Filmism.net Dispatch July 25, 2012

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Just when did Robert De Niro go bad?

Read any article about the best actors ever to have graced the screen and he's usually right up there with Brando, Pacino, Newman, Hoffman, Hackman, etc. He's been in some of the most defining movies of modern times including Raging Bull, Goodfellas, The Godfather Part II, Heat, Once Upon a Time in America and Mean Streets.

Then came Cop Land in 1997, and the thesping muscle in the supporting cast tricked us all. With Harvey Keitel and De Niro backing up Ray Liotta and Sylvester Stallone, James Mangold's cop drama looked like a dramatic masterwork with thriller trimmings. In hindsight it was more of a straight-edged thriller with some drama.

Some of the breathless press about the movie at the time said Stallone out-acted some of the more senior cast, a bit of a stretch when you look back. It was more that Keitel and De Niro were slumming it.

But we were open to the possibility that De Niro had to pay off a house or build a pool. Wag the Dog, Jackie Brown and Ronin followed, all of which gave us distinctive De Niro characterisations.

Then came the irascible Rocky and Bullwinkle, the schmaltzy Men Of Honor, the kind of lazy The Score. The wheels were wobbly. Maybe he was going through an expensive divorce, we might have told ourselves.

But then came waste-of-celluloid Showtime, then the stagey, one-note Godsend, the flaccid Shark Tale, Meet the Fockers (which was funny but in which De Niro was badly wasted).

Then came the tricksy Hide and Seek, the awful Stardust and the balls-out shocking Righteous Kill, in which he starred with Pacino, another acting legend sliding quickly into the Land of Clag. It was a movie so bad it went straight to video in many lesser world territories, including Australia.

Now the wheels were coming off. He sat there doing nothing in Limitless, sat there doing nothing with stubble in the abysmal Killer Elite, had a major role in New Year's Eve (which must have been the most critically hated movie of 2011) and again trades on a great name but little else in Red Lights.

He has ten projects in production and about 15 more coming up, none of them particularly inspiring. Somebody needs to get Scorsese on the phone. He and DiCaprio need a trial separation so he can take Bob back, stat!

Also, I don't know if you've been watching, but Sony's Robocop reboot is coming together with quite a cast including Gary Oldman, Samuel L Jackson, Abbie Cornish, Hugh Laurie and Jackie Earle Hayley. I'm a massive fan of the original for all its subversive levels of comment about economics in the West and thought I'd share my thoughts about it with you. Read the review here.

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