Green Zone, by shaky-cam master Paul Greengrass, is the latest movie to try to buck the trend of box-office poison that is the Iraq War.
Many have tried, but even the most celebrated of the Iraq War flicks, The Hurt Locker, wasn't a blockbuster. (Maybe because plotwise it was a warmed-over Errol Flynn movie, but who knows?)
Green Zone isn't bad, although it doesn't exactly give star Matt Damon a lot of room to stretch. And that's a shame, because he's a terrific actor. Let's just examine him up against his Ocean's 11 co-stars:
Best Performance: Hotel Rwanda
Most Embarrassing Credit: Hotel For Dogs
Cheadle rarely turns in a bad performance; his problem is getting a chance to shine, which doesn't come along often enough. He's a solid utility man, who will have a breakout game every so often.
Best Performance: Ocean's 11
Most Embarrassing Credit: Beverly Hill Chihuahua
Andy Garcia has been overwrought in two of the more overwrought movies of our time: Godfather III, from which no one's reputation escaped alive, and When a Man Loves a Woman, an endless, earnest 12-step drama from Al Franken that had all the subtlety of an Afterschool Special. A very, very long Afterschool Special.
Did he redeem himself with voice work in Beverly Hills Chihuahua? We don't know, because we refuse to watch it.
Best Performance: Erin Brockovich
Most Embarrassing Credit: I Love Trouble, America's Sweethearts
Everyone keeps saying how Julia Roberts is a great, beloved actress, but the box-office doesn't really back that up. Neither does a string of tepid, formulaic roles in forgettable films. We're not writing her off -- she likes to take on unconventional parts once in a while -- but the hype has been more than the reality.
Best Performance: 12 Monkeys
Most Embarrassing Credit: Troy
Julia Roberts can't even hold a candle, however, to Brad Pitt when it comes to baffling hype-vs.-reality metrics. Why is this guy considered a movie star? When Pitt goes serious, the results are often leaden beyond belief: Benjamin Button, Babel, Seven Years In Tibet, Meet Joe Black. That's a whole lot of big-budget preaching there. And now he's coming out in a Terence Malick movie? With Sean Penn? We don't see a breakthrough.
Best Performance: Up In The Air, Michael Clayton
Most Embarrassing Credit: Batman & Robin
We confess: We like George Clooney. No one wears the "burdens" of Hollywood stardom so well -- he plays his public role exactly right, and effortlessly. His humanitarian efforts are heartfelt and very often away from the spotlight. But he's more a movie star than an actor. Like Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Clint Eastwood or John Wayne, he doesn't escape into roles; he is his own persona playing a role. When the role and the persona match up, it's magic; when the writing isn't there, it can get tedious.
Best Performance: The Good Shepherd, Good Will Hunting
Most Embarrassing Credit: The Legend of Bagger Vance
Damon's made some missteps, but they've always been for good intentions -- who knows what's going to happen with a Terry Gilliam film when you sign up? The Bourne films are the closest he comes to hackitude, and all three are watchable at least once. No one, of the Ocean's 11 crew, is going to end up with a more interesting career than Damon.
Want to win a Green Zone DVD? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Green Zone" in the header. We'll pick three winners at the end of the week.
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