The 8 Ball 07.03.12: The Top 8 Mark Wahlberg Films
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 07.03.2012
From The Fighter and Boogie Nights to Three Kings, The Italian Job and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 Mark Wahlberg films!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Movie Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, we will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
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Mark Wahlberg scored the second-biggest opening weekend of his career this past weekend as Ted bowed to $54.1 million dollars, breaking the opening weekend record for an R-rated non-sequel comedy. The opening is only second for Wahlberg to the much-reviled Planet of the Apes, which--let's be frank--was a Tim Burton and Planet of the Apes film, not a Mark Wahlberg film. Wahlberg is a relative rarity in the entertainment industry; he is a musician who made the unlikely transition to become a leading man on the big screen. Sure, we can name people like Will Smith and Jennifer Hudson, for every one of those guys there are ten Rihannas, Vanilla Ices, T.I.s, Master Ps and Mariah Careys (Precious didn't quite erase the stain of Glitter). Wahlberg has overcome the many jokes that came his way when he made the move to film and has become an actor who is underrated in his ability and drawing power...which is saying something when you consider that he's a two-time Oscar nominee. This week I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a look at some of his best work.
Caveat: Much like my De Niro list last week, the only criteria is that the film has to have Mark Wahlberg as the star or a major supporting role. That's about it!
Just Missing The Cut
The Big Hit (1998) The Basketball Diaries (1995) The Perfect Storm (2000)
#8: Four Brothers (2005)
First on my list is a film that very much surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. This revenge film isn't one that should have worked at all. Listen to it on paper as if it was being pitched to you: "Okay, so we're going to remake the classic John Wayne Western The Sons of Katie Elder. But instead of John Wayne, Dean Martin, Michael Anderson, Jr. and Earl Holliman...we're using Mark Wahlberg, the guy from 2 Fast 2 Furious and Flight of the Phoenix, some kid no one's ever heard of and one of the guys from Outkast who's decided he wants to try his hand at acting. Oh, and it's not a Western; it's set in Detroit." I wouldn't have greenlit it, but then that's why I'm not a studio executive. This film worked far better than it had any right to thanks to good performances by the four brothers--Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Garrett Hedlund and Andre 3000--and a very strong supporting cast that includes Terrence Howard, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Taraji P. Henson and Fionnula Flanagan. It's an incredibly entertaining film and the four leads truly make you believe in them and their mission of revenge. Wahlberg was perfectly cast as the hotheaded Bobby and led the film incredibly well. Sometimes just a simple action film can be one of the most effective films when everything comes together just right.
#7: The Lovely Bones (2009)
There are a couple films on this list that I feel are incredibly underrated, and The Lovely Bones is one of them. Frankly, people expected far too much out of this film, which isn't entirely surprising. It's based on an incredibly beloved book that had to be very difficult to film, and it was the first film from Peter Jackson after the revered Lord of the Rings trilogy. People were expecting a masterpiece, and what they got instead was a very good movie. It's sort of like what happens when Pixar releases a film that isn't the greatest animated film of its particular year; the reaction is far more negative than it should be due to disappointment. The reason that this film is as low on this list as it is has nothing to do with the quality, which I very much like. It's simply that it isn't perhaps the best example of Wahlberg's work, and this is a list that focuses on him. He's far from bad, and in fact performs quite ably (in another 1970s style film, no less). The problem is that he's just completely overshadowed by the incredibly-talented Saoirse Ronan as Susie as well as Stanley Tucci as the incredibly-creepy George Harvey. Those two actors deliver performances that are just stunning, and Jackson takes some bold directions with the concepts of the film that don't work for everyone, but that I very much like. Wahlberg is, as I said, quite good as the grieving father who never gives up. The film is a bit too sentimental at times but it's otherwise an amazing film.
#6: The Italian Job (2003)
Wahlberg just seems to work well in period pieces. And when I say "period piece" in Wahlberg's case, I'm obviously not talking about something that sees him in a powdered wig or a suit of armor. The 1970s just seems to be a natural fit for him. Four Brothers definitely has that throwback feel to the revenge flicks of the '70s and The Italian Jobs feels like a great throwback to the car heist films of the same era. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it is a remake of one of those very car heist films, one starring Michael Caine. Perhaps The Italian Job's biggest flaw is that it isn't quite as good as the original, but that is certainly no statement against the film. Wahlberg finds himself in another great ensemble here, with a fantastic cast that includes Charlize Theron, Mos Def, Seth Green and Jason Statham in one of his better roles outside of Guy Ritchie films. Edward Norton is great as the traitorous Steve and Donald Sutherland brings the same kind of deft skill that he always brings to his roles, no matter how low-brow they might be. The characters are incredibly easy to like; the film spends time building these characters through their camaraderie and interaction with each other. The action scenes are great and the many locations are exquisitely film. F. Gary Gray does his usual good work behind the camera, directing with a sense of flash and style. The movie races by with the speed of the cars used in the film and yet it doesn't just dissipate away into nothingness when it's all said and done. It's a good, fun action film that stays memorable after you've seen it.
#5: Three Kings (1999)
Mark Wahlberg's collaborations with David O. Russell have worked far more often than they've faltered. I've enjoyed all three of their films together, though I Heart Huckabees is just a little too unfocused to have made this list for me. Three Kings, on the other hand, is a great film. Wahlberg was still very young in his career but had gotten some attention already at this point; this film was one of those movies that helped solidify him as an actor and not just a wannabe. Wahlberg was paired with a great cast (again) in George Clooney and Ice Cube, as well as Spike Jonze, Cliff Curtis and more. Russell is obviously a very controversial director and that same problem came to light here; he got into a physical altercation with Clooney because he was treating the crew like shit and Clooney stood up for them. He may be an asshole, but he gets the job done because this film proved that all three leads were better actors than they got credit for. You have to remember that in 1999, Clooney was still in the Peacemaker/Batman & Robin era and hadn't become the great actor that we would see in films like Good Night, and Good Luck, Syriana, Michael Clayton and Up in the Air. The film was hailed as a modern classic and it quite frankly is; it works on many different levels and floats smoothly through a few different genres. It may not have been the greatest box office success but it did a lot more for the stars than a big-budget formulaic action flick would have accomplished.
#4: The Corruptor (1999)
This is the other film on this list that really doesn't get the respect it deserves. Taking place in Wahlberg's filmography just before Three Kings, this saw him paired up with the fantastic Chow Yun-Fat for an intriguing and layered look at police corruption. Yes, there are films that have done the theme better to be sure, but again that doesn't mean this one should be denigrated. Wahlberg works well as Danny Wallace, the fresh-faced cop thrown into the Asian Gang Unit where he's partnered with Chow's Nick Chen and working for Internal Affairs to monitor and investigate Nick. Wahlberg is perfectly-cast in the role and he has a surprising amount of chemistry with Chow. This is another film that suffered due to high expectations; it was one of Chow Yun-Fat's first Hollywood films and bore a hefty superficial resemblance to his films with John Woo. Let's be frank; The Corruptor was never going to be as amazing as Hard Boiled. But it's a damn fine film nonetheless and one of the first (with one exception, above) that showed he was capable of being a real actor.
#3: The Fighter (2010)
Wahlberg's third film with Russell is easily his best. I actually feel bad for the actor on this one; he comes in and takes on the role of Micky Ward and knocks it completely out of the park. And yet no one seems to remember him because Christian Bale was just a little bit better. Both actors are fantastic as the boxing brothers and they make you believe in them from start to finish. Bale gets the meatier role as the frenetically-energetic, drug-addicted brother but to me Wahlberg had the harder role because it's a more thankless one. He has to play the straight man between the two, the foil for which Bale is able to bounce off of and shine. They both were great and that's to say nothing of Amy Adams, Melissa Leo and more. Wahlberg has said that he wants to see a second film that focuses on Micky's three fights with Arturo Gatti, and I can certainly say I'd be willing to see that. It's difficult to gain traction as a boxing film because there are so many great ones out there, but The Fighter does it, largely because Wahlberg and Bale make us care.
#2: Boogie Nights (1997)
Boogie Nights is one of my favorite films in a year that is full of great ones. That being said, it's always seemed to be overshadowed by Paul Thomas Anderson's other films and that's incredibly unfair. Just think back with me to the point where no one really thought of Wahlberg as an actor, and no one had really heard of Heather Graham. This was the movie that changed that. Both Wahlberg and Graham gave performances that made them impossible to deny. It's another film about the 1970s, and Wahlberg just owns the screen every minute that he is on it. With that secret weapon (Wahlberg, not his prosthesis) in his possession, Anderson made a truly great film about the 1970s. It's a movie about the pornography business but it does so in a surprisingly non-salacious way. Not to say there isn't a fair amount of nudity and sex in the film, but let's face it...in the hands of another director, this film would have focused far more being sexy than it would have on telling the story of the rise and fall of Dirk Diggler and those around him. This film revitalized the career of Burt Reynolds and pushed indy darling actors like Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Luis Guzman and William H. Macy to a new level in their career. It's an enchanting and thoroughly enjoyable movie-watching experience and deserves its place on this list.
#1: The Departed (2006)
I think it's fairly well-known that I'm a huge fan of Martin Scorsese, and this is quite possibly my favorite film of his. It's certainly very close between this and a couple others. The Departed is simply a brilliant film. You have an amazing script by William Monohan, adapted from the equally-amazing Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. You have Scorsese working at one of his finest and delivering work that would finally convince the Academy to honor him with a Best Director Oscar. You have a gripping story with every single element firing in perfect time. Think about this fact though. The film stars some of the biggest heavyweights in film: Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin to a lesser degree, Ray Winstone and a star-making turn by Vera Farmiga. And none of them managed Oscar nominations. The nomination instead went to Wahlberg, who is one of the best parts in the film as Staff Sergeant Dignam, the foul-mouthed, hot-headed cop with racist tendencies who helps set DiCaprio's Billy Costigan into the lion's den. There was word after this film was done that a sequel might be made focusing on Dingham. There hasn't been a lot of talk about it since Monohan and Wahlberg both expressed interest a couple years ago, but if it happened I would be first in line to get my ticket. It's a fantastic film and a brilliant performance on Wahlberg's part.
Current Series/Season:Series 5 (2010) Episodes Watched: 540 Last Serial Completed:Vincent and the Doctor - During a visit to an art gallery with Amy, the Doctor's interest is caught by a painting of a church by Vincent van Gogh. There's a face in the church's window...a curious, shadowed, creepy face with a beak and nasty eyes. The Doctor is sure that it's evil and may pose a threat to the great artist. There is only one thing for it: a trip in the TARDIS to 1890 so the Doctor can find out from the artist himself. Surviving Episodes Remaining: 86
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.