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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Eric Bana

11 months agoby:

Last week, we took a look at the career of Christopher Walken, a legendary figure to be sure. This week's subject is probably a less obvious candidate for this column, but hopefully after reading this article you'll feel he's just as deserving of inclusion as anyone else...

Eric Bana
 

Back in 2002, when Eric Bana was announced as the star of the much anticipated Marvel adaptation, THE HULK, most of us had the same reaction: Eric who? Unless you were from Down Under, where he was once dubbed Australia's answer to Jerry Seinfeld thanks to his TV work, he was a pretty obscure actor. In hindsight, it was obvious that his performance in CHOPPER landed him the part, thanks to it circulating around Hollywood, but it really only picked up its North American cult following after THE HULK, so to us he was mainly known as the special ops guy from BLACK HAWK DOWN – which was a fine role if not necessarily the type of part that makes someone a star.

All of this probably worked against Bana, as THE HULK was a financial disappointment, and his performance was roundly criticized as bland. Still, that did not stop Bana from becoming Hollywood's 'it-boy” for awhile, and he followed it up with strong performances in the underrated – if financially successful – TROY, where he stole scenes from star Brad Pitt. Shortly after he worked with Steven Spielberg in MUNICH, and that automatically grants a performer a certain stature. If he's good enough for Spielberg, he's good enough for anyone else, right? While mega-stardom still hasn't really happened for Bana, even a quick examination of his body of work shows him to be an actor that's consistently interesting, and able to work in a variety of genres, from action to comedy (his part in FUNNY PEOPLE is a gem) to romance (THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE) and this week, he gets his first major studio lead in a few years with the highly anticipated genre entry DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Thus, what better time than the present to examine his career?

His Best Performance
 

CHOPPER is a full-on masterpiece. To play real-life outlaw Mark “Chopper” Read, Bana gained something like thirty pounds to make a RAGING BULL-like metamorphosis from the young, burly Chopper, to the older, gone-to-seed variation, and the result is striking. Even though it never really broke out in North America (although it's a BRONSON-like cult hit nowadays) CHOPPER is the kind of career-defining performance that really only comes along once (and that's only if you're lucky). Anyone who'd dare call Bana bland after watching THE HULK would obviously be won-over by seeing him here, as the unpredictable, clearly psychotic, but oddly likable Chopper Read, who's so notorious Down Under that prior to his death a few years ago, he was practically an industry unto himself. Bana's interpretation is complex in that not matter how crazy Chopper acts, there's a certain amount of humanity there behind the eyes. For me, CHOPPER is career-best work from both Bana and director Andrew Dominik. In a weird twist, a good friend of mine – after seeing the movie – sought Chopper out over the internet, and the two became pen pals, exchanging a number of emails over the years. Bizarre.

His Most Overrated Film
 

Maybe I'm overdoing it a bit calling THE HULK overrated, but the fact remains it was a solid – if underwhelming – box office hit. To this day it has its supporters, who say Ang Lee's radical take on the superhero genre was revolutionary. Personally, I think it's a wildly mediocre film. Granted, one of the big problems is that in 2003, the technology to make a CGI-hulk work simply didn't exist, and as a result it looks more dated than its age would suggest. The only thing that really works is the visual-style, with Lee doing a beautiful job making this look like a comic-book come to life. However, it has a ton of problems, firstly that Lee, for all of his talents, doesn't seem to really get what kind of a movie he's making, and while the visuals are striking, the plot is a mess, and the performances range from mediocre (Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Josh Lucas) to quite obnoxious (Nick Nolte). If you haven't seen this in awhile, try re-watching it. Chances are – by comparison to the recent Marvel movies – it's far worse than you remember.

His Most Underrated Film
 

There's no doubt in my mind that MUNICH is shamefully underrated. What's interesting about this one is how many mainstream critics shat all over Spielberg's gritty take on the Mossad and the Munich Olympic massacre, while fanboys – for the most part – were able to see it for what it was, which is a cool, William Friedkin-style action-throwback. In my opinion, MUNICH is one of the best films of the aughts, and an explosive demonstration of Spielberg's prowess. Eric Bana is brilliant as the morally conflicted assassin Avner, and along with something like HANNA, demonstrates that Bana's at his best in gritty actioners. It's worth noting that MUNICH is also largely responsible for Daniel Craig landing James Bond, with his turn as a cold-blooded Mossad assasin in some ways seeming like a trial run for what he did in CASINO ROYALE. The only real problem with MUNICH is that it's almost undone by Spielberg's weird decision to juxtapose Avner's visions of the Munich massacre with him making love to his wife. Nevertheless, it's still a nearly perfect movie.

His Most Memorable Scene

I'm tempted to throw in the ear-cutting scene from CHOPPER, but as I've already written about that performance, instead I've chosen the amazing parking-lot showdown from HANNA. Now, one could argue the real star of the scene is director Joe Wright, who stages the scene in one magnificent take. That said, Bana's clearly got the choreography down cold, and it makes me wish some smart producer would give Bana the major action vehicle he clearly deserves.

His Top-Five Films

5. TROY
4. BLACK HAWK DOWN
3. HANNA
2. MUNICH
1. CHOPPER

Up Next

Hopefully DELIVER US FROM EVIL will be a solid sleeper hit for Bana, who's still got loads of potential both as a movie star and as a proper actor. Whatever the case, Bana probably has tons of stuff in the works – although none are currently listed on the IMDB. Hopefully he'll get something worth his considerable talent, be it on the big screen or small.

Source: JoBlo.com

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12:24AM on 07/01/2014
I prefer Hulk to Incredible Hulk. The biggest problem with Hulk was the ending: it was over too quickly so there was no fight to speak of. The biggest problem with The Incredible Hulk was the ending: it went on too long and looked like a WWF fight. It would have made more sense for Bruce's father to have become the Abomination. We didn't need a second Hulk movie just so we could have that fight scene.
I prefer Hulk to Incredible Hulk. The biggest problem with Hulk was the ending: it was over too quickly so there was no fight to speak of. The biggest problem with The Incredible Hulk was the ending: it went on too long and looked like a WWF fight. It would have made more sense for Bruce's father to have become the Abomination. We didn't need a second Hulk movie just so we could have that fight scene.
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+0
11:50AM on 06/30/2014
Hey Chris, I can see you have a hard time understanding what art means when it's not telling you, so I'll try to help you. In Munich (which yes, is an incredible film), when Bana is having sex and has those flashbacks it's showing that he is unable to live his life/get pleasure knowing about that massacre and his current job. I can't remember if he had started his mission before the sex so maybe that he had already been killing or trying to kill ppl - which I imagine is heavy on the
Hey Chris, I can see you have a hard time understanding what art means when it's not telling you, so I'll try to help you. In Munich (which yes, is an incredible film), when Bana is having sex and has those flashbacks it's showing that he is unable to live his life/get pleasure knowing about that massacre and his current job. I can't remember if he had started his mission before the sex so maybe that he had already been killing or trying to kill ppl - which I imagine is heavy on the consciousness and he was kinda wearing a mask with his wife. It's hard to enjoy sex when you relatively "good, innocent ppl (idk anything ab those athletes in general)" that represented your country where recently massacred as just a message, and that he has, or prolly will have to join the team to defend the murders. It's similar in theme to the 13 min take in funny games - you know - that "weird unscary home invasion" movie you saw.
I remember "mainstream critics" mainly complaining about the ending and comparison to 9/11, but I thought that was well done
Also, of course your fame will increase in a Spielberg movie, but this was actually a small one, and one I don't remember Daniel Craig being in at all. I mean, I know he is, but I don't remember anything about his character. The movie that CLEARLY put him on the Bond map was Layer Cake. I thought that watching it. There's even a scene that looks kind of like a Bond scene with him turning a corner with a handgun. Munich might have moved the needle a little bit, but it was layer cake
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1:06PM on 06/30/2014
Dude, chill. I liked the movie, but I though this juxtaposition was bizarre. If you feel differently, cool. I love how you're able to pigeonhole me based on one thing you disagree with in the column. Have you ever even read any of my other reviews? Sorry, but people assuming they know my tastes based on the fact that they disagree with me based on one scene gets my goat. And yes, I understood the scene, but I feel like Spielberg botched it a bit. St. Steven is not infallible. Still a great
Dude, chill. I liked the movie, but I though this juxtaposition was bizarre. If you feel differently, cool. I love how you're able to pigeonhole me based on one thing you disagree with in the column. Have you ever even read any of my other reviews? Sorry, but people assuming they know my tastes based on the fact that they disagree with me based on one scene gets my goat. And yes, I understood the scene, but I feel like Spielberg botched it a bit. St. Steven is not infallible. Still a great movie though.
+0
11:50AM on 06/30/2014
Hey Chris, I can see you have a hard time understanding what art means when it's not telling you, so I'll try to help you. In Munich (which yes, is an incredible film), when Bana is having sex and has those flashbacks it's showing that he is unable to live his life/get pleasure knowing about that massacre and his current job. I can't remember if he had started his mission before the sex so maybe that he had already been killing or trying to kill ppl - which I imagine is heavy on the
Hey Chris, I can see you have a hard time understanding what art means when it's not telling you, so I'll try to help you. In Munich (which yes, is an incredible film), when Bana is having sex and has those flashbacks it's showing that he is unable to live his life/get pleasure knowing about that massacre and his current job. I can't remember if he had started his mission before the sex so maybe that he had already been killing or trying to kill ppl - which I imagine is heavy on the consciousness and he was kinda wearing a mask with his wife. It's hard to enjoy sex when you relatively "good, innocent ppl (idk anything ab those athletes in general)" that represented your country where recently massacred as just a message, and that he has, or prolly will have to join the team to defend the murders. It's similar in theme to the 13 min take in funny games - you know - that "weird unscary home invasion" movie you saw.
I remember "mainstream critics" mainly complaining about the ending and comparison to 9/11, but I thought that was well done
Also, of course your fame will increase in a Spielberg movie, but this was actually a small one, and one I don't remember Daniel Craig being in at all. I mean, I know he is, but I don't remember anything about his character. The movie that CLEARLY put him on the Bond map was Layer Cake. I thought that watching it. There's even a scene that looks kind of like a Bond scene with him turning a corner with a handgun. Munich might have moved the needle a little bit, but it was layer cake
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11:24AM on 06/30/2014

Badass (Not)

The most uncharismatic and moody actors who is really lucky to land high profile movies without giving anyone of them the success they deserve. No way he's badass!
The most uncharismatic and moody actors who is really lucky to land high profile movies without giving anyone of them the success they deserve. No way he's badass!
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1:07PM on 06/30/2014
I take it you haven't seen Chopper. Give it a shot, you may feel differently.
I take it you haven't seen Chopper. Give it a shot, you may feel differently.
7:13PM on 06/30/2014
will do. Thank you.
will do. Thank you.
11:20AM on 06/30/2014
Such a fantastic dude. And yes, he's still my favorite Hulk. I know I will get hate for that but I don't give a care. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all portrayals of Bruce Banner, but Bana was my favorite. I agree about that moment in Hanna, it was his most badass moment. And to be honest, I loved the Time Traveler's Wife as well.
Such a fantastic dude. And yes, he's still my favorite Hulk. I know I will get hate for that but I don't give a care. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all portrayals of Bruce Banner, but Bana was my favorite. I agree about that moment in Hanna, it was his most badass moment. And to be honest, I loved the Time Traveler's Wife as well.
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11:06AM on 06/30/2014

Troy

His performance in Troy was amazing. His one on one with Brad Pitt is one of best fight scenes ever.
His performance in Troy was amazing. His one on one with Brad Pitt is one of best fight scenes ever.
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10:50AM on 06/30/2014

I know the Hulk

But I would really love to see Bana get a shot at a role in The Marvel Universe. I'd like to see him in a real action heavy role like in Captain America TWS type of style. Anyone think he could pull off being a Bond villain?
But I would really love to see Bana get a shot at a role in The Marvel Universe. I'd like to see him in a real action heavy role like in Captain America TWS type of style. Anyone think he could pull off being a Bond villain?
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11:22AM on 06/30/2014
I would love to see him as a Bond Villain. I loved him in Star Trek as Nero.
I would love to see him as a Bond Villain. I loved him in Star Trek as Nero.
9:32AM on 06/30/2014
Critics shat on Munich? Which ones? I seem to recall it being fairly well received critically (also my favorite movie of 2005 and the Friedkin comparison is apt). Eric Bana does seem like just the perennial underrated actor. Interesting trivia about The Hulk, it's what convinced Spielberg to cast him. Also, didn't know "Chopper"Read had died. I have one of his books and still read it now and then. And Bana's performance in that is absolutely his finest work. As a movie I was underwhelmed by it,
Critics shat on Munich? Which ones? I seem to recall it being fairly well received critically (also my favorite movie of 2005 and the Friedkin comparison is apt). Eric Bana does seem like just the perennial underrated actor. Interesting trivia about The Hulk, it's what convinced Spielberg to cast him. Also, didn't know "Chopper"Read had died. I have one of his books and still read it now and then. And Bana's performance in that is absolutely his finest work. As a movie I was underwhelmed by it, but maybe that's because I was hoping for something a little closer to the book and felt like it didn't deliver (my favorite Andrew Dominik is "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," which was my favorite movie of 2007).

On another note (and maybe this is one of those cases like the Bill Murray one), but I'm really disappointed in JoBlo for completely neglecting the death of the great Eli Wallach, who acted well into his nineties, and passed away at 98-years-old. He even played "The Ugly" in the movie this column takes its title from. Now Chris, I know sometimes things happen you can't plan for, but no one else on JoBlo even bothered to write about this. And a man who worked as long as he did, and who left so many memorable characters, deserves to be called a Badass.
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11:51AM on 06/30/2014
Agreed on Eli Wallach. He was a total badass, and I was so sad when his death was announced! I had really been hoping the man would live to be 100 or older (though he was pretty damn close).
Agreed on Eli Wallach. He was a total badass, and I was so sad when his death was announced! I had really been hoping the man would live to be 100 or older (though he was pretty damn close).
1:09PM on 06/30/2014
You're so right about Wallach. Didn't even occur to me. Will try to remedy that next week.
You're so right about Wallach. Didn't even occur to me. Will try to remedy that next week.
9:28AM on 06/30/2014
Bana(na) is good in nearly everything I've seen him in. I don't think he has a ton of charisma though, but maybe that's me. Have not seen Chopper, may have to check that out. Never knew that one was directed by Dominik.
Bana(na) is good in nearly everything I've seen him in. I don't think he has a ton of charisma though, but maybe that's me. Have not seen Chopper, may have to check that out. Never knew that one was directed by Dominik.
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8:20AM on 06/30/2014

I've seen too many movies...

to know how great Eric Bana truly is and it is great to see him back in the lead. I've had this film on my radar for a while now. Also, Munich is criminally underrated and Daniel Craig was excellent as well. It is actually one of my all time favorite Spielberg films...
to know how great Eric Bana truly is and it is great to see him back in the lead. I've had this film on my radar for a while now. Also, Munich is criminally underrated and Daniel Craig was excellent as well. It is actually one of my all time favorite Spielberg films...
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7:38AM on 06/30/2014
I think the thing that still floors me was that he was originally a stand up comic/comic actor. His role in Chopper was just the first serious role he'd done and pretty much, for American audiences, no one knows that the cat is pretty funny. I saw some video from his show where he plays as an interviewer and Tom Cruise and then ends where he's kissing himself. Quite strange.
I think the thing that still floors me was that he was originally a stand up comic/comic actor. His role in Chopper was just the first serious role he'd done and pretty much, for American audiences, no one knows that the cat is pretty funny. I saw some video from his show where he plays as an interviewer and Tom Cruise and then ends where he's kissing himself. Quite strange.
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4:15AM on 06/30/2014

Underrated Overrated

A universally liked movie is underrated and a universally panned movie is overrated? I think I know who's getting a thesaurus for Christmas this year.
A universally liked movie is underrated and a universally panned movie is overrated? I think I know who's getting a thesaurus for Christmas this year.
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2:21AM on 06/30/2014
Can`t wait from Deliver us from evil,looks awesome.He`s my favourite actor.
"If any of us get laid tonight it's because of Eric Bana in Munich"
Can`t wait from Deliver us from evil,looks awesome.He`s my favourite actor.
"If any of us get laid tonight it's because of Eric Bana in Munich"
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12:42AM on 06/30/2014
He's the kind of actor who should be starring in movies by Scorsese instead of that overrated babyface, DiCaprio.
He's the kind of actor who should be starring in movies by Scorsese instead of that overrated babyface, DiCaprio.
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5:20AM on 06/30/2014
snap bro.
snap bro.
5:20AM on 06/30/2014
snap bro.
snap bro.
12:34AM on 06/30/2014
The Movie Banter podcast noted that in Hanna, since Eric Bana plays the title character's dad, Saoirse Ronan is in effect playing Hanna Bana.
The Movie Banter podcast noted that in Hanna, since Eric Bana plays the title character's dad, Saoirse Ronan is in effect playing Hanna Bana.
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12:11AM on 06/30/2014
Great article. It's nice to see Bana get some attention. He's a great actor.
Great article. It's nice to see Bana get some attention. He's a great actor.
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12:15AM on 06/30/2014
WTF. I guess I like the word "great" tonight.
WTF. I guess I like the word "great" tonight.
11:55PM on 06/29/2014
I think his best work is Munich. However, try his documentary film Love The Beast. It's about his passion for his favorite car Ford XB Falcon and his attempt in entering rally race. It's his passionate pet project that shows his love for his car. It's very touching.
I think his best work is Munich. However, try his documentary film Love The Beast. It's about his passion for his favorite car Ford XB Falcon and his attempt in entering rally race. It's his passionate pet project that shows his love for his car. It's very touching.
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11:33PM on 06/29/2014

Great Actor

Great actor, would like to see him in more. If you get a chance watch Love the Beast, a documentary he made about his car, it's actually pretty cool.
Great actor, would like to see him in more. If you get a chance watch Love the Beast, a documentary he made about his car, it's actually pretty cool.
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11:19PM on 06/29/2014
no love for Star Trek??
no love for Star Trek??
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7:40AM on 06/30/2014
So weird you have Tennant as your avatar. There were numerous times in his Who run he does this face that just looks like Bana. Freaked me out all the time.
So weird you have Tennant as your avatar. There were numerous times in his Who run he does this face that just looks like Bana. Freaked me out all the time.
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