Performances I Love from Actors You Hate

Being a screen actor has to be intimidating. You spend months working on a movie, months hearing the anticipation (or not) surrounding it, and then you’re forty feet tall in front of millions of people. And then those people decide whether you’re someone worth watching or not. If you’re lucky, they love you and flock to see you every chance you get. If you’re unlucky, they never remember your name. And then there are some actors who hit it big, but nevertheless wind up as internet punchlines.

In honor of the people who made it to our screen but not to our hearts, here are a handful of killer performances from people who don’t get much love nowadays.

Nicolas Cage – David Spritz, The Weather Man

Frankly, I can’t tell how the internet as a whole actually feels about Nicholas Cage. There’s clearly something wonderful about his willingness to just go for broke in his movie roles, even if he doesn’t always turn in a “good” performance. I have a lot of fondness for, say, his gonzo criminal in Face/Off. But the Cage in this entry isn’t the crazy Cage. This is Cage at his dramatic best. He’s given several strong dramatic performances, actually, but my favorite has got to be The Weather Man.

One of the things about Nicholas Cage that sometimes gets him into trouble with audiences is his aloofness. In The Weather Man, that aloofness dovetails perfectly with the character he’s playing. That odd understatement Spritz emits in response to being pelted with food, arguing over takeout, or contemplating murder via archery perfectly suits the needs of this off-center comedy. In addition to having the perfect onscreen persona for Spritz, Cage shades his performance with an impressive amount of reality, never letting the innate weirdness of the movie overwhelm the humanity of the character.

Brendan Fraser – Rick O’Connell, The Mummy

Yes, this guy is kind of a joke now. I can’t remember the last time I actually went to one of his movies, nevermind actually enjoyed one. Still, though, he’s a falling star for a reason. There are certain people in the film industry who can take weak writing and make it something grand. One thinks of Jeremy Irons in Eragon, or Johnny Depp in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. There was one guy, though who very nearly made an entire career on such roles. His name was Brendan Fraser, and his most enjoyable turn came in The Mummy.

Every great adventure movie revolves around a great hero at its core. Raiders of the Lost Ark has Indy, Curse of the Black Pearl has (Captain) Jack, and The Mummy has Rick O’Connell. Of the three, I’d go so far as to say that The Mummy is the funniest of the bunch, largely owing to Fraser’s comedic chops as the lead. Somehow, no matter how crazy things get — and this is a movie with flesh-eating bugs and mummies that are scared by cats — Fraser always comes across like a real guy. Just watch the way he reacts to the number of shocking moments in this movie. It’s not with wry quips or detached calm, it’s with an entirely legitimate, “Whoa!”

Sam Worthington – Jake Sully, Avatar

Every time a Sam Worthington movie comes out, I hope that it’s going to be “the one.” I think, maybe this time he’ll turn in a performance that really solidifies himself as someone to look forward to. It hasn’t happened yet, but the reason I keep hoping that it will is because of his turn in Avatar.

In the extended (and superior) cut of the movie, Jake Sully starts the movie figuratively and literally beat. Worthington sells this guy, who starts bar brawls from a wheelchair and takes the job of his dead twin brother, by creating a deadened exterior that rarely changes no matter what happens to him. Stiff? Maybe, but it fits the character perfectly. As the movie progresses, Sully comes to life through his experiences on Pandora. Worthington still filters everything through the slightly-thick introversion he started with, but you can see his energy and vigor subtly start to return with his spirits. If this type of role is where Sam Worthington’s strengths lie, that’s good enough for me.

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  1. Shia LaBeouf – Holes
    Channing Tatum – 21 Jump Street
    Paris Hilton – House of Wax (cause she dies!!!)

    Decent list. You know, I actually like Nic Cage.

  2. I am a HUGE Keanu Reeves fan. He’s not the greatest actor in the world, but every time he’s in something he gives it his all. I can honestly say I’ve never felt he had phoned in a performance. Favorite Reeves movie: The Matrix (natch) favorite reeves performance: Speed, most underrated reeves movie/performance: The Replacements, such a funny movie. Constantine is really fantastic too.

  3. Agree with you on all accounts, especially Constantine and Running Scared.

    If any of you haven’t seen Running Scared, put everything down, leave work/school, order Netflix (if you don’t have it) and watch this movie.

    You’re welcome.

  4. Ripping on Nic Cage for taking really bad roles and going for broke makes no sense to me. Hell, “Wickerman” the remake, is one of my all time, “so bad, its brilliant” films, right up there with Battlefield Earth and Plan 9 From Outer Space.

    It makes as much sense to hate on Nic Cage as hating on Christopher Walken. And you don’t do that unless you want me to stab you in the face with a soldering iron.

  5. Personally I’ve seen and love all these movies except Weather Man, but I love Nicholas Cage! IDC what stupid movie reviewers say because 9 times out of 10 I end up liking the movies they trash.

  6. Constantine?! Really?

    If you actually read the hellblazer comics you’d find that Reves was comically miscast (and that the movie was an awful adaptation).

    John Constantine is a cocky blonde, BRITISH former rock and roller turned paranormal investigator. Not some mopey monotone, kid sidekick-having twerp trying to whine his way into heaven His character model was based on Sting and his personality was more ‘fuck you’ than ‘that’s not fair’

    If they;d changed the name of the title character it might’ve been a good film in its own right, but Keanu was NOT playing John Constantine in that film

  7. Nic Cage gets a bad rap cause he is a poor manager of money. Think of all the good films he has done. Adaptation, Matchstick Men, Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, Lord of War, Kick-ass. You just have to realize what type of Nic Cage movie you’re getting yourself into.

    Worthington was alright in the Debt. I also seem to remember him bashing Clash of Titans, and taking a lot of personal responsibility for its mediocrity. I think he at least genuinely wants to make good movies.

    Also, what kind of awful human being hates Keanu Reeves? He’s just about the chillest guy in Hollywood. Not to mention that he donates money like crazy.

  8. Nicolas Cage*, not Nicholas Cage…. that just really bothers me for some reason.

    Other than that, RUNNING SCARED! thank you! I love this movie and bought it after I saw it. Soooo good.

  9. Lindsay Lohan – mean girls. As lame as it may seem it is still one of my all time favorite movies. It’s funny and sharp and the cast is great to look at. I don’t think she has actually did one good movie since.

    Nic Cage is the man no matter what the movie is.

  10. @ Galahad

    Dude, you’re completely thinking of the wrong character. That movie was not an adaptation of the Hellblazer comics..if you didn’t notice, the name John Constantine is a widely used name and was originally taken from history books and used most commonly in biblical themes. Do your research before you claim such nonsense. Oh, and by the way, the movie was still epic.

    @ the article itself..I’d have to agree, but I often go by a certain rule when it comes to movies. I don’t judge a movie by it’s choice of actors/actresses, unless the movies have the awesomely epic ones like SLJ and Bruce choice of movies has always been by a simple rule: If the critics hate it then it must be a great movie..but if the critics love it then it must be one of the worst films ever made. Either way, if I like what I see in a preview then I’ll see it regardless of what anyone says.

  11. Paris Hilton was good in House of Wax simply because she died, yes. Lol.
    However, in Repo! The Genetic Opera she played a spoiled bratty bitch and was fantastic at it (no surprise there).

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