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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Michael Caine

11.29.2015
Last week, we took a look at the career of the excellent Elizabeth Banks, one of the most talented actresses working today. This week, we examine the storied career of one of the great legends of our time...
Michael Caine
michael caine

I can't believe it's taken me this long to get to Michael Caine. In fact when I was looking at potential subjects for this week's column, I quickly dismissed his name as I was all but certain I had covered him previously. Caine has been a legend for half-a-century now. Right from the start of his career, in the action-adventure classic ZULU, Caine's had the incendiary charisma of true star, a fact which helped him escape the long shadow of certain roles which could have easily typecast him. Lewis Gilbert's ALFIE is a good example, with Caine writing in his biography that he was offered tons of ALFIE-clones in the wake of its success, which he wisely turned down. The bespectacled spy Harry Palmer is another, although perhaps it worked to Caine's advantage that none of the three Palmer flicks (THE IPCRESS FILE, FUNERAL IN BERLIN and BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN) caught on in the way the Bond films did – despite sharing a producer (Harry Saltzman).

Michael caine get carter

Many of Caine's contemporaries found their status as leading men drying up as the swinging sixties drew to a close, but Caine never lost a beat. While the late seventies and much of the eighties saw him cast adrift in many sub-par roles (including the infamous JAWS – THE REVENGE), the occasional breakout part like EDUCATING RITA, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS (a classic) and HANNAH & HER SISTERS (for which he won an Oscar) kept him in-demand.

 michael caine steve martin dirty rotten scoundrels

It's was in the late-nineties that Caine truly had a resurgence in popularity, beginning with his part in the under-seen BLOOD & WINE (opposite Jack Nicholson), and coming to a head with his second Oscar-win for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. Since then, many top-flight directors have come to rely on him as one of the great character actors of our time, with Christopher Nolan having notably found a part for him in every film he's done since BATMAN BEGINS. Despite nearing eighty, Caine can still carry a film when given the chance, and his latest – YOUTH – is giving him some of the best notices he's gotten in years, proving that despite his seemingly endless list of credits Caine gives each part his all and has never been one to coast on his own icon status – even if he is one of the most widely imitated men in the world – as shown below.

His Best Work
michael caine sean connery man who would be king

While Caine's done so many amazing movies (too many to list them all here) I have a soft spot for THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING, which notably paired him with Sean Connery, with whom he goes way back. A passion project of director John Huston – who had tried to make this a quarter decade before with Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, in this Kipling adaptation Connery and Caine play amoral English soldiers who stumble upon a remote village, where Connery's character is mistaken for a God. While Connery starts to believe in his deity-destiny, Caine remains our cynical hero, well-aware of the fact that their ruse will have disastrous consequences. Even though the two deserve the tragic fate that befalls them, you feel for them and Caine's agonized acting as he watches his best friend die is one of the finest moments of his career.

His Most Overrated Film
michael caine the statement

In the wake of Caine's incredible performance in Philip Noyce's THE QUIET AMERICAN, Caine's status as a leading-man started to pick up again, and his part in Norman Jewison's THE STATEMENT was widely hyped at the time as the movie that would finally net Caine a best lead actor Oscar. It got respectable reviews – mostly no doubt due to the establishment's respect for both Caine and Jewison – but the movie is a mess. Caine is always good, but he's not terribly convincing as a sadistic Nazi war criminal on the run, and it's one of the rare times I've ever felt that he was miscast, as typically Caine can make even the worst junk kinda work (like the infamous killer bee movie, THE SWARM).

His Most Underrated Film
michael caine harry brown

Daniel Barber's HARRY BROWN was a movie that took me by surprise when it came out. When I heard Caine was doing a dark vigilante thriller, for some reason I was expecting an elegiac, slow film but instead I got a rock-solid action thriller that feels like a truly contemporary, high-voltage take on the DEATH WISH formula. Caine is amazing as the titular character, an ex-soldier who takes on the worst criminals in his troubled neighbourhood after a fellow pensioner is brutally murdered. It's a must-see for any of his fans.

His Best Scene

In many ways, GET CARTER is the most important film of Caine's career, in that it forever broke the swinging-sixties lad-image he had following ALFIE. As a tough-as-nails Cockney gangster looking to avenge his dead brother, Caine is lean and mean and an utterly convincing tough guy, especially when Roy Budd's bad-ass main theme starts to kick-in. His climactic confrontation with one of the architects of his brother's demise is a great tough guy moment.

His Five Best Films
As a Supporting Actor

5. All his Christopher Nolan movies
4. MONA LISA
3. DRESSED TO KILL
2. CHILDREN OF MEN
1. HANNAH & HER SISTERS

As a Lead

5. THE EAGLE HAS LANDED
4. ALFIE
3. GET CARTER
2. THE ITALIAN JOB
1. THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING

Up Next

As usual, Caine's keeping busy, with parts lined up for NOW YOU SEE ME 2, and the Zach Braff remake of GOING IN STYLE opposite pal Morgan Freeman. Presumably, there will also be a role for him in Christopher Nolan's soon-to-be-announced next movie. While he's certainly getting up there in age, Caine is still an absolute legend, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down to enjoy his golden years. Clearly, the man loves to work and it shows in his performances.

Source: JoBlo.com

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4:30PM on 11/30/2015
ZULU, motherfucker.
ZULU, motherfucker.
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12:24PM on 11/30/2015
Major props for recognizing Harry Brown. A great performance by Caine in a ridiculously good vigilante thriller.
Major props for recognizing Harry Brown. A great performance by Caine in a ridiculously good vigilante thriller.
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11:06AM on 11/30/2015
Michael Caine is the definition of bad ass.
Michael Caine is the definition of bad ass.
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8:02AM on 11/30/2015
Can't deny the epic career he's had - Get Carter is such a fantastic film. He's done well to revitalise his career over the years and keep getting great roles as he's aged. There's certainly a type of role he seems to regularly take in recent years, but he's still very much capable of delivering powerful performances when he's given the opportunity.
Can't deny the epic career he's had - Get Carter is such a fantastic film. He's done well to revitalise his career over the years and keep getting great roles as he's aged. There's certainly a type of role he seems to regularly take in recent years, but he's still very much capable of delivering powerful performances when he's given the opportunity.
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7:41AM on 11/30/2015

Total Badass

One of my very favorite actors of all-time, and one of my favorite actors to watch in interviews.
Incidentally, he's gone on record as saying The Statement was his least favorite role.
Oh, and he's not "nearing" eighty. The man is eighty-two and counting!
One of my very favorite actors of all-time, and one of my favorite actors to watch in interviews.
Incidentally, he's gone on record as saying The Statement was his least favorite role.
Oh, and he's not "nearing" eighty. The man is eighty-two and counting!
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6:21AM on 11/30/2015
Michael Caine is definitely a badass. He oozes coolness since his 1960s acting days like Get Carter or The Italian Job. My absolute favorite movie of his is Sleuth. He went toe to toe with Sir Laurence Olivier and both actors were superb in that movie. I think his underrated movie is Sleuth. That movie is hardly mentioned anymore.
Michael Caine is definitely a badass. He oozes coolness since his 1960s acting days like Get Carter or The Italian Job. My absolute favorite movie of his is Sleuth. He went toe to toe with Sir Laurence Olivier and both actors were superb in that movie. I think his underrated movie is Sleuth. That movie is hardly mentioned anymore.
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4:10AM on 11/30/2015
While I can appreciate Caines role in films like Carter, a role which was tailor made for the man. I have always found him, like Hopkins hugely over rated. Thriving off the legends and hype that people bestowed upon them. I think that people confuse Veteran actors with Great Actors.
While I can appreciate Caines role in films like Carter, a role which was tailor made for the man. I have always found him, like Hopkins hugely over rated. Thriving off the legends and hype that people bestowed upon them. I think that people confuse Veteran actors with Great Actors.
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3:55AM on 11/30/2015
Michael Caine is my absolute favorite actor!
I love the old Palmer movies (the newer ones not so much), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Get Carter, etc....
My favorite is Harry Brown! What a badass he is in this one!
Michael Caine is my absolute favorite actor!
I love the old Palmer movies (the newer ones not so much), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Get Carter, etc....
My favorite is Harry Brown! What a badass he is in this one!
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11:32PM on 11/29/2015
Caine is great. I need to check out some of his older films, and I really liked The Man Who Would be King. My Underrated for him would be Muppets Christmas Carol, which was a holiday tradition in our house and the first time I came across Caine. He plays Scrooge as good as anyone.
Caine is great. I need to check out some of his older films, and I really liked The Man Who Would be King. My Underrated for him would be Muppets Christmas Carol, which was a holiday tradition in our house and the first time I came across Caine. He plays Scrooge as good as anyone.
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11:11PM on 11/29/2015
Loved him as Alfred in the Batman films and really excited to see how Jeremy Irons follows up his interpretation with his own for the new DCCU.
Loved him as Alfred in the Batman films and really excited to see how Jeremy Irons follows up his interpretation with his own for the new DCCU.
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