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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: John Leguizamo

08.22.2016
Last week, we took a look at the career of Winona Ryder, and this week, we look at the career of another perennially underrated talent…
John Leguizamo
john leguizamo

John Leguizamo is one of those guys who’s such a great character actor that you forget you’re actually watching someone act – he just seems to authentically be the part he’s playing. While he’s always been on my radar, it only occurred to me when watching THE INFILTRATOR this weekend how underrated he is. While it’s certainly Bryan Cranston’s movie, Leguizamo steals pretty much every scene he’s in as a deep-cover agent embedded with the cartels so deeply that there’s little difference anymore between him and the people he’s chasing. It’s a performance that stuck with me in a movie that’s been largely underrated this summer and deserves to be checked-out.

john leguizamo bryan cranston the infiltrator

Leguizamo’s been doing his thing for close to thirty years now. Since his debut in Brian De Palma’s CASUALTIES OF WAR, he’s had a knack for making the most out of his parts, no matter how small. Heck, I even distinctly remember his performance as the thug who shoots Harrison Ford in the head in REGARDING HENRY, and I haven’t seen that movie since I was twelve! As a kid, I loved him as Luigi in SUPER MARIO BROS, even if years later I realized that movie was total garbage. Towards the mid-to-late nineties, following his acclaimed turn as Tybalt in ROMEO + JULIET, Leguizamo had a star moment, with movies like SUMMER OF SAM and a scenery-chewing bit as Toulouse-Lautrec in MOULIN ROUGE. His Broadway show, “Freak”, was a phenomenon, with Spike Lee directing the HBO special that was made of it, while some years later, his edgy memoir, “Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life” dished some big-time dirt and felt uncommonly authentic for a book by a still-active actor.

john leguizamo bob hoskins super mario bros

Having been in the business so long, it’s worth noting that Leguizamo’s staying power has been off-the-charts, mainly due to his undeniable talent. He rarely (if ever) goes wrong in a performance and is the kind of guy that can make even the dullest movies tolerable whenever he’s on-screen, with his manic, inimitable energy.

His Best Work
john leguizamo mira sorvino summer of sam

It’s crazy that Spike Lee’s SUMMER OF SAM was received so coolly back in 1999. In my opinion, it ranks as one of his best films, and Leguizamo gets a tailor-made part in the lead as a coke-addled, sex-addict hairdresser, who constantly cheats on his dream wife (Mira Sorvino) while also getting more-and-more paranoid about the “Son of Sam” murders that are going-on in that 1977-New York summer, later becoming convinced his former best friend-turned-punk rocker (Adrien Brody) is somehow responsible. Leguizamo does something amazing here, in that he makes a guy who should be insufferable likable. His Vinny isn’t an especially good guy, but Leguizamo finds the humanity in him, and while critics may have been frustrated that his domestic drama takes precedence over the “Son of Sam” aspect (this is not a serial killer movie), that’s what makes it an unheralded masterpiece that deserves a whole lot more attention.

His Most Overrated Film
john leguizamo ice age

If Leguizamo’s reading this; he’ll probably want to kick my ass for me listing his part as Sid the Sloth in the ICE AGE movies as overrated, as I’m sure it’s been a pretty sweet gig for him over the years. Still, this series has gone on way too long. While the first film was charming, at five films and counting his shtick as Sid is wearing thin, although then again – I’m sure the money is good (and internationally the movies make a mint) so what’s the harm?

His Most Underrated Film
john leguizamo executive decision

Here’s another entry that might make Leguizamo’s eyes roll, as in his bio, some of the juiciest stories of behind-the-scenes turmoil come from the making of the Kurt Russell/ Steven Seagal vehicle, EXECUTIVE DECISION. Yet, it’s worth noting that Leguizamo’s super dynamic in action hero mode. With Seagal being killed-off so early, and Russell playing an atypical “regular guy” part, many of the action hero beats go to Leguizamo, who pulls off one liners with aplomb (“I hope there’s a good movie on this flight” as he boards the hijacked plane) and looks cool as Seagal’s second-in-command, who takes over after his boss is killed. It’s a solid little action flick, and I’d love to see Leguizamo get another badass part like this.

His Best Scene

When people think of Leguizamo, they usually can’t help but remember the line “I’m Benny Blanco from the Bronx” from Brian De Palma’s amazing CARLITO’S WAY. While only in a handful of scenes, Leguizamo’s owns the screen whenever he’s there, and his first scene with Pacino is particularly good, and extra significant if you read Leguizamo’s bio where he states he spent the scene winding-up Pacino as per De Palma’s instructions.

His Five Best Films

5. THE INFILTRATOR
4. ROMEO + JULIET
3. MOULIN ROUGE
2. SUMMER OF SAM
1. CARLITO’S WAY

Up Next

John Leguizamo remains a busy guy, with a part on the upcoming series “Taxi-22” , while he’s also reprising his JOHN WICK role in the sequel, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER TWO, in addition to a good half-a-dozen other parts that are listed on his IMDB page.

Source: JoBlo.com

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