Sunday, 14 July 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1994: Gary Oldman in Leon: The Professional

Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Norman Stansfield in Leon: The Professional.

Leon: The Professional is an entertaining thriller about an assassin Leon (Jean Reno) who saves a young girl Mathilda (Natalie Portman) after her family is massacred by a corrupt DEA agent. 

Having just reviewed Raul Julia in Street Fighter we are staying on actually a similar wavelength with Gary Oldman in this film. Although there is a major difference in that Leon is actually a good movie, but this is a case of strategic overacting just like Julia's performance. Oldman fits the qualifications to be allowed to overact as he has given his fair share of downplayed performances like in JFK, The Dark Knight, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Also just like Raul Julia had a good reason to overact when playing a dictator who flaunted around in a gaudy get up, Oldman as well has a reason to overplay with the nature of his character, the extreme nature of the film, and act as the right sort of counter point to Jean Reno's very restrained performance.

Oldman makes no excuses here how he is going to play this part, and I suppose that might turn some off but not me as Oldman knows how to handle a performance like this. Oldman makes Norman Stansfield a very strange combination of tics and mannerisms, although he never feels like the bad kind of mannered either as he brings this into into the whole mess that is Stansfield. If you really think about everything that there really makes Stansfield an interesting character is found in these eccentricities and without them he very well could have been just a pretty standard cop villain. Oldman definitely will not have that as shown by his very first scene, which Oldman takes a rather unorthodox approach to.

In his first scene Stansfield just has to be a bit intimidating and tell his idiotic stooge that Stansfield is gonna come and kill em if he does not come up with the 100 percent pure drugs. Simple enough I suppose, but Oldman sets out on making Stansfield's threat as memorable as he possibly can. Oldman gets right in the man's face coming uncomfortably close, and proceeds to sniff the man even. This is all very odd, but with this sets up a different sort of intimidation from Stansfield. Many times the psychotic killer is silent and detached, Oldman forgets about that entirely and bases his performance around a guy who constantly talks and doesn't mind getting into the face of a person he is about to kill. Oldman brings the menace to the film through the sheer unpredictability of Stansfield.

 When the stooge does not make good Stansfield goes on his massacre. This scene is Oldman's flamboyance at its finest. He performs it as Stansfield describes like a Beethoven Symphony, who he incidentally portrayed in Immortal Beloved also in 1994, which he begins with pill popping. Never has the reaction to a drug been so absurd yet so brilliant. Oldman's face becomes that of ecstasy, as well his whole body contorts like a snake as he absorbs the drug. After that he begins the massacre which Oldman plays as a perverse dance. As he goes about killing everyone in the apartment of the stooge Oldman has such unending glee as he does it. He is so sadistic yet so light on his feet as he maneuvers through the scene that he not only manages to bring the brutality to the scene yet allows it to be darkly comic.

After most of the family is dead Stansfield takes time out to talk about Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms. This scene is no doubt self indulgence sure, but that doesn't really matter as Stansfield definitely is a self indulgent sort a guy, and more importantly Oldman's performance is one that just is a joy to watch. Oldman is definitely having fun as he dishes out Stansfield's psychotic rant giving maybe a little insight into his demented mind set that treats his games of murder as just music to his ears. It is just fine that Oldman is having so much fun since Oldman's energy actually lets us have the fun right along with him, even it can be rather uneasy fun so to speak considering the subject matter at hand, nevertheless it works completely.

With his Symphony finished Stansfield actually disappears for quite awhile, but Oldman already made his unforgettable impression making it so we never forget his existence even when the film stays away from the character for quite awhile. Stansfield does appear again and Oldman continues to be glorious. One particularly great scene is when Stansfield catches Mathilda trying to somehow kill. It is an amazing scene because Oldman keeps Stansfield so erratic. In the scene Stansfield even sort of apologizes for his crime, and the best part about that is that Oldman actually plays it that Stansfield isn't really even lying when he says something like that but he so out of control he could express a little regret even before he plans just to kill again.

Of course the films eventually leads to the point where Stansfield tries to kill Leon and Mathilda with everything at his disposal. After one group fails we get the penultimate line reading of the film, and just like Raul Julia's "For Me It Was Tuesday" it is immortal. This line is only one word, but what a word it is. Stansfield is asked to clarify who he wants and he does it with "Everrryyyonnneeeee!!!". Oldman rips it out like a primal scream, it very well could have caused a lesser actors head to explode as Oldman's expression certainly seems like his head comes close to do doing so. That line is pretty much a summation of Oldman's entire performance which is insanely entertaining well being wholly insane. It is a genius piece of acting by Oldman, and once again for 1994 I have found that rarest of ham that is oh so delicious.

19 comments:

Michael Patison said...

What's you think of Portman here?

Louis Morgan said...

I think its her best performance.

Lezlie said...

I don't know, I wasn't blown away by this movie, it didn't live up to its hype for me. I also wasn't crazy for Oldman's performance, I even dare to say it was annoying and rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it's just me, I have a wrong taste or I don't know, but this will certainly never be my favourite. It's like True Romance; I wanted to love that film, as I really like Tarantino's work, but that one for some reason never worked for me. What film you sat down to watch with high expectations disappoint you?

houndtang said...

A dreadful performance from a vey over-rated actor. Ham - yes, but an unappetising slice.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Lezlie: Brazil. Generally Terry Gilliam rubs me the wrong way, but that one was just infuriatingly schizophrenic on every department, especially the tone.

Michael Patison said...

@Lezlie: Raging Bull for me. I love Scorsese, and I was expecting the same greatness I found in The Departed and Goodfellas, instead I found a film that was a brilliant example of direction and acting, but a film that failed to ever engage me personally and I frankly found somewhat boring on some occasions.

Louis Morgan said...

Lezlie: It usually doesn't happen to me anymore as I hold any film touted as "The Greatest of All Time" with a grain of salt so I can just see how I personally feel about it first. But when I was younger I did let my expectations get the better of me and one film that let me down was Terminator 2. Besides Robert Patrick, there just isn't that much I like about it.

houndtang: Now I remember that you were the one who disliked him in Tinker Tailor as well. Well we will just have to agree to disagree on Oldman as he's now one of my official favorites.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@ Michael: Agreed entirely. Though I have even more apathy than you. The only aspect that I really, really like is Joe Pesci's realistic, extremely human performance.

Michael Patison said...

@koook: That's interesting. I thought De Niro was great and was actually somewhat underwhelmed by Pesci.

Anonymous said...

I loved Raging Bull. I thought the direction was flawless and De Niro gave one of the best performances of all time. I wasn't bored.

I would say a film that I was let down by recently, was Cloud Atlas. It didn't help that my friends who I saw it with loved every minute of it.

As for older films? I'm not a HUGE fan of Saving Private Ryan, especially when compared to Schindler's List.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Same with me concerning Saving Private Ryan. I liked the first two thirds a lot, but that third act sort of defeated a lot of the things that I thought were compelling earlier. Then again, this is coming from someone who would gave gave The Big Lebowski Best Picture that year, so what do I know?

Anonymous said...

koook: I'd give Best Picture to either Lebowski, Truman Show, or American History X.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Lebowski's a hard win for me, though I feel like I need to re-watch The Thin Red Line, The Truman Show, Pleasantville, and few others to make sure. I will say that Goodman is my Supporting Actor winner and it's EXTREMELY unlikely he'll be dethroned.

Lezlie said...

Interestingly, I really like almost all of the movies you've listed as letdowns :D And The Big Lebowski is fantastic; I love the Coens' work in general, I'm really looking forward to Inside Llewyn Davis. That, The Wolf of Wall Street and Twelve Years a Slave are the movies I'm most excited about this year.

Mark said...

Funnily enough, T2 is one of my favorite films. And Robert De Niro's performance in Raging Bull I think is the greatest performance of all time.

RatedRStar said...

I really don't like The Departed, just watch the original Infernal Affairs which is the same but without the film being turned up to 11.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I have not seen Infernal Affairs, but I will defend The Departed for what it is. For me, it's an excellent, taut thriller that ranks as the second best Scorsese movie next to Goodfellas. The acting is across the board excellent, so you won't hear me criticize any of the performances. If I didn't go by Academy rules and have The Proposition in 2006, The departed would be my #1 for the year.

houndtang said...

Indeed Louis, I know a lot of people rate Oldman but I have never seen anything in him myself (except in the Dark Knight where I thought he gave a decent understated performance).

Mark said...

I agree, koook. The Departed is another one of my favorites. Although I admit I have not seen Internal Affairs.