The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Colin Farrell
Hype is a dangerous thing. When the Hollywood taste-makers or the media prematurely crown a hot young celeb the new king or queen of Tinseltown, they’re almost inevitably going to wind up knocked from their perch. Usually, this happens thanks to overexposure, after which time they’re replaced by some other hot young thing. If their talent is real, they’ll usually come back. It’s happened for Ben Affleck and it’s also happened for the “it” star who “replaced” him in the mid-2000’s (around the time they both made DAREDEVIL) - Colin Farrell.
Following a turn in Joel Schumacher’s barely-seen TIGERLAND, Hollywood kingmakers got very hot on Farrell, to the extent that within a year he was leading his own studio action movie, the abysmal AMERICAN OUTLAWS, followed-by PHONE BOOTH and HART’S WAR in quick succession. None of these movies were successful, but a juicy supporting part as the sympathetic antagonist in Steven Spielberg’s MINORITY REPORT launched him into the stratosphere. Within a year, Farrell would be going toe-to-toe with Al Pacino in THE RECRUIT, and headline his first $100 million grossing movie, S.W.A.T.
From there, Farrell was everywhere, with tabloids delighting in his bad-boy antics. It didn’t take long for audiences to get sick of him, and immediately following S.W.A.T he had a string of box-office disasters, including the mega-budget ALEXANDER and MIAMI VICE. Despite this, Farrell’s career went on, mostly due to the fact that even if the movies weren’t hits, no one could fault Farrell’s performances. Also important – despite his bad-boy antics Farrell was known to be a total professional on-set and directors have often been keen to re-use him.
While he’s yet to really recapture his former glory, one could say that Farrell’s actually come-out ahead as he’s finally out from under the tabloid microscope, and is continuing to deliver stand-out work even if some of the projects are below him, such as the ill-advised TOTAL RECALL remake (although the FRIGHT NIGHT one wasn’t bad). While he’s had a couple of duds here and there (WINTER’S TALE) Farrell is capable of disappearing into a role with the best of them, and movies like THE LOBSTER prove his versatility and incredible talent.
The critical reaction to MIAMI VICE has always driven me crazy, specifically those who complained Michael Mann’s big-screen film version of MIAMI VICE was nothing like the TV show. People who said that obviously never watched the show as the movie was exactly like it thematically, just minus the pastels and eighties pop music. The movie was actually a remake of the episode “Smuggler’s Blues” and Farrell more than did justice to original star Don Johnson in his portrayal of undercover cop Sonny Crockett. Mann’s movie, like the show, is less concerned with narrative drive and more with a sense of mood, emphasizing the doomed relationship between Sonny and Gong Li’s Isabella, while Jamie Foxx takes something of a backseat as Tubbs. This actually may have hurt the film as Foxx, at the time, was riding a massive wave of popularity following his Oscar win for RAY so people probably expected more from him than playing second banana to Farrell. To me, it would have been impossible for Mann to have done a better reboot of Vice than he did here, but the fact that he dared challenge audiences meant that the movie could never recoup its massive budget (mostly spent on dangerous location photography) and killed any chance of this turning into a major franchise for grown-ups. In a perfect world, Farrell, Foxx and Mann would resurrect this as a HBO series, as that format would probably serve what they were trying to do here the best.
While S.W.A.T remains one of Farrell’s most financially successful movies, it has not aged well. A remake of the old seventies TV series, Farrell stars as S.W.A.T team point-man Jim Street, while Samuel L. Jackson plays his boss, Hondo. Producer Neal H. Moritz was clearly interested in making this a FAST & FURIOUS-style series (before that series actually got good when Justin Lin came on-board) meaning it had a loud, obnoxious soundtrack, a super young cast (with a young Jeremy Renner unconvincing as the bad guy) and very little action, with most of the movie devoted to training and assembling the team. All-in-all it was a very boring movie, and while it made money I don’t think I’ve ever actually met anyone who liked it. Watching it now, it seems like just another clone of THE FAST & THE FURIOUS, no better than something like BIKER BOYZ or TORQUE.
Colin Farrell has done a lot of underrated stuff, and in the interests of being controversial, my choice for his most underrated turn is the much maligned True Detective season two. Now, I get why people don’t like the season and while I enjoyed it more than most, it had some major problems. Most of that - however – came down to the writing. The acting was consistently good, particularly from Farrell, who’s tragic anti-hero anchored the show. It’s a shame so many people tuned-out after the first few episodes because Farrell’s performance in the finale was spectacular. His corrupt but ultimately heroic Ray Velcoro is probably one of his best-ever roles, but nobody really appreciated it. Oh well.
It was tough deciding between IN BRUGES and MIAMI VICE for best film, but given how many times I’ve revisited it over the years, I had to give the edge to Michael Mann’s movie. That said, Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES is a masterpiece in its own right, and Farrell is mesmerizing as hit-man plagued by the accidental shooting of a child in a hit gone wrong. If by chance you haven’t seen this, it may surprise you to learn that despite that grim description, IN BRUGES is a comedy and a damn funny one at that. Farrell’s drunken encounter with a little person from America is one of the great highlights of a perfect little movie.
Farrell’s got a big part coming-up in FANTASTIC BEASTS & WHERE TO FIND THEM, Warner Bros’s attempt to continue the Harry Potter franchise with J.K Rowling, in addition to a re-teaming with THE LOBSTER director Yorgos Lanthimos in THE KILLING OF A SCARED DEER. Farrell’s also the rumored lead for Sofia Coppola’s remake of THE BEGUILED, which would see him take-on the Clint Eastwood part.
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