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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Matt Damon

09.27.2015
Last time on The Good, The Bad & The Badass, Nick Bosworth filled in for me while I was covering TIFF to celebrate the career of legendary bad-ass Benicio del Toro, who coincidentally had one of the best roles of his career in the TIFF film SICARIO. This week's badass also had a terrific film play at TIFF...
Matt Damon
 matt damon the bourne supremacy

Matt Damon's a guy who people really had pegged wrong early-on in his career. A blond-haired golden-boy when he first became a star in movies like THE RAINMAKER and the great GOOD WILL HUNTING (for which he and Ben Affleck won the “best original screenplay” Oscar), Damon, unlike other actors in his situation, became quite choosy with parts. While some of his GOOD WILL HUNTING follow-ups were underwhelming, such as ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (apparently ruined in the editing room) and the ill-conceived THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE, movies like THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY proved he was willing to tackle tough parts. Back in 2000, many young actors would have balked at playing a gay, sociopath killer, but Damon not only took on the role, but managed to give Tom Ripley a humanity many of his contemporaries would have struggled to convey.

Still, I remember in 2001 people thought Damon's career was more-or-less over, and when he signed on to do THE BOURNE IDENTITY no one expected much, especially after numerous delays and stories of a troubled shoot. When the movie finally came out in 2002, it initially struggled to find an audience (it was beaten in its opening weekend by SCOOBY-DOO) but good word-of-mouth made it a sleeper hit, and when the DVD came-out it became a smash. The sequels made Damon a full-on superstar, but rather than simply parlay his stardom into a slew of action flicks, Damon used his clout to get smart, sophisticated, issue-driven movies like SYRIANA, GREEN ZONE, THE INFORMANT and more made. He also sought-out work with the absolute best directors he could find, like Martin Scorsese (THE DEPARTED), Joel & Ethan Coen (TRUE GRIT), Kenneth Lonnergan (the long-delayed but excellent MARGARET), Cameron Crowe (WE BOUGHT A ZOO), Clint Eastwood (HEREAFTER, INVICTUS) and now Ridley Scott with THE MARTIAN. Truly, Matt Damon is not only one of our great movie stars but also one of the best actors of his generation and a hugely likable guy to boot.

His Best Work

GOOD WILL HUNTING is Matt Damon's best movie. Working with Gus Van Sant, from a script he co-wrote with co-star/best friend Ben Affleck, and featuring an Oscar-winning turn by Robin Williams, it's a modern classic. However, Damon's most iconic part is without a doubt Jason Bourne. Like Sean Connery with James Bond, Damon will always be associated with Robert Ludlum's amnesiac super spy-assassin. A spy-hero for a darkly cynical age, the Bourne trilogy struck such a nerve with the movie-going public that it spawned dozens of imitators, and even made a strong impression on the Bond series, with QUANTUM OF SOLACE being particularly Bourne-like. What made Damon so special in the part is that he doesn't look like an action hero. While he's in great shape, Damon has a kind face and looks like a normal, nice-guy, and as such Bourne never came-across as a superhero. Coupled with Dan Bradley's action-design and Doug Liman/Paul Greengrass' realistic, documentary-like shooting style, the films were truly unique at the time. But it was Damon who was the truly essential ingredient and when Universal tried to make a Damon-less Bourne movie (THE BOURNE LEGACY) it didn't quite work. Damon is more than simply Jason Bourne, but no matter what he does, it'll no doubt be the part that will define his career.

His Most Underrated Film

Matt Damon's done tons of movies that didn't quite connect with audiences that were quite good, including CONTAGION (which did OK but deserved to be a blockbuster), PROMISED LAND and GREEN ZONE. But, the movie of his that's a truly unheralded classic is John Dahl's ROUNDERS. If this had come along just a few years later, when poker-playing became super hip and mainstream, this brilliant little gambling movie would have become a smash-hit. Pairing Damon with Edward Norton, ROUNDERS was probably hurt by the fact that it wasn't aiming to win any Oscars, but it's a superb little seventies-style buddy flick. It's a shame Damon and Norton never re-teamed.

His Most Overrated Film

I love Steven Soderbergh as well as Damon, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and more. So why is it the OCEAN'S trilogy never quite worked for me? Truth be told, I thought the original was a fun (if wafer-thin) re-imagining of the Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack “classic” but the sequels always struck me as Clooney and company's (expensive) vacation home movies. There's nothing to them. Everyone looks like they're having a great time, and audiences shelled out plenty of cash, but the movies themselves haven't really aged too well, and I doubt anyone involved would list OCEAN'S TWELVE or OCEAN'S THIRTEEN as examples of their best work.

His Best Scene

Remember that scene in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN where Paul Rudd is watching THE BOURNE IDENTITY and tells Steve Carell (in a decidedly non-PC way)"I always thought that Matt Damon was like a Streisand, but he's rocking the shit out of this one?" Well, I think that's the reaction a lot of guy had watching Doug Liman's original film, especially at the mid-way point, where Damon takes-on a hulking assassin in a brutal hand-to-hand scrap, which, at the time, was considered one of the most impressive martial arts-driven fight scenes in a mainstream American film. Anyone who needed to be won-over to the notion of Matt Damon as an action hero likely were once this scene was over.

His Five Best Films  (As a lead)

5. THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY
4. SYRIANNA
3. THE DEPARTED
2. THE BOURNE IDENTITY/SUPREMACY/ULTIMATUM
1. GOOD WILL HUNTING

Up Next

As always, Damon is incredibly prolific. THE MARTIAN hits theaters this week, and he's already wrapped the Zhang Yimou Chinese epic THE GREAT WALL. Next summer, Damon's re-teaming with Paul Greengrass to deliver the long-awaited fourth Bourne movie, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit if it went-on to be the biggest and best of the series, as everyone involved clearly waited until the right script came along to give audiences the strong new installment they deserve.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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7:43PM on 09/29/2015
No mention of Saving Private Ryan? I know he's only in the last fourth of the movie, but he is the title character and does hold his own as said character.
I do love the Bourne movies and Good Will Hunting, and thoroughly enjoyed the first and third Ocean movies. He's established himself as a strong actor and filmmaker.
No mention of Saving Private Ryan? I know he's only in the last fourth of the movie, but he is the title character and does hold his own as said character.
I do love the Bourne movies and Good Will Hunting, and thoroughly enjoyed the first and third Ocean movies. He's established himself as a strong actor and filmmaker.
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3:01PM on 09/28/2015
I'm just a little surprised no one's mentioned his "feud" with Jimmy Kimmel. The guy's a good sport, self-deprecating, and the kind of movie star who's easy to like. At least for me.
I'm just a little surprised no one's mentioned his "feud" with Jimmy Kimmel. The guy's a good sport, self-deprecating, and the kind of movie star who's easy to like. At least for me.
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2:08PM on 09/28/2015
i would argue that Matt Damon is the most over-rated actor of his generation.

And quite possibly one of the stupidest and most hypocritical human beings ever to have walked the face of the planet. [link]
i would argue that Matt Damon is the most over-rated actor of his generation.

And quite possibly one of the stupidest and most hypocritical human beings ever to have walked the face of the planet. [link]
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10:27AM on 09/28/2015
The Bourne Series is definitely his best work. I can slightly agree about God Will Hunting being overrated & he was good in the supporting roles in the Ocean movies. I completely agree about Rounders, that movie is somewhat of a cult classic. I would say The Rainmaker is very underrated, the movie was great & just as good as the book.
The Bourne Series is definitely his best work. I can slightly agree about God Will Hunting being overrated & he was good in the supporting roles in the Ocean movies. I completely agree about Rounders, that movie is somewhat of a cult classic. I would say The Rainmaker is very underrated, the movie was great & just as good as the book.
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9:23AM on 09/28/2015

Good Article

Completely agree that rounders is Underrated while the crappy ocean films get the hype. Overall I think Damon is one of the good guys of Hollywood and definitely deserves the praise he gets.
Completely agree that rounders is Underrated while the crappy ocean films get the hype. Overall I think Damon is one of the good guys of Hollywood and definitely deserves the praise he gets.
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+0
8:51AM on 09/28/2015

Best Scene

I love Damon, but this action scene above is so unintentionally funny. Just listen to the Mortal Kombat-style punch sound effects!

Anyway, I think his best scene is the bar scene in Good Will Hunting, where he "bullies" a Harvard student only with his intellect. He owns that scene.
I love Damon, but this action scene above is so unintentionally funny. Just listen to the Mortal Kombat-style punch sound effects!

Anyway, I think his best scene is the bar scene in Good Will Hunting, where he "bullies" a Harvard student only with his intellect. He owns that scene.
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7:05AM on 09/28/2015
He's a badass alright. I think his most underrated work is Courage Under Fire. That movie showed Damon's potential of being a great actor and rightly so.
He's a badass alright. I think his most underrated work is Courage Under Fire. That movie showed Damon's potential of being a great actor and rightly so.
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-1
12:46AM on 09/28/2015

Okay, I get.....

....that some people like his acting, but calling him one of the "great actors of our generation"? Seriously? Wow, that couldn't be a sillier statement.

BTW, my last comment was wrong, because when you said that the Bourne scene was considered to be a groundbreaking martial arts scene, THAT was the silliest statement on the internet this month. I mean just wow.....You do realize they used so much shaky-cam in Bourne because of Damon's complete inability to competently fake a fight
....that some people like his acting, but calling him one of the "great actors of our generation"? Seriously? Wow, that couldn't be a sillier statement.

BTW, my last comment was wrong, because when you said that the Bourne scene was considered to be a groundbreaking martial arts scene, THAT was the silliest statement on the internet this month. I mean just wow.....You do realize they used so much shaky-cam in Bourne because of Damon's complete inability to competently fake a fight scene, right?
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4:45PM on 09/28/2015
And your source about his fighting ability is?
And your source about his fighting ability is?
+0
12:33AM on 09/28/2015
I'm a fan but I must be the only guy I know who thought The Talented Mr. Ripley was way overrated. You're right about Ocean's 12 and 13 being meh, but Ocean's 11 is kind of a classic.
I'm a fan but I must be the only guy I know who thought The Talented Mr. Ripley was way overrated. You're right about Ocean's 12 and 13 being meh, but Ocean's 11 is kind of a classic.
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12:32AM on 09/28/2015

Deserved a nod...

I always thought he deserved an oscar nod for the Departed. I thought his role performance in this movie was way better than Leo's.
I always thought he deserved an oscar nod for the Departed. I thought his role performance in this movie was way better than Leo's.
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12:05AM on 09/28/2015
Damon is one of the most reliable actors out there. Outside a few films (Stuck On You, The Ocean Sequels), he doesn't have any awful films. Even in small roles, like in Saving Private Ryan, Dogma, Interstellar, etc, the guy is great and memorable.
Damon is one of the most reliable actors out there. Outside a few films (Stuck On You, The Ocean Sequels), he doesn't have any awful films. Even in small roles, like in Saving Private Ryan, Dogma, Interstellar, etc, the guy is great and memorable.
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7:07AM on 09/28/2015
His small role in Eurotrip was effin' hilarious!
His small role in Eurotrip was effin' hilarious!
11:05PM on 09/27/2015
Damon has always been a solid, terrific actor and always gives a great performance in any film he does. The guy is one of my top five favorite actors and also stars in my favorite film of all time as well (Good Will Hunting).

But my favorite films of his are Good Will Hunting, Bourne Trilogy, The Departed, Rounders, True Grit, Invictus, Stuck On You, Adjustment Bereau, Elysium, and The Good Sheperd.

The guy is one the most consistent actors working today and I do hope he reteams with
Damon has always been a solid, terrific actor and always gives a great performance in any film he does. The guy is one of my top five favorite actors and also stars in my favorite film of all time as well (Good Will Hunting).

But my favorite films of his are Good Will Hunting, Bourne Trilogy, The Departed, Rounders, True Grit, Invictus, Stuck On You, Adjustment Bereau, Elysium, and The Good Sheperd.

The guy is one the most consistent actors working today and I do hope he reteams with Norton, and/or Affleck again on something good soon. And I'm also hoping that The Martian is the film and role that gets him his Oscar.
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+1
10:35PM on 09/27/2015
I still love that cameo from Eruotrip.
I still love that cameo from Eruotrip.
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