Hidden Gems: John Cusack Two-Pack

John Cusack has always been one of my favorite actors.  I obviously don’t know him personally, but I have always thought of him as somewhat of a “people’s actor.”  He seems to really love what he does, and does it on his own terms.  He’s someone I can relate to… or at least I can relate to a lot of the characters he plays.  As one of the rare talents that can make the transition from teen idol (Better Off Dead, The Sure Thing, etc.) to legitimate adult movie star, he has been one of the most versatile and daring actors in the business.

He is one of the few actors that can succeeded in virtually every genre.  Be it comedy (High Fidelity, Being John Malkovich), action (The Contract), horror/thriller (1408, Identity), romance (Say Anything…) or crime drama (The Grifters), the man can do it all.  Sure, he isn’t a perennial Oscar contender like Sean Penn or Daniel Day-Lewis, but he isn’t trying to be.  He has never been about the accolades.  He is an entertainer.  I can’t think of another actor that has been more consistently entertaining through the years than Cusack.

Whether he is the film’s leading man (as in Grosse Pointe Blank) or as part of a massive ensemble (like that of The Thin Red Line or Con Air), moviegoers can always count on one thing: an exciting and fascinating performance from John Cusack (and most likely an appearance from pal Jeremy Piven and/or his sister Joan).

Now to two Cusack movies I have just watched over the past couple days:

Bullets Over Broadway (Woody Allen, 1994)

With John Cusack, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Tilly and Chazz Palminteri.

Cusack is at his eccentric best in Bullets Over Broadway, the story of a playwright whose only chance to get his play produced is to cast a gangster’s talentless girlfriend in a starring role.  In typical Woody Allen fashion, the film is funny and unpredictable, featuring many scandalous subplots involving the play’s dysfunctional cast and crew.  Palminteri and Tilly received Oscar nominations for their roles, and Wiest won an Oscar for her portrayal of an aging Broadway star that brought to mind shades of Gloria Swanson’s turn in Sunset Boulevard.  Allen’s signature eavesdropping, long-take technique is used to its fullest as each shot captures so many juicy details.

Rating: 8/10

RIYL: Sunset Boulevard, The Player, Casino, Barton Fink.

Runaway Jury (Gary Fleder, 2003)

With John Cusack, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and Rachel Weisz.

This is a sharp legal thriller that features a ridiculously impressive ensemble cast.  The case at hand is interesting enough, as a widow takes on a massive gun manufacturing company who she blames for the death of her husband, but the most fascinating story is what’s going on outside the courtroom.  It keeps you guessing until the end as there are a couple of characters whose motives we never find out about until the closing minutes.  The movie is exciting and fast paced, but it gets a bit ahead of itself at times.  Some of the courtroom exchanges and montage-type sequences seem to move a little too fast as the rapid cutting obstructs our ability to see all of these wonderful performers at work.  Still, though, there are a few great scenes where we get to see Hoffman and Hackman duke it out (verbally, of course) and I really had a lot of fun as the surprises kept piling up.

Rating: 7/10

RIYL: 12 Angry Men, Murder in the First, A Time to Kill.


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Comments
2 Responses to “Hidden Gems: John Cusack Two-Pack”
  1. dani says:

    i love that you did this about john cusack. i have loved him since the ’16 candles’ nerd he was back in his teens. i completely agree – he just loves to work in order to entertain the masses. he isn’t in this for the awards – but for the love of the craft.
    i secretly have a crush on him, and probably always will! thanks kev!

  2. Right. I think he chooses his films based on how much they appeal to him and how much fun he could have working on them. That being said, I still think he has had several performances that are worthy of Oscar nominations, most notably “Being John Malkovich” and “The Thin Red Line.”

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