The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Brendan Gleeson

Last week, we took a look at the career of cult star Bruce Campbell. This week’s subject ranks as one of the most omnipresent character actors of the aughts...
Brendan Gleeson

There was a period, around the mid-2000’s, where Brendan Gleeson seemed to be in every movie that came out. In fact, a friend and I once posited the theory that every major Hollywood release had to feature either Gleeson, Tom Wilkinson or Brian Cox or some combination thereof. He has ninety-four IMDB credits, and he didn’t start acting until he was thirty-four (he was actually a teacher for ten years).

Father to Domhnall Gleeson, the elder Gleeson’s career really hit its stride when cast as Mel Gibson’s hulking friend, Hamish, in BRAVEHEART. A lead-role as real-life criminal Martin Cahill in John Boorman’s THE GENERAL was an even bigger boost, and it wasn’t long before he started putting in appearances in big-budget fare like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II, GANGS OF NEW YORK and the Harry Potter series as Mad-Eye Moody.

A particular favorite of the Martin and John Michael McDonagh, the brothers are responsible for some of Gleeson’s greatest roles (see below), not that he was ever hungry for work, with him able to juggle smaller indies like CALVARY, with appearances in blockbusters like EDGE OF TOMORROW, and high-end fare like LIVE BY NIGHT. Versatile and accomplished, Gleeson is simply one of the best of the best.

His Best Work

While I’ve always been happy to see Gleeson show-up in movies, Martin McDonagh’s IN BRUGES was the one that really made me realize that he’s one of the best actors in the world. As a world-weary hit-man taking Colin Farrell’s hot-head on a holiday to Bruges while waiting for orders from his boss whether or not to kill the younger man, Gleeson is at the top of his game. He’s funny when he needs to be (his eyes while high on cocaine are something else) but also melancholy and noble at times. It’s a finely modulated performance and it’s a shame he didn’t garner an Oscar nomination (amazingly he’s never gotten one).

His Most Overrated Work

I dunno if I would call this overrated, but it’s certainly a case of miscasting. Gleeson re-teamed with his THE GENERAL director with THE TAILOR OF PANAMA, and while I actually really like this movie, one must question the wisdom in casting this particular Irishman as a Panamanian. He does his best, but it’s the kind of casting that would never be accepted nowadays.

His Most Underrated Film

John Michael McDonagh’s THE GUARD was another movie, like IN BRUGES, that should have landed Gleeson an Oscar nomination. The studio campaigned for him, but not enough people saw this little gem, which stars Gleeson as a gleefully messed-up cop in Western Ireland who regularly abuses drugs, alcohol and loves his prostitutes, but is still a lovable guy. It’s a funny buddy actioner (with Don Cheadle as the American FBI agent stunned by his ignorance) and another dynamite performance for the brothers McDonagh.

His Best Scene

Gotta go back to THE GUARD for this one, with Gleeson probably the only actor alive that could make his character’s racism (as unconscious as it is) somehow…charming?

His Five Best Roles


Up Next

As always, Gleeson’s in high-demand, with him having two movies out with Michael Fassbender in the next few weeks, the big-budget ASSASSIN’S CREED and then, in January, the indie TRESPASS AGAINST US.

Source: JoBlo.com



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