Gary Oldman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jackie Flannery in State of Grace.
Well from one mobster to another. This time an Irish American mobster played by Gary Oldman, who really is the movie. Always the chameleon Gary Oldman once again proves these skills once again with his accent and manner he brings to Jackie. Oldman fits right in with the actually American actors, but in addition to that some how he actually seems more authentic in creating a criminal from Hell's Kitchen than some of the other actors do. Oldman just is absolutely alive here in his performance from the first scene where Penn's Terry goes to reconnect with Jackie at a bar. Oldman is brilliant in creating this sort of mobster as he brings such a constant energy portraying the lively manner in which Jackie handles his life. Oldman portrays him effectively as a technically a single minded sort of man who views his life, which involves plenty of criminal activity, simply as the way he lives. Oldman brings such a compelling manic quality that expresses so well the way in which Jackie lives his life which is essentially take actions first and never really even bother to think about it.
The tone Oldman strikes up for the character really is quite remarkable. On one side Oldman does makes Jackie perhaps somewhat psychopathic as he really does not bat his eye at violence performed by himself or anyone else. Oldman in addition very much carries that propensity for violence as he carries always an intensity within himself. There is always a bit of spark in Oldman's performance and he makes it a constant that Jackie is a bit of a wild card even within his brother (Ed Harris)'s criminal organization. This is not a villainous performance though by any means, although this somewhat plays into the film's lack of defining what exactly it's going for Oldman in no way falters with his performance. Oldman happens in really the same situations to make Jackie a surprisingly likable character. Part of the reason for this perhaps is that Oldman plays Jackie as perhaps the most honest character in the film, in that he technically has no secrets. An early twist in the film is a reveal that Penn's Terry is an undercover cop, which is one weaker aspects of the film. A conflict does come from this really because how well Oldman realizes Jackie as a character.
One element of the character that may not have worked in lesser hands is that Jackie is seen through a slightly heroic lens, even though he's a guy who plays around with severed hands and does not hesitate to brutally murder people. Oldman though creates this pivotal facet of the character brilliantly though. In the scenes where Jackie talks about the importance of the neighborhood staying the way it is there is this strong passion that Oldman brings and it only ever feels like a genuine desire. What is so unique about it is that Oldman manages to not make this a selfish desire in the man as there is such an oddly honorable quality that Oldman brings to it when Jackie speaks about seeing the way the neighborhood is being changed by developments and the Italian mob. Oldman only adds to this in the scenes where Jackie reacts to a murder of his friend. Oldman is very moving as he portrays the real loss in Jackie and that he no way will forget what happened to his friend. In a later scene when Jackie decides to brutally dispense his justice on some Italian mobsters, Oldman brings forward a palatable anger, making the killings not for himself, rather for the death of his friend.
This is an outstanding performance by Gary Oldman as he consistently covers for weaknesses within the film. One being Terry's dilemma about being an undercover cop which would meaningless if it were not for how sympathetic Oldman manages to make Jackie despite the character's many personal shortcomings. The amazing thing though is Oldman is the one who ramps up the tension of the film especially in one sequence where a hit is dependent on a phone call. Oldman portrayal of Jackie's refusal to stay idle ratchets up the pressure of the moment incredibly well, once again making up for the film that easily could have faltered without him. Now the only problem here is that Jackie is the supporting character and the film weakens whenever he is off screen. This is particularly problematic in the very last act of the film where it really runs out of steam because Oldman has made his exit. Of course neither of those in any relate to a problem with his performance, instead they just show how good his work in this film is. This is simply one of those great supporting performances that makes the film to the point that you really wish it had simply been about that character.