"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Monday, May 17, 2010

The Return of Mickey Rourke

(Of course, if he ever saw this post, he'd probably refute my title with, "I never went anywhere; you just weren't paying attention.")

"Presence" is a not-easily defined quality, of an actor, that absolutely compels your attention when he shows up. Some have it, and some don't. For those who don't, it's not something you can just run over to Walmart to get.

In the 2002 movie of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears", Ben Affleck was tapped to take over the role of Jack Ryan (following Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford), and had the misfortune of having Liev Schreiber playing Mr. Clark in scenes with him, about which a Houston Press review noted, "We can't take our eyes off Schreiber, and we can't keep our eyes open when Affleck's around."

That's a very good example of what this "presence" business is about.

Japanese superstar Toshiro Mifune (of samurai movie fame) had it in spades, as did Sean Connery. American actors Lee Marvin and Robert Mitchum come to mind. It's not really so much how good actors they are, but how well they command your attention.

They were people for whom, if you looked into their eyes, very definitely "someone was home". There was always a feeling of things going on beneath the surface, and that they were capable of absolutely anything.

Now, we can add Mickey Rourke to the list.

He'd been down for awhile, in movies that few saw. His role of Marv in "Sin City" probably did more than anything to put him back on the map. Recently he was nominated for the Academy Award for "The Wrestler" (checking it out is on my "to do" list), losing to Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart".

He is easily the best thing about "Iron Man 2", which is a pretty decent show, with plenty of action (maybe too much actually) and really first class work by Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle, but Rourke is a truly worthwhile foe and is what makes it worth seeing.

And, he doesn't even seem to be doing anything special at all; with a twinkle in his eye and a quietly amused smile (as if all of creation is a joke to him, and he gets it), he dominates this movie so much in the scenes he's in that the other actors might as well have stayed home; I doubt you would have noticed their absence had they done so.

If you get the chance to see it, you will get a true demonstration of what "presence" is in a movie.


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