I take the casting of the next season of True Detective very seriously.
Well, appropriately seriously. As seriously as one should take the cast of a TV show, I’d say. The highest level of seriousness that can still be considered not nutty, let’s say.
The first season of True Detective remains in the running for my favorite television of this year and that is including the likes of Breaking Bad’s final season and Dads.
Wait, I didn’t mean Dads. That was an accident. I meant to write Dads.
Wait. Damn it.
Look, nevermind. Let’s move on.
So, I have if not anxiously waiting, certainly looking forward to find out who would be our leads in the season 2 of the series. And now we know.
(Sidenote: remember when we were all convinced it was going to involve at least one woman? Hilarity. Were we ever so young?)
Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell.
On the surface, these seem like…different choices than season 1. I mean, we are all agreed now that Matthew McConaughey is one of the most interesting actor working currently and Woody Harrelson is always solid.
That is more hindsight though, if you recall.
While I was a believer in Matty M (as he DEMANDS his friends call him) when he was cast in Season 1, THE LINCOLN LAWYER having reminded me of the talents he displayed in performances in A TIME TO KILL and CONTACT, he was largely a romantic comedy joke at the time. It is only after he was cast that the performances that have given his new sterling reputation started to come out. MAGIC MIKE. MUD. DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. KILLER JOE (yeah, I said it). We love him now, but back when he was cast, he was only loved (if at all) for his character in DAZED AND CONFUSED, his love of removing his shirt, and his ready for imitation drawl.
Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, did have a reputation for solid work, but he was hardly a name on most people’s lists. He was known for supporting roles, predominantly, not for his ability to be a lead with impressive range.
The reason we think of that duo the way we do now is True Detective (or, in Matty M’s case, all that other stuff too) so, let’s allow for the possibility that Farrell and Vaughn could affect the same sort of turnaround.
I am especially because I actually quite like both actors. Yes, Vaughn has predominantly become a one-trick pony, trapped in comedic films that are very much below him after bad choices in trying to break dramatic forced him in the box. But he’s damn good at that one-trick and, I believe, has other speeds in his gear shifter and other arrows in his quiver. Farrell has fared better in the range of roles, but has similarly often chosen poorly, quickly derailing a career path that seemed bound for superstar town.
So, since I think these actors have the potential to blow the doors off the place, here are some roles that I think justify my confidence.
Minority Report- As Danny Witwer, the US Attorney with doubts about the Pre-Cog program, this was, in many way, Farrell’s coming out party. He was already buzzed about but this was his “real test.” Big budget, biggest movie star on Earth, one of the most important directors in film history. And he rises to the occasion. He goes toe-to-toe with Tom Cruise without trying to simply go over the top of the Greatest Living Movie Star to hang. The real treat for me is some of the subtle business he incorporates into the character: the presence of a rosary in his hands at one point, his stance often reflecting his character’s background as a boxer (although the part where he pounds his fist into his palm as Cruise gets away is a bit too on the nose) show an actor who is doing more than what’s on the page without letting the business be the character.
Daredevil- Shut up. No, seriously, shut up. You may not like the movie (although you’re wrong, to be clear) but no matter what or what edition of it you are taking in, there is no denying that Farrell is a ridiculous joy as the assassin who can’t miss. Chewing scenery and letting his accent run wild, Farrell crafts a super villain that boasts the scene stealing ability of the Joker without being a retread of Nicholson’s Batman (89) efforts, something other actors have failed utterly in achieving (see: Jones, Tommy Lee, Leguizamo, John, etc).
In Bruges- If Bullseye is the delighted id of a murderer for hire, Bruges’ Ray is the superego. Hiding out in the titular city after botching a job, Farrell manages to leak humanity over every frame, even as we know how he makes his living. The least flashy role (of the three male leads) in the movie, he nonetheless anchors it and drags the viewer’s attention with his refusal to explode.
Fright Night- It’s a remake that probably should not have been done. I mean, why not just make another teen vampire movie, right? That said, it turned out pretty great and Farrell shoulders most of that load. Cool, seductive and, eventually, completely off the rails, his Jerry is arguably the most successful update of the movie. Jerry is trope-y in a modern vampire way the same as, in the 80’s version, he was an embodying of the more “classic” lore aspects, but does so without feeling tethered to those tropes.
Seven Psychopaths- Seven Psychopaths is littered with bullets, blood, and profanity. It’s loud and shocking at points. In the midst of the chaos, however, is an interesting meditation on the nature of being creative and bringing art to life. As, arguably, the writer/director surrogate Marty, Farrell ensures that part, the heart of the thing, really, never gets lost in the sturm und drang.
Five More That Don’t Quite Make the Cut
Tigerland- His first American role. Yes it is a Schumacher film, but ol’ Joe’s direction is not as always as bad as you have heard and Farrell is quietly soulful.
The Recruit- Not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but Farrell does mounting panic and confusion well, even as Pacino does his best to blow everyone off the screen.
Phone Booth- So…look…I have a weird thing for this movie. I really, really like it. The conceit makes almost no sense, the motives of the sniper is so thin as to be nearly nonexistent, and Schumacher directs with some franticness it seems he trusts neither the script nor his talent. But he should. Train the camera of Farrell and step back because he’s great in this.
Crazy Heart- As the new generation of country star replace Jeff Bridge’s (presumably) real artist, Tommy Sweet is surprisingly, well, sweet. He’s corporate it seems, but never screamingly so. This could’ve been an easy “this guy is the problem with modern music” role but Farrell never lets it go do that facile.
Horrible Bosses- Thinning hair, fake belly, ridiculous posturing. It’s broad as broad can be, but he’s still weaselly fun.
Swingers- The prototypical Vaughn role, the thing that made him and now seems his prison. If you actually watch the movie though, not just the “you’re so money” clip reel, you’ll see there’s a lot more going on with Trent than just a motor mouth. His closing scene, where his seduction game on a woman across the restaurant is upended, is a brutal scene that highlights Vaughn’s ability to do subtle pain that, sadly, I don’t think I’ve seen him tap into since.
Clay Pigeons- A serial killer with a ridiculous laugh is the kind of role actor’s love but often is grating to everyone else. Not so here. In a movie that nicely captures the isolation and comfort at war in small towns, Vince Vaughn’s Lester Long is the right amount of disruptive, undeniable but never too much.
Made- The Vaughn-Favreau reunion is certainly a lesser effort than Swingers, but it is still worth seeing. From a Vaughn watching perspective, this makes the list because it is nice to see him play a character we know from the start is nowhere near the smartest guy in the room and who’s nonstop chattering is designed to hide this fact.
Old School- Will Ferrell as Frank the Tank is the spotlight stealer in this one, but Vaughn’s actually the devil. As the only one fully settled (married with kids and in deep into it) he is constantly whispering in the ears of his friends , getting them to misbehave in the ways he wishes he could get away with, (getting drunk out of his mind, having sex with a coed), but is unwilling to destroy his life to really achieve.
Wedding Crashers- The other—after Swingers—best use of Vaughn’s caffeinated car salesman patter, it was Vaughn’s return to lead comedy gold. Hidden as a Trojan horse within it is that it is also Vaughn’s best stab playing half of a nontoxic relationship as his romance with Isla Fisher is ridiculously, bruisingly over the top. Try to ignore the bit with her “creepy” brother though which rings even less pleasant than it did when the film was released.
Five More That Don’t Quite Make the Cut
A Cool, Dry Place- The marketing makes it look like some kind of erotic thriller but it’s actually a quiet movie with Vaughn as a single dad and lawyer moving to small town to be a better man.
Psycho- The movie is a film school lark, and a failure at that. Vaughn’s Bates is still worth a watch.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith- Given the history of this movie and the stars involved, it’s hard to remember Vaughn’s in this, but he is. And he’s damn funny, too. Even better, he is gloriously amoral and devious.
Into the Wild- Injecting a slight slur into his usual delivery, he serves as almost the standard bearing for why Christopher’s tragedy was inevitable: he’s surrounded by well-meaning people who are too drunk, too caught up in their own stuff, and too unwilling to take the college grad seriously enough to stop him from pursuing his suicide run.
Anchorman- Super small role, but Wes Mantooth is a silly joy of a rival.