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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Russell Crowe

Apr. 7, 2014by: Chris Bumbray

Last week, we took a look at the career of actor-director-Sundance head honcho Robert Redford, a man whose career we could easily define as heroic. This week's subject is heroic in his own way, as one of the few actors around that can anchor a type of movie the studios seem reluctant to make nowadays (unless he's the star)...

Russell Crowe
 

 

Years ago, comedian Chris Rock made a nasty joke at the Oscars about how several leading men who attempted to anchor historical movies paled in comparison to Russell Crowe. The joke was controversial, but there was some truth to it. There's no other leading man out there that can anchor a historical epic like Crowe. He's a throwback to actors like Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, Robert Mitchum, Richard Harris, etc. The kind of man's man you can't take your eyes off of, and whose personality can anchor something truly larger than life the way very few modern actors can. Crowe's recent NOAH is the perfect example. Could any other modern actor have pulled that off?

However, to pigeonhole Crowe in his historical epics is somewhat unfair. He's had success in plenty of genres, garnering an Oscar nomination for A BEAUTIFUL MIND, and generating tons of acclaim in roles as varied as CINDERELLA MAN, AMERICAN GANGSTER, L.A CONFIDENTIAL. Yes, all of those are technically period pieces, but he shows off an impressive range. He even looked pretty good in the far-out Kryptonian fantasy sequences in MAN OF STEEL. What does Crowe bring to all of those parts? Gravitas. I'm hard pressed to think of any other performer out there that can compare to Crowe in that regard.

His Best Role
 

 

This is a close call. Crowe happens to be the star of two of my all-time favorite movies – L.A CONFIDENTIAL and GLADIATOR. While I think L.A CONFIDENTIAL is probably the better movie (by a hair) GLADIATOR is probably Crowe's best part. As Maximus, the Roman general turned enslaved gladiator, Crowe is downright iconic. While it wasn't his first great part (he'd been previously nominated for an Oscar for THE INSIDER, not to mention ROMPER STOMPER and L.A CONFIDENTIAL) it made him a star and won him a richly deserved Academy Award. It's rare a performance in such an action-packed blockbuster is rewarded by the Academy, but Crowe's performance could not be overlooked. He's extraordinary. On a side-note, despite the film's ending, there was almost a GLADIATOR sequel, and a full script by Nick Cave exists that sees Maximus risen from the grave by the Roman Gods to do battle with the Christians, who he ends up joining. In the end, he's cursed and becomes a kind of God of war, ending on a shot of him in the modern-day Pentagon. It's a wild but incredible scripts, and it's a shame it hasn't been made. It's never too late!

His Most Overrated Role
 

 

While Crowe's had some films that were more successful than others, and has acted in his share of flops, it's tough to call anything that he's been in overrated. One movie that could be called that is ROBIN HOOD, even though it got a rather lukewarm reception by the critics. While the North American box-office was cool, the movie was an international blockbuster. Watching it now, it feels like too much of an effort to recapture the GLADIATOR magic, right down to Crowe's haircut. It's pretty bleak take on the Robin Hood mythos, and it can't be denied that both Crowe and the great Cate Blanchett (as Maid Marian) were too old for their parts. I imagine that if the movie had been made in its original version, NOTTINGHAM, that apparently would have seen Crowe cast as the anti-heroic Sheriff, it would have been much better. As it is, it's still a good movie, but far from a great one.

His Most Underrated Role
 

 

One movie of Crowe's that I absolutely adore is 3:10 TO YUMA. Directed by James Mangold, it's an epic remake of the classic Western, casting Crowe as a charismatic outlaw being escorted to a prison train by a desperate farmer (a great Christian Bale). It was buried in an early September release date back in 2007, and was only a middling success at the box office. That's a tough fact to understand, as it's pretty damn superb, and Crowe's performance is excellent with him veering back and forth between being a cold-blooded murderer and a kind of anti-hero. If you haven't seen this one, it's well worth checking out. Other noteworthy but unfairly ignored Crowe movies include ROMPER STOMPER, an early heroic part in Sam Raimi's THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, the uneven-but-decent PROOF OF LIFE and his menacing turn in the dated-but-fun VIRTUOSITY.

His Most Memorable Scene

I'm tempted to put in any of the scenes in L.A CONFIDENTIAL where Crowe's Bud White goes nuts at the sight of a woman in jeopardy, but it can't be denied that the “I am GLADIATOR” scene is the one we'll all remember him by.

His Top-Five Films

5. A BEAUTIFUL MIND
4. MASTER & COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD
3. THE INSIDER
2. L.A CONFIDENTIAL
1. GLADIATOR

Up Next

Fresh from the success of NOAH, Crowe's got a few movies in the works, including an intriguing World War I film called THE WATER DIVINER, which he's also directing.

Source: JoBlo.com

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11:55PM on 04/07/2014

Are you not entertained?

Indeed we are. One of the best actors working today. Love 3:10 to Yuma, The Quick and the Dead, as well as LA Confidential, he was intense in Romper Stomper, The Insider, Cinderella Man, Master and Comander, American Gangster, and A Beautiful Mind, but his role in Gladiator is one of those rare moments when you witness an actor turn into a star.
Indeed we are. One of the best actors working today. Love 3:10 to Yuma, The Quick and the Dead, as well as LA Confidential, he was intense in Romper Stomper, The Insider, Cinderella Man, Master and Comander, American Gangster, and A Beautiful Mind, but his role in Gladiator is one of those rare moments when you witness an actor turn into a star.
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4:15PM on 04/07/2014
Most over-rated role was a Beautiful Mind. It was good but not as great as they made it out to be.
Most over-rated role was a Beautiful Mind. It was good but not as great as they made it out to be.
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4:14PM on 04/07/2014
Cinderella Man was a triumph of film making. Crowe was fantastically believable.
Cinderella Man was a triumph of film making. Crowe was fantastically believable.
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+1
12:36PM on 04/07/2014
Underrated in American Gangster and Overrated in Les Miserables. Many people say he is a jerk in real life, but I don't care. He is a great performer and continue to enjoy his work.
Underrated in American Gangster and Overrated in Les Miserables. Many people say he is a jerk in real life, but I don't care. He is a great performer and continue to enjoy his work.
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9:50AM on 04/07/2014
Crowe is one of the best, most entertaining actors out there today. He has made alot of great films and has given alot of great performances, but my personal favorites of his will always be LA Confidential and 3:10 to Yuma.

But he was also great in A Beautiful Mind, American Gangster, Cinderella Man, Man of Steel,and Gladiator and I thought he was sorely miscast as Robin Hood.
Crowe is one of the best, most entertaining actors out there today. He has made alot of great films and has given alot of great performances, but my personal favorites of his will always be LA Confidential and 3:10 to Yuma.

But he was also great in A Beautiful Mind, American Gangster, Cinderella Man, Man of Steel,and Gladiator and I thought he was sorely miscast as Robin Hood.
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8:50AM on 04/07/2014

WHERE IS THE GIRL!?!

As hair-trigger Bud White Crowe announced himself to me in a big way, and I'm still baffled he didn't get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for that role. Gladiator is a good movie, but while he carries it in a way few others could, I still feel his Oscar was as payback for not awarding him for The Insider.

Having said that, he IS one of the few actors who can truly anchor a historical movie. I remember before John Lee Hancock took over the reigns of The Alamo, Ron Howard wanted to make an
As hair-trigger Bud White Crowe announced himself to me in a big way, and I'm still baffled he didn't get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for that role. Gladiator is a good movie, but while he carries it in a way few others could, I still feel his Oscar was as payback for not awarding him for The Insider.

Having said that, he IS one of the few actors who can truly anchor a historical movie. I remember before John Lee Hancock took over the reigns of The Alamo, Ron Howard wanted to make an R-rated version with Crowe.
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7:10AM on 04/07/2014
I've been a fan of his since 1994 after seeing The Quick And The Dead and wondering who's this guy holding his own with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman my favorite role and film is of course Gladiator and A Beauitful Mind is second and I'm still mad after all these years he didn't win the oscar for the role
I've been a fan of his since 1994 after seeing The Quick And The Dead and wondering who's this guy holding his own with Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman my favorite role and film is of course Gladiator and A Beauitful Mind is second and I'm still mad after all these years he didn't win the oscar for the role
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6:17AM on 04/07/2014
His best role is still 'Romper Stomper'.
His best role is still 'Romper Stomper'.
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5:54AM on 04/07/2014
He's badass indeed. I think his most overrated role is Gladiator and his Best role is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. His chemistry with Paul Bettany was superb. Like Jedd The Jedi said, I'd love to see him in roles like Virtuosity too and also some dramatic ones like The Insider.
He's badass indeed. I think his most overrated role is Gladiator and his Best role is Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. His chemistry with Paul Bettany was superb. Like Jedd The Jedi said, I'd love to see him in roles like Virtuosity too and also some dramatic ones like The Insider.
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5:42AM on 04/07/2014
He's been great in some things and merely mumbly and stoic in others. I do wish he'd do a performance with the unhinged energy of Romper Stomper or Virtuosity again.
He's been great in some things and merely mumbly and stoic in others. I do wish he'd do a performance with the unhinged energy of Romper Stomper or Virtuosity again.
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3:53AM on 04/07/2014
I like Russell Crowe and he has been in some great movies. But as of late his roles seem to be reprising his Gladiator role. Like him in 3-10 to Yuma and he was good in America Gangster and Insider, but those are the last three films that he did that showed his skills as an actor. His best role for me to this date is still Bud White from LA Confidential. Didn't think much of him as JOR-EL but that was probably down to miscasting.
I like Russell Crowe and he has been in some great movies. But as of late his roles seem to be reprising his Gladiator role. Like him in 3-10 to Yuma and he was good in America Gangster and Insider, but those are the last three films that he did that showed his skills as an actor. His best role for me to this date is still Bud White from LA Confidential. Didn't think much of him as JOR-EL but that was probably down to miscasting.
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+2
2:33AM on 04/07/2014

As usual..

Not nearly enough props to the Insider, one of the best films of the 90s. It is in your top 5, but that movie and Crowe's performance pissess all over Yuma, American Gangster or Cinderella Man. It's also probably the last worthwhile thing Pacino has done.
Not nearly enough props to the Insider, one of the best films of the 90s. It is in your top 5, but that movie and Crowe's performance pissess all over Yuma, American Gangster or Cinderella Man. It's also probably the last worthwhile thing Pacino has done.
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8:20AM on 04/07/2014
Dude, it's number 3. 3:10, Gangster, and Cinderella Man didn't even make the top 5.
Dude, it's number 3. 3:10, Gangster, and Cinderella Man didn't even make the top 5.
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