The Good, The Bad & The Badass: George Clooney
With our first installment of The Good, The Bad & the Badass, we examined the career of Paul Thomas Anderson, a brilliant director and the perfect, uncompromising talent to kick off our new column. For the second installment, we here at JoBlo.com decided to take a look at someone whose work is a little more commercial, but nonetheless consistently good, with our subject being a guy who's not only one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, but also a director and a producer, responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed movies of the last couple of years.
Fifteen years ago, no one would have ever thought Clooney would end up the icon he is today. Sure, he was charming as all hell on ER, but on the big-screen, despite a promising start in FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, he was infamous for playing the Caped Crusader in Joel Schumacher's BATMAN & ROBIN. Reportedly, Clooney keeps a poster of that film on the wall of his office as a reminder of what not to do. In 1998, he hooked up with director Steven Soderbergh, who, in his film OUT OF SIGHT, not only established Clooney as a full-on leading man, but also broke him of a lot of bad habits he had as an actor, including a gimmick where he constantly bobbed and dipped his head to look up at people (it's all over BATMAN & ROBIN, as well as his failed action vehicle THE PEACEMAKER).
From there, Clooney was on his way, alternating passion projects with auteurs like The Coen Bros., Soderbergh, and his own films as a director, with commercial, mainstream fare like THE PERFECT STORM, and the OCEANS series. On the whole, very few people in the business have a filmography as consistent as Clooney's.
This is a tough one, but to me Clooney's best is a film that by all accounts he hated making, THREE KINGS. Clooney and director David O. Russell constantly butted heads, pitting the hot-headed O. Russell against the more easygoing Clooney, who apparently got into a physical altercation with the director after seeing him harass an extra. Clooney's gone on record saying he'd never work with O. Russell again, but the movie itself is great, and Clooney's performance is superb, with this being one of the few times where he got to play a real honest-to-God badass man of action. And Clooney's not the only good thing about it. The direction by O. Russell is outstanding, with the bleached visuals, which are now standard, originally being a controversial choice, as are the shots where you see bullet p.o.v's ripping through intestines. Mark Wahlberg has also rarely been better, and his work with Clooney was so good the two immediately re-teamed on THE PERFECT STORM, while Wahlberg went on to do I HEART HUCKABEES, and THE FIGHTER with O. Russell.
SYRIANNA is my choice for his most underrated film, even though it did relatively well at the box office and won Clooney the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. I say it's underrated because to me, SYRIANNA is a full blown masterpiece, with Stephen Gaghan's oil and espionage expose easily being the equal of something like TRAFFIC. Clooney got the lion's share of acclaim for this, but the movie also features stand-out work by Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, and especially Alexander Siddig, who richly deserved some awards attention, but was overlooked. If you haven't seen it in a while (or not at all), I strongly advise taking a look. It's superb.
I'm gonna say “films” as I've never liked the OCEAN'S trilogy. Sure, OCEAN'S ELEVEN was a decent, fun remake of the old Rat Pack vehicle, but the movie ended up being wildly overrated. Did it really need to spawn two sequels? Both sequels felt like we were just watching Clooney hang-around with his pals Brad Pitt and Matt Damon on vacation, while the film itself was incidental. They were all style, no substance, and I'm glad that Clooney and Soderbergh have gotten them out of their system.
For me, the obvious choice is Clooney's hotel seduction of Jennifer Lopez in OUT OF SIGHT. It's sexy, but also tasteful and classy. Jennifer Lopez has never been better than she was here, and OUT OF SIGHT really was the movie that, to me, made Clooney someone to be taken seriously. Nowhere is this more evident than in this scene. This is what sizzling big-screen chemistry is all about.
Clooney's next film is a biggie. He's directing a large-scale WWII heist movie called THE MONUMENTS MEN, which looks like a throwback to a great WWII action movie called THE TRAIN (which I've heard is one of Clooney's favorite films). It reunites him with one of his favourite co-stars, Matt Damon, and also features the great Bill Murray, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, and more. I can't wait. He's also co-starring in Alfonso Cuaron's GRAVITY with Sandra Bullock, although I suspect he's going to have a relatively small part as he's barely been featured in the (impressive) trailers. Again, Clooney's ambition here seems to be quality, not quantity.
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|Extra Tidbit:||While it was a flop, THE PEACEMAKER is actually a perfectly decent late-nineties techno-thriller. Great score by Hans Zimmer.|