Dissecting Kiefer Sutherland!


Fatherhood approval is a universal cross to bear for damn near every young man. Following in your father's professional footsteps is even harder, and when your father excels to the highest degree in his respective vocation, the task of stepping out of his shadow and establishing your own identity would seem an even more difficult chore. We say all this to note how Kiefer Sutherland, son of one of the greatest American film actors who ever lived, Donald, has achieved precisely this...his own autonomy as a damn fine actor. Now at it for 30 odd years, consider the number of memorable (and not so memorable) genre outings he's given: AT CLOSE RANGE, LOST BOYS, THE KILLING TIME, FLATLINERS, TWIN PEAKS, THE VANISHING, FREEWAY, EYE FOR AN EYE, DARK CITY, BREAK UP, PHONE BOOTH, 24, MIRRORS, MELANCHOLIA, THE CONFESSION, on and on.

And hey, did you all hear the promising news? With Kiefer's agreement to appear in the newfangled FLATLINERS update, the movie shifts from needless remake to intriguing sequel. We'll chock that as another impressive credit in Kiefer's quiver, and then take this opportune news briefing to do what we should have done ages ago: break down Sutherland's career path thus far. You into it? Hell yeah you are. So kick back and get loose...we're rolling up the Kiefer and letting her rip...Dissection style!



If we're talking a role of a lifetime, no sane person would argue against the mighty Jack Bauer on the groundbreaking "real time" TV show 24 as Kiefer's very best. Certainly his most extensive, exhaustive and most deeply explored. But come the f*ck on, anyone who, like us, grew up in the 80s, we all know that the spiky blonde mullet rocking, trench-coat donning, steel-horse riding vampire leader David in THE LOST BOYS is what we all irrepressibly remember most. 30 years later and still an undeniable horror icon!

And really, why is that? Well, we'd argue it's the pitch perfect mélange of menace and innocence Sutherland was able to craft the character around. Hear us out. Only 20 years old while filming, there's an inherent youth about David that comes into play in a big bad way in the end. But until then, he's the perfect vampiric valedictorian....a verbally brusque, physically imposing, not-to-be-f*cked with front-man who you at once want to follow and run the f*ck away from. He comports himself with a commanding presence that no words can rightly articulate. Which is why, of all the main characters in the film, David has the fewest. Remember, film is a show me (not tell me) medium, and what Kiefer is able to do with a look, an affectation, a body movement, etc. speaks far greater than any line of dialogue could.

Of course, this gruff facade is totally and effectively subverted in the end when Michael impales him on Grandpa's festooned antler arrangement. How Kiefer plays this scene is nothing short of brilliant. Reduced to an innocent child, we actually feel his pain and anguish in reverting back from a bloodsucking immortal. And again, all done without a single word uttered. He grunts, groans, bemoans his station, but in the end, he's just like the others...a scared and frightened young boy coming out of the throes of soul-corrupting evil. It's these two characteristic poles - the rock-n-roll bad-boy and the untainted Lost Boy - that make David an unforgettable villain in the pantheon of 80s horror.

Now for a few trivial asides. Did you ever notice how David never disintegrates like the others do when he finally meets his maker at the end of THE LOST BOYS? Well, this was no accident, but very much by design in order to keep the character alive for a sequel called THE LOST GIRLS, which was scripted but never produced. Furthermore, a comic strip created in 2008 called The Lost Boys: The Reign of the Frogs alluded to the fact David not only survived, but was personally responsible for creating the head-vampire in the odious 2008 movie sequel, LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE. It's also interesting to note that Jim Carrey, who starred in his own vampire comedy two years earlier in ONCE BITTEN, auditioned for but lost the role of David to Kiefer. If you look closely, a poster for ONCE BITTEN can be seen in Max's video store the first time Lucy frequents the joint. And if that isn't geeky enough for you, consider how Kiefer was so reluctant to take on the role, that it wasn't until he heard INXS and Jimmy Barnes were set to sing a few songs on the soundtrack that he, being a huge fan of the band, finally agreed to do the film.


We say it all the time, because it's true. When you amass more than 90 big and small screen credits over the course of 30 odd years, yup, there's always going to be inevitable downturns. Kiefer isn't immune from such, and one could easily cite subpar genre stuff like EYE FOR AN EYE, AFTER ALICE, BREAK UP...movies in which Sutherland acquits himself well enough, but under the direction of lesser filmmakers, can't quite achieve classic status. That said, given the timing of and director behind MIRRORS in 2008, I'm going to take a hard-line stance and label it not his worst, but certainly his most disappointing.

Coming off a torrid revival of popularity via his hit TV show 24, the cinematic world seemed once again Kiefer's oyster. So what does he do? He teams up with vivacious French director de jure, Alexandre Aja, who himself was coming off not just the impressive carpet-pulling slasher HAUTE TENSION, but proved himself a capable remake man as well having done THE HILLS HAVE EYES just prior. Seemed a wise idea, right? Well, taking inspiration from superb Korean chiller INTO THE MIRROR, the American remake (with a French helmer) ended up completely lost in translation. As a stylistic piece, I suppose it sort of works, but as the level of horror flick you'd expect from Aja and a rejuvenated Keifer, no, it grossly underwhelms. Again, especially considering how solid the source material was (INTO THE MIRROR is far superior). Given the time, place, source material and their respective clout in Hollywood, you'd expect a whole lot more than what MIRRORS ultimately reflected!



The cool demeanor, the blond locks, the smoking and tattoos...all credible if superficial Kiefer trademarks. But one that we don't see get a ton of run is just how fecund, if not prolific, Sutherland's recurrent collaborations with director Joel Schumacher have been. Think about it. It of course starts with THE LOST BOYS, but only a few years following, Kiefer anchored the amoral med-school thriller FLATLINERS with his role of Nelson. And it's a totally diametric contrast to that of David in THE LOST BOYS. Here he's more contemplative, reserved, more careful. How he intends to reprise the role almost 30 years later will no doubt be a fascinating watch. A half decade later Kiefer would show up for Schumacher's courtroom drama A TIME TO KILL, and again as the ominous "caller" in the 2002 shut-in white-knuckle gripper PHONE BOOTH. Yup, that was him tormenting the ever loving piss out of Colin Farrell. I know Schumacher tends to get a bad rap, and rightly so at times, but let's not get it bent...Kiefer is often the most valuable player in all the movies he's done with the guy.



Of all the Dissection subjects we've victimized over the years, Sutherland's buried treasures rank among some of my favorites. Our man has a bit part in the gritty 1986 crime drama AT CLOSE RANGE, featuring one hell of a starring turn from a scarifying Christopher Walken. There's the not so hidden but damn effective turn as the heavy, Ace, in quite possibly my all time favorite movie...the Stephen King inspired STAND BY ME. Although not quite as captivating as his original, I've always been taken by Kiefer's turn as the dogged husband looking for his missing wife in George Sluzier's THE VANISHING remake. There's also a very cool conceit to a movie from 1987 called THE KILLING TIME, in which Kiefer plays a serial killer who murders a local sheriff the day he's supposed to start work in a his new coastal post. Kiefer assumes the cops' identity and goes on doing the man's detective work while still icing mofos on the regular. Not a greatly directed flick, but one with a kick-ass idea and solid turn from Sutherland. You want something more recent? Check out the 2011 hitman thriller THE CONFESSION for yet another side of Sutherland we've never seen before.

That said, there's really two flicks we think deserve more than a mere mention, Kiefer's roles in which could not be more disparate, despite being only two years apart. That's right y'all, we're talking the hilarious 1996 crime-comedy FREEWAY, and the deeply dystopic DARK CITY!


Allow me to quote Reese Witherspoon in deferential honor of FREEWAY: "You're just a big old shit bag, ain't ya Bob?!" Indeed, in FREEWAY, Kiefer plays one of the most odious if inept sleaze-ball-perverts ever captured film, in effect playing the comic foil to Witherspoon's hardened heroine. This dude's Bobby Peru greasy. Emmet Walsh in BLOOD SIMPLE grimy. The upper-echelon of unencumbered foulness. The way Kiefer slides from unassumingly polite, a man out to help a woman in need, only to morph into a lecherous slime-bag out for rape, well it's unlike anything we've ever seen from Sutherland. And he nails it. Better yet is how and what Reese does with him, essentially reducing the guy to a mute, wheelchair-bound colostomy bag is an hysterical sight to behold. If you've not seen this movie and want to indulge in an over the top good time, hit the FREEWAY at once!

Two years later in DARK CITY, Kiefer gave us yet another wildly unique turn that resembles no other in his canon. The hunch, the lisping stutter, the dastardly plotting, here was a chance for Kiefer to totally buck his onscreen persona and dive headlong into a three-dimensional character carefully crafted by writer/director Alex Proyas (THE CROW). And he took that sumbitch and ran far and wide with it! Shaded by a corrupted past, we can almost sense from the jump that something is amiss with Dr. Scherber. This is reinforced in a flashback scene that shows how the doc was forced to erase his own memory, in essence affirming how the doc had been usurped and manipulated by the aliens of Dark City in order to control human time. A pawn of power, that's what his character is ultimately revealed to be, and if for no other reason that never seeing Kiefer play this type of role before, he makes it somehow seem believable. It's definitely one of our all time favorite Sutherland roles!


As addressed up top, Kiefer is currently filming the FLATLINERS sequel for Danish director Niels Arden Oplev (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO). The flick, officially slated for release on August 18, 2017 - also stars Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Kiersey Clemons, Nina Dobrev, James Norton and Charlotte McKinney. Here's how the new angle takes shape, courtesy of an updated script by SOURCE CODE scribe Ben Ripley:

Medical students experiment on "near death" experiences that involve past tragedies until the dark consequences begin to jeopardize their lives.

Our understanding is Kiefer will reprise his role of Nelson, who we all know played such a key cog in the 1990 original. How his character is written 27 years on will be an intriguing development to keep an eye on as the flick moves through production. That said, we have all the faith in the world that this Arden Oplev dude won't merely mount a listless retread of the original, but surely offer something fresh and exciting. Hell, the guy did give us Noomi Rapace, did he not?!



Has it come into sharp enough focus for you? At a cool 50 years of age, despite the massive shadow his father Donald's accomplishments have cast, Kiefer Sutherland has forged his own unique path in Hollywood over the last 30 years or so. I know one thing, from AT CLOSE RANGE, LOST BOYS, THE KILLING TIME, FLATLINERS, TWIN PEAKS, THE VANISHING, FREEWAY, EYE FOR AN EYE, DARK CITY, BREAK UP, PHONE BOOTH, 24, MIRRORS, MELANCHOLIA, THE CONFESSION to countless other non-genre credits, I've never once tired of watching Kiefer onscreen. Have you? Whether it's the immovable nostalgia of parts like David in THE LOST BOYS or the hysterical cult-curio of Bob in FREEWAY, the unrecognizable Dr. Scherber in DARK CITY, whatever...here's hoping the Kief has another good 30 years of entertainment in store for us all. Or, if not he, perhaps his daughter Sarah Sutherland (Selena Myer's daughter on VEEP) can keep the tradition alive and well!

Extra Tidbit: So what's your favorite Kiefer turn?
Source: AITH



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