Dissecting Patrick Wilson!


Patrick Wilson is a damn good actor. Almost unheralded, really. Does this guy ever get the credit he deserves? Seriously, ever since bursting onto the genre scene with HARD CANDY in 2005, Wilson has brought his universally approachable appeal - a handsome but believable everyman - to pretty much every part he's played. On through LITTLE CHILDREN, WATCHMEN, THE A-TEAM, INSIDIOUS, PROMETHEUS, THE CONJURING, INSIDIOUS 2, BONE TOMAHAWK, FARGO, and now, as you know, Wilson is poised to slip back into the role of Ed Warren in THE CONJURING 2 this Friday. That there's a murderous melange of high and low brow, of huge spectacle and low-key indie, with the only consistency outside of sequels being Wilson's credible acting chops in each. Honestly, this dude deserves more props!

Not to wax overly hagiographic, but that we'll try to attempt in this week's honorary autopsy. We'll vivisect the body of Wilson's work, check the pulse, examine the blood-cells, drill into the marrow and test the results of the man's dozen years in the industry. Sound groovy? Let's roll...it's time to Dissect one Mr. Patrick Wilson!




Healthy debate could be had over the best movie or role Wilson has done in the past, but nobody can rightly refute what a fecund collaboration he's enjoyed with Aussie horror epicure James Wan. Four films he's done with Wan heretofore, spanning two franchises, which to our mind ranks as the man's most exhaustive if not most fulfilling of all Wilson's genre joints. Of course, it all started with the highest grossing R-rated film of 2010, INSIDIOUS, in which Wilson and costar Rose Byrne brought great pathos and drew such great sympathy as a pair of petrified parents trying to protect their progeny from a hell-red demon. Both a commercial and critical smash, the movie of course gave way to powerhouse film franchise that Wilson continued to partake in up until the second leg, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2.

More of the same followed the Lambert family in the second chapter, to slightly diminishing diegesis, yes, but for anything Wilson did. In fact, without such credible acting and ability to elicit such a rooting interest, these flicks wouldn't have much to lean on. Wilson and Byrne undoubtedly raise the quality of these films just by their mere presence, lending credence to a genre that's often cast aside and panned as cheap and exploitative. The INSIDIOUS flicks, the first two at least, upend that misconception and craft their entire emotional core not around the imperiled children, but the deeply concerned parents helplessly forced to witness such a malefic takeover. Without Wilson there to help anchor the drama, the movie would very likely amount to yet another throwaway horror cheapie. And frankly, the same applies to THE CONJURING.


Opining further, I think THE CONJURING - in large part thanks to Wilson - is actually a slight step up from INSIDIOUS...on almost every conceivable front. The story for starters, which is based on a real life couple - Ed and Lorraine Warren - a pair of paranormal investigators responsible for uncovering the original Amityville Horror. Then there's his onscreen counterpart, Vera Farmiga, who only hikes the credibility quotient and with those big blue eyes evokes unparalleled likeability. The inherent horror of the story is also executed more dreadfully than the previous Wan franchise, to our minds, and with the period affectations of the 70s, gives Wilson and company more to soak up and play off of. The result - which we hope is even further escalated in this week's release of THE CONJURING 2 - amounts to an elevated A-list horror emporium!


The law of averages says that, when you appear in 45 movies over 15 years, you're going to end up in at least a few effluvious stink-bombs. Schmaltzy rom-coms aside, Wilson is not immune to this law. One flick I can hazily recall being an utter waste of time, money and talent was the 2008 Anne Hathaway thriller PASSENGERS. Remember that one? Yeah, we barely do too. A pusillanimous PG-13 mystery, the flick all but amounted to a version of THE SIXTH SENSE with airplane survivors, and poor Wilson played the romantic interest in a storyline that did not need to exist...at all. Forgettable is the best way to describe PASSENGERS, which you'd wish was the case for the equally abysmal UNLAWFUL ENTRY reudux costarring Sam Jackson. We're talking about the stroll down LAKEVIEW TERRACE!

Wow. Neil Labute, who once wrote scathing relationship dramas, followed quite possibly the most atrocious remake of all time - THE WICKER MAN - with the puddle of bilge laying at the base of LAKEVIEW TERRACE. Never mind the ham-fisted attempt at social commentary and racial injustice, the actions in this movie are flat out laughable. Wilson plays a man married to Kerry Washington, terrorized by a suburban cop hell-bent on splitting the two up. Again, it's essentially an updated, lowest-common denominator retread of UNLAWFUL ENTRY, mean to explore the abuse of authority certain police officers incur. Wilson acquits himself the best he can, but really isn't given a whole lot to do other than protect his wife. Hell, LAKEVIEW TERRACE? More like MAKE YOU EMBARRASSED!


Aside from being a young Paul Newman lookalike, we really believe Wilson's singular trademark is being relatable as an everyman. As a guy who made his own way - no easy nepotistic pathways - Wilson cut his teeth on the stage, even being nominated for Tony awards early in his career. Dude's paid his dues, even has a BFA in drama from Carnegie Mellon.

Anecdotally, I can corroborate. Back in 2010 I was lucky enough to attend a wrap party for INSIDIOUS. Arriving early, I knew not a soul, and frankly, felt pretty out of place in a lavish Hollywood hills mansion the part took place at. I remember even making a fool of myself in front of some overdressed execs, trying to weigh in on their discussion of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. Wasn't too fun. Intent on drowning the embarrassment in booze, I hopped on the drink line for a cocktail. And who do I see standing behind me? None other than Patrick Wilson, decked in a refreshingly casual pair of jeans, cowboy boots and half-sleeved tee-shirt (little league style). I immediately sensed that, like myself, he wasn't too keen on the overstuffed air of professionalism...suits, execs, hobnobbing, etc. The two of us traded pleasantries over a Corona, and I swear, Patrick was as approachable in the flesh as his characters seem to be onscreen. I'll never forget the dude for making a young wide-eyed neophyte feel as comfortable as he made me that night. Relatable indeed!



There are two subrosa semi-horror flicks tucked away in Wilson's canon - 10 years apart - that we think are worthy of mention. The first is where we initially took notice of Patrick, as a lecherous pedophile in HARD CANDY, the other as a convincing anti-cannibal cowboy in the searing BONE TOMAHAWK. Two wildly different roles, two equally watchable movies!

First off, it takes balls to play an odious, internet-luring pedophile. Of course, it's those very set of nuts Wilson ends up getting castrated in HARD CANDY, an intense cat-and-mouse thriller that also introduced us to Ellen Page. Wilson shows both sides here...the slick, seductive, likeable gent in the first half of the movie...the exacting and demented criminal pervert in the second. The trust he imbues the role with, the very same that wins over Page's character, makes the sinister turn all the more unnerving when his true nature is revealed. There's a layered sickness to this performance that makes his predatory actions all the more deplorable. So much so that when Page gets her revenge, we couldn't root for it any harder. We actually cheer for Pat's grisly comeuppance. That's a testament to his acting and ability to essay such a duplicitous character. It's no coincidence his career took off right after HARD CANDY.


BONE TOMAHAWK though. What a f*cking movie! In more of an ensemble role - one part of a ragtag quartet of bounty hunters - Wilson brings great life to his role as Arthur alongside gruff and grizzled vets like Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins, Matthew Fox as well. He shines alone, but together as a part of the fierce foursome out to quell a cannibalistic scourge, Wilson seems right at home. Props must be given to writer/direct Craig Zahler, who gives each of the four principals plenty to do in a movie that starts one way, ends up as another entirely. Wilson as the hip-shooting gunslinger, emotionally tethers the whole tale together, playing a bereaving husband deeply concerned about his wife's ever-decreasing safety. Without the heart exuded by Wilson in the film, the genre elements would fail to resonate. Do wise and watch this movie stat, even if you already have!


After appearing in four feature films in 2015 and then culminating the year with a sterling turn in FX's hit show Fargo, it seems there's no slowing Wilson down in 2016 and beyond. Of course, he's due to reprise his role opposite Vera Farmiga in THE CONJURING 2 this week, but let's get opt for a closer appraisal of at least two other movies Patrick has in the works this year. Both flirt with dark and disturbing genre stylings, and the first Wilson not only lent his producorial blessing to, but in it will reunite with WATCHMEN scribe David Hayter. Check it...

From director Wayne Kramer (THE COOLER, RUNNING SCARED) comes CAUGHT STEALING, which chronicles:

Hank Thompson (Wilson), once a hotshot high school baseball prospect, turned unlucky alcoholic, going-nowhere bartender mistakenly gets caught up in a bloody treasure hunt through New York City. It turns out that the cat Hank's neighbor left in his care is sitting on a secret. Hidden at the bottom of its cage is a key wanted by a sadistic cop, Russian mobsters, a Samoan hit man, and a pair of psycho brothers who dress in leather gear. Alec Baldwin, whom we hope plays the Samoan hit-man, also stars in the flick. Look out for that one later this year.

Also on the imminent docket for Wilson is A KIND OF MURDER, a big-screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel The Blunderer. The completed flick already screened at Tribeca this year, costarring Jessica Biel and Haley Bennett. Here's the gist:

A psychological noir thriller set in 1960's New York based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, 'The Blunderer'. Walter Stackhouse (Wilson) is rich, successful and unhappily married to the beautiful but damaged Clara. His desire to be free of her feeds his obsession with Kimmel, a man suspected of brutally murdering his own wife. But when Clara is found dead in suspicious circumstances, Walter's string of lies and his own guilty thoughts seem enough to condemn him. As his life becomes dangerously entwined with Kimmel's, a ruthless cop is increasingly convinced he has found a copycat killer in Walter and aims to nail both murderers.

So there you have it, Patty's set to square off with a sadistic cop and a ruthless cop. Hell of a twist after the frigid season 2 of Fargo, right? You're darned tootin'!


As we've tried to illuminate, this Patrick Wilson fella is one hell of a talent. One who ought to be more recognized as such. Dude's an actor's actor, the kind seemingly far more concerned about the work than the accolades. But plaudits he does deserve, and has for more than a decade now. Movies like HARD CANDY, LITTLE CHILDREN, WATCHMEN, THE A-TEAM, INSIDIOUS, PROMETHEUS, THE CONJURING, INSIDIOUS 2 and BONE TOMAHAWK prove such, even on through FARGO and surely THE CONJURING 2. It's rare that we get a movie star that's actually a fine actor as well, and a believable everyman at that, the kind that has the ability to guide an audience through a story in a way that makes us feel comfortable. If he isn't there yet, Patrick Wilson is certainly on his way!

Extra Tidbit: Your favorite Wilson turn is?
Source: AITH



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