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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Brad Pitt

Last week, we took a look at the career of veteran character actor Robert Duvall. This week's badass has all the talent of a great character actor, albeit one who has distinctly “leading-man” looks...

Brad Pitt
 

There are great actors, and there are great movie stars, but great movie stars aren't always great actors and vice-versa. Brad Pitt is both, although many of us didn't always think this was true. The key to Pitt's early success – being his extreme good looks – was also the same thing that pigeonholed him for years as a romantic lead, stumbling though uninspired vehicles like MEET JOE BLACK and SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET, where it was clear he'd much rather be doing anything else.

But who could blame him? This was probably the result of his three breakout roles – THELMA & LOUISE, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and LEGENDS OF THE FALL, both of which had him as a kind of long-haired dreamboat, and the idol of women worldwide. At the time, Pitt was only as good as the movie he was in. Often, he was downright bad, like in THE DEVIL'S OWN, but he could also be absolutely riviting when paired with the right director, like David Fincher with SE7EN and Terry Gilliam with 12 MONKEYS.

Somewhere around the time Pitt did FIGHT CLUB, everything started to change. For a long time after, he absolutely refused to take any parts that would play on his looks, preferring instead to do character stuff, like his memorable turn as a Pikey boxer in SNATCH. It took awhile for Pitt to get comfortable taking on full-on leading man parts, but his work with directors like Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers seemed to instill him with a new sense of confidence, and now he's good pretty much regardless of the part, be it a character role in BABEL, the good ol'boy Lt. Aldo Raine of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, a zombie killer in WORLD WAR Z (not a great movie, but he's excellent) or – this week – the war-weary tank commander “Wardaddy” in FURY – which is right up there with his best work.

His Best Performance
 

For me, Pitt's greatest performance is as Jeffrey Goines in 12 MONKEYS. No one ever expected Terry Gilliam to pull such a big-nuts crazy performance out of Pitt at the time, and together with SE7EN, this was the movie that took him from being a heartthrob to a full-on, legit actor. This is the kind of role pretty boy actors dream of, but often are too afraid to take on. Pitt allowed Gilliam to make him unattractive and unlikable, and his manic performance could have easily backfired – but it didn't, and resulted in a richly deserved Oscar nomination (he's since been nominated for THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, MONEYBALL, and he won for producing TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE).

His Most Overrated Film
 

I've never liked MR & MRS SMITH. Oh, I get why it's popular. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are probably the most photogenic couple of all-time, and watching them fall in-love on-screen has a certain cachet. Both of them are quite good, but the movie itself is lousy. It's nothing more than a string of action scenes tied together by a one-joke premise, and even worse, it feels like nobody bothered coming up with a proper ending to resolve things. There have been threats of a sequel for years, but so far no one's made good on that. I can't help but feel both Pitt and Jolie are a little above this now.

His Most Underrated Film
 

For me, Brad Pitt's most underrated work has to be the two amazing movies he did with director Andrew Dominik. The first is THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. An elegiac western that was anything but the western shoot-em-up people seemed to anticipate, Pitt is excellent although it can't be denied that the cinematography by Roger Deakins, the score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, as well as Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, are the real stars.

Their next collaboration, KILLING THEM SOFTLY was just as maligned by the public, but this time even critics seemed to turn against them, which is confounding. A darkly humorous gangster tale, Pitt is cast-against-type as a fixer who's been hired to eliminate the men responsible for knocking over a mob card-game. But, like their previous collaboration, Pitt allows Dominik to give the best parts to his co-stars, Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy, Ray Liotta and the late James Gandolfini.

His Most Memorable Scene

Now, this one's a no-brainer. While Pitt's had his share of iconic movie moments, to a whole generation of moviegoers, FIGHT CLUB's Tyler Durden remains his defining role, and his big speech midway through the film is one that's constantly quoted even fifteen (!) years later.

His Top-Five Films 

5. (TIE) SNATCH & THE ASSASINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD
4. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
3. SE7EN
2. FIGHT CLUB
1. TWELVE MONKEYS

Up Next

Despite being fifty, Pitt seems permanently youthful, and isn't slowing down anytime soon. His next movie finds him repaired with his wife, Jolie, who also directs this mystery movie which is called BY THE SEA. Not much is known about the plot, but one assumes it'll be a big Oscar contender next year. How could it be otherwise?

Source: JoBlo.com

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