6 May 2011

Where Has De Niro Gone?

Who is the greatest actor of all time? There are many contenders for the title but often it seems that the most popular choices boil down to one of two people; De Niro or Pacino. Both men are great at what they do, and both have brought us some of the greatest characters cinema has had to offer. It's hard to believe that Jake La Motte and Rupert Pupkin are really the same person, just like it is hard to believe that Michael Corleone and Tony Montana are.

However for me, I've always swayed towards preferring De Niro. There's no real reason for this, I just think that I prefer his films and his sense of humour that seems to leak out (from time to time). In my eyes, the man is a God which is why I find it so devastating to see the shite that he is churning out these days. I mean, what the fuck is the man behind Taxi Driver doing working with retarded tits like the rapper '50 Cent'? I'd hate to call ol' Fiddy Diddy a crap actor that's not worthy of owning a De Niro film, let alone appearing on one, but that doesn't stop it being true. In my opinion, Fiddy D isn't even worthy of being referred to as an actor, regardless of whether it was preceded by the word 'crap'.

In the 70's and 80's it seemed like every film De Niro starred in was bound to be an instant classic. Outside of his collaborations with Scorsese, he worked on The Untouchables, Midnight Run, Brazil, Once Upon a Time in America and of course, The Godfather Part Two. Then came the 90's which started off well with the amazing Goodfellas, but unfortunately was cut short in 1995 the year the real De Niro seems to have died.

To produce one classic is impressive, but to star in two classics in one year and with the back catalogue that De Niro does is nothing short of legendary. In 1995, De Niro starred in both Heat and Casino, both of which are important in their own right. Casino was the last time, so far, that he worked with Scorsese and was (in my opinion) one of their best films. On release, Casino was unfairly compared to Goodfellas with most critics feeling that it went over similar territory.

This however, in my opinion, is just not true. Goodfellas is about what life is like from within the mafia, Casino is the story of one man's desperate attempt to avoid them whilst trying to survive in Las Vegas, the ultimate place of evil. Casino is more epic than Goodfellas with a much more interesting plot than the done to death life of a gangster. It has a career-best performance from Sharon Stone who, this time, works without resorting to having to flash her gash and has an angry midget Joe Pesci doing what he does best by being an angry midget- although this time with a fancy new pen as a weapon.

Heat, too, is in my opinion, perfect. This was obviously the first film to feature both De Niro and Pacino in the same scene and is one of director Michael Mann's best. Although this is one of the few films in which Valerie Kilmer is pretty good, this is clearly a film belonging to those other two acting titans of the seventies. The cat and mouse between De Niro and Pacino is almost magical but it is in fact their characters' relationship that is more memorable particularly if relating it to their real life careers and greatest actor poll rivalry.

And then after that, it was all down hill. I don't know what happened after these films but it just seems to have gone so wrong for De Niro. I'd rather he just quit acting and ended on that high note than have him appear in the shit that he has. Meet the Fockers, Hide and Seek and worst of all The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I mean what the fuck is he doing? Why is he ruining his own legacy? Maybe he does have a hotel chain to pay for and maybe he has lost interest in the acting, but that's not an excuse to shit all over your life's work. He might not care about his legacy, but I do.

Meanwhile Pacino's not exactly doing his best work either, but at least he's not sunk to the depths of the ex-Travis Bickle. Since Heat, Pacino has appeared in Christopher Nolan's excellent and somewhat forgotten Insomnia. He also re-teamed with Michael Mann to make yet another masterpiece focusing on the tobacco industry with The Insider, and he appeared as a more sympathetic, lower level mafia member in Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco which also features a rare and excellent non-wierdo turn; Jonny Depp.

It's now been almost a decade and a half since De Niro showed the world the talent that he truly is. Him and Scorsese have always been teasing us with another film from them both. Lets just hope that happens soon and maybe the great man can redeem himself from all the brain dead crap that he's recently been inflicting on us. Maybe he'll go out on a high and end his career with a better film than other legends such as Sean Connery and Gene Hackman have with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Welcome to Mooseport. Please De Niro don't leave it like this! I miss the old you!!

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