Face Off: Gerard Butler vs. Karl Urban

In last week's Face-Off column, NON-STOP star Liam Neeson had to face himself, as TAKEN face-breaker Bryan Mills against BATMAN BEGINS baddie R'as al Ghul. Most of you agreed that no matter who wins, Liam Neeson wins. (But seriously, R'as al Ghul got the votes.)

This weekend brings the sequel 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE, with a new cast creating carnage in slow motion. For this week's column, let's go back to the face (and body) of the original 300, burly Scotsman Gerard Butler, and put him against another dependable genre regular, the equally scruffy Kiwi actor Karl Urban.
300 - The screen adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel wasn't just Butler's breakout role and a smash success at the box office ($465 million worldwide), the hyperstylish bloodbath also pushed director Zack Snyder onto the A-list, launched an endless wave of visual speed-cranking imitators, and generated a fair share of internet memes.
DREDD - While the "grounded", satire-free version of Mega City One's top lawman seems to have gained plenty of fans, they certainly didn't show up when the 3D flick hit theaters -- it opened at #6 at the domestic box office and then promptly disappeared from the chart (DREDD eventually made around $40 million worldwide on a $50 million budget). Strong video sales have kept sequel hope alive, if improbable.

PRIEST - This dodgy action-horror movie adapted from a Korean graphic novel had Paul Bettany as the vamp-slaying holy man of the title, with Urban as the bluntly named scenery-chewing villain Black Hat. It didn't make much impression domestically but went on to $78 million globally.
LARA CROFT TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE - In the sequel nobody really wanted but Hollywood accountants demanded, not even Butler's hunky rogue or SPEED director Jan de Bont could help make Angelina Jolie's skinsuit-clad globetrotting archaeologist any more interesting than she was the first time.
DOOM - While nobody really "wins" this category, and there was a distinct lack of Hell demons, at least this screen version of the id Software classic had Urban blasting Mars mutants (including a nifty "first person" sequence) and inevitably throwing down with The Rock himself.
Butler briefly assisted buddy Christian Bale with battling the king of dragons in the post-apocalyptic REIGN OF FIRE, bounced through centuries with Paul Walker in the best-forgotten TIMELINE, and served as a gun-toting meat puppet in the brain-damaging GAMER.
Besides the post-apocalyptic vampire schlock of PRIEST, Urban has twice sought the Underverse as Necromonger commander Vaako in CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK and sequel RIDDICK, but found far greater success venturing into deep space as the prickly Bones McCoy in JJ Abrams' two rebooted STAR TREK movies. And in addition to blasting beasties in DOOM and cleaning up the streets (or at least Peach Trees block) in DREDD, he's currently a futuristic cop with an android partner on the TV series "Almost Human".
Before leading the charge in 300, Butler got some sword experience portraying the titular historical warrior in the TV miniseries "Atilla" and battling the "monster" of the epic poem in BEOWULF & GRENDEL
Urban starred in the bloody Viking movie PATHFINDER and appeared (as three different characters) in several episodes of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess". But much more prominently, he appeared as Rohan rider Eomer in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy (well, two-thirds of it), which was kinda successful.
Butler got his first major Hollywood feature role as Bram Stoker's famous fanged creation in DRACULA 2000, menaced lawyer Jamie Foxx as a vengeful ex-CIA operative in LAW ABIDING CITIZEN, and played the charming small-time crook with a plan in Guy Ritchie's underappreciated ROCKnROLLA.
In addition and making life difficult for intergalactic badass Riddick and vampire hunter Paul Bettany, Urban made every effort to kill Jason Bourne in THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, played an adversarial CIA agent assigned to eliminate Bruce Willis in RED, and stalked Amber Heard and Odette Yustman (can't really blame him there) in the little-seen thriller AND SOON THE DARKNESS
Butler loaned his voice to HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, a box office blockbuster (nearly $500 million worldwide) that has a sequel flying into theaters this year
Urban loaned his voice to last December's WALKING WITH DINOSAURS, which eventually ambled to $125 million globally but was extinct after two weeks on the domestic box office chart
romantic comedies
Almost too many to name, and none of them worth naming
Except for the little-seen New Zealand movie THE PRICE OF MILK, Urban has wisely avoided jumping into the pool of generic romcom material. Unless you count his robo-bromance on "Almost Human".
other stuff
Butler put on the mask for the musical PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, but had to display his rippling physique in 300 for A-list attention. After showing up in a string of romcoms and underperformers (the disappointing MACHINE GUN PREACHER, surfer story CHASING MAVERICKS, Ralph Fiennes' moderately intriguing Shakespeare experiment CORIOLANUS, the universally embarrassing MOVIE 43), Butler finally got back to business and executed a satisfying amount of terrorist head-stabbings while saving the President in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, which was successful enough for an upcoming London-based sequel
Most of Urban's major work has been covered above, but he also popped up in the Dark Castle horror flick GHOST SHIP, and his New Zealand efforts THE TRUTH ABOUT DEMONS and OUT OF THE BLUE are certainly worth a view
Butler may select (or get offered) a wider range of material, but I'm personally more a fan of Urban as reliably solid go-to genre guy, and I definitely appreciate his insistence on not making crappy romantic comedies (so far), which certainly can't be said of Gerry.

Butler might have a bit more charisma, but Urban makes for a terrific straight man. With the cheesy bad-guy massacre OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, Butler is at least back on the right track, but Urban has been more career consistent and he gets the edge.

Agree? Disagree? Who do you prefer?



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