium..

..but to say it's better than The Matrix: Reloaded is insane.

(Full disclosure: I'm a huge apologist for the Matrix sequels).
..but to say it's better than The Matrix: Reloaded is insane.

(Full disclosure: I'm a huge apologist for the Matrix sequels).
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11:43PM on 12/02/2013
I am also a huge apologist for The Matrix sequels. Quite frankly, I loved them.
I am also a huge apologist for The Matrix sequels. Quite frankly, I loved them.
2:03AM on 12/02/2013
Great selection this week and someone who truly fits the bill as a "badass". A lot of actors are billed as "fearless" but I think few are as truly fearless as Christian Bale. He seems very capable of pushing himself to the edge physically, mentally and emotionally in the name of a great performance, and that kind of dedication is more than evident on screen. His auspicious debut in Empire of the Sun really is a remarkable performance, and there's nothing more effective than something like
Great selection this week and someone who truly fits the bill as a "badass". A lot of actors are billed as "fearless" but I think few are as truly fearless as Christian Bale. He seems very capable of pushing himself to the edge physically, mentally and emotionally in the name of a great performance, and that kind of dedication is more than evident on screen. His auspicious debut in Empire of the Sun really is a remarkable performance, and there's nothing more effective than something like American Psycho to break out of the "cute child actor" mould with blinding force. And of course, for my money, he's the best live-action Batman there's been. He believed in the character and was able to convey the torment of the character without going over the top, in addition to constructing that aloof playboy facade so effectively.
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1:06AM on 12/02/2013
Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors of all time and a big reason why is that he is so dedicated to his craft. My favorite film and performance of his is The Fighter, which I think is one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in any film by anyone.

Bale truly is one of the greatest actors working today and I can't wait to see what else he does later in his career. American Hustle and Out of the Furnace look amazing and I would love to see him get nominated (and possibly win)
Christian Bale is one of my favorite actors of all time and a big reason why is that he is so dedicated to his craft. My favorite film and performance of his is The Fighter, which I think is one of the greatest performances I have ever seen in any film by anyone.

Bale truly is one of the greatest actors working today and I can't wait to see what else he does later in his career. American Hustle and Out of the Furnace look amazing and I would love to see him get nominated (and possibly win) for another Oscar.

When it comes to him giving the best superhero performance, I would say he's tied in a three way tie between him, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and Downey Jr. as Iron Man. They're all perfect casting and it's way too difficult to pick one clear winner.
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5:16AM on 12/02/2013
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
5:16AM on 12/02/2013
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
5:16AM on 12/02/2013
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
5:16AM on 12/02/2013
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
All I got for this is you want to suck bale off.
7:54AM on 12/02/2013
booster-gold87 ended up writing "suck bale off" four times. I think he's made himself quite clear.
booster-gold87 ended up writing "suck bale off" four times. I think he's made himself quite clear.
12:52AM on 12/02/2013
The only problem I have with this column is the OVER-RATED part. You generally pic an over-rated or disappointing film. Over-rated would be a performance generally praised, but you do not agree with. For me, it is him in the Batman movies. Also, you might want to research more because I saw Equilibrium in the theatres.
The only problem I have with this column is the OVER-RATED part. You generally pic an over-rated or disappointing film. Over-rated would be a performance generally praised, but you do not agree with. For me, it is him in the Batman movies. Also, you might want to research more because I saw Equilibrium in the theatres.
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8:27AM on 12/02/2013
Yes I saw it at the riverdale theatre in little rock. Only theater that had it
Yes I saw it at the riverdale theatre in little rock. Only theater that had it
12:22AM on 12/02/2013
Probably my favorite actor working today. I agree Terminator Salvation was his weakest film, but I blame McG and a weak script for that, not Bale. Everything else he's in has been good or great. I'd pick New World or Harsh Times for underrated. Can't wait for Out of the Furnace or American Hustle.
Probably my favorite actor working today. I agree Terminator Salvation was his weakest film, but I blame McG and a weak script for that, not Bale. Everything else he's in has been good or great. I'd pick New World or Harsh Times for underrated. Can't wait for Out of the Furnace or American Hustle.
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12:18AM on 12/02/2013
Bale is very badass indeed. Just his sheer dedication in losing lots of weight in The Machinist and gaining them back for his role in Batman Begins is very admirable. He put his best in every role. I'd say his most underrated performance is The Machinist and his best role todate is American Psycho.
Bale is very badass indeed. Just his sheer dedication in losing lots of weight in The Machinist and gaining them back for his role in Batman Begins is very admirable. He put his best in every role. I'd say his most underrated performance is The Machinist and his best role todate is American Psycho.
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