Lead Actors: The Overlooked and Underrated

  • SoundOnSight
This article is dedicated to Andrew Copp: filmmaker, film writer, artist and close friend who passed away on January 19, 2013. You are loved and missed, brother.


Looking at the Best Actor Academy Award nominations for the film year 2012, the one miss that clearly cries out for more attention is Liam Neeson’s powerful performance in Joe Carnahan’s excellent survival film The Grey, easily one of the best roles of Neeson’s career.

In Neeson’s case, his lack of a nomination was a case of neglect similar to the Albert Brooks snub in the Best Supporting Actor category for the film year 2011 for Drive(Nicolas Winding Refn, USA).

Along with negligence, other factors commonly prevent outstanding lead acting performances from getting the kind of critical attention they deserve. Sometimes it’s that the performance is in a film not considered “Oscar material” or even worthy of any substantial critical attention.
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The Beacon takes Paranoia award; poster and exclusive new pics

  • Fangoria
Writer/director Michael Stokes and producer Sally Helppie sent along a few exclusive new photos from their chiller The Beacon, along with the poster and the news that the movie took the Best Feature Film prize at the first Paranoia Film Festival, as well as Best Actress for lead Teri Polo. The event was held this past weekend aboard the Queen Mary cruise ship in Long Beach, CA (see details here).

Polo stars in The Beacon as a woman who moves with her husband (David Rees Snell) into the titular apartment building following the death of their son, and becomes haunted by the ghost of another dead child. Elaine Hendrix, Ken Howard, genre veteran Michael Ironside and Kevin Scott Keating (first photo) also star.

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More Exit Speed photos and DVDetails

  • Fangoria
Producer Sally Helppie and producer/scripter Michael Stokes sent along some new pics from their violent biker/siege thriller Exit Speed, coming March 3 on DVD from Peace Arch. They also let us know about final specs for the disc.

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Directed by Scott Ziehl, the movie is set in the Texas desert, where bus passengers find themselves trapped and terrorized
See full article at Fangoria »

5 stars to 'Split' Ziehl suspenser

Joy Bryant, Gina Gershon, Desmond Harrington, Ali Larter and Dominic Purcell will star in Hyperion Pictures' Three Way Split for director Scott Ziehl. The suspense drama will begin shooting June 8 in Los Angeles. The project is based on Gil Brewer's 1963 pulp novel Wild to Possess, described as a darkly comic story of murder, kidnapping, blackmail and sexual deception. Russell Marleau adapted the script, which he will also produce with Christian Mills. This is the first production greenlighted under the first-look producing deal Marleau and Mills signed with Hyperion last year. Hyperion principals Kurt Albrecht, Tom Wilhite and Willard Carroll will executive produce with Brainstorm Media's Meyer Shwarzstein. Richard Middleton is the co-producer.

Film review: 'Broken Vessels'

Scott Ziehl's "Broken Vessels" ventures into the oft-explored world of drug addiction with the novel twist that its junkies are paramedics. This makes for a harrowing ambulance ride, but the destination is all too familiar.

Lacking a compelling script, "Broken Vessels" isn't likely to connect with a sizable audience. Look for a fast theatrical payoff with this film after having spent the past year on the festival circuit.

That is a shame because the film -- written by David Baer, John McMahon and Ziehl -- at first benefits from its fascinating milieu. The daily rounds of paramedics as they roam Los Angeles' meanest streets offer dramatic situations and colorful characters operating in a pressure-cooker environment.

Tom (Jason London), a young man from Pennsylvania anxious to pay off a self-imposed debt to society, takes a job as an ambulance driver. (One of the unexplained curiosities of the film is that although Tom is hired with that job title, he seldom, if ever, drives.)

But instead of saving humanity while he trains under his partner Jimmy (Todd Field), Tom is plunged into a cynical world of on-duty drinking, fornication, drug deals, petty theft and, finally, drug addiction. The key denizens of this underworld are Suzy (Susan Traylor), Jimmy's next door neighbor and a speed freak, and Gramps (Patrick Cranshaw), an aging addict whom Jimmy has for years supplied with heroin.

Seemingly unable to alter his partner's behavior or extricate himself from the no-win situation, Tom stumbles down the path to self-destruction with only minor qualms of conscience.

Flashbacks to Tom's past point to a deep guilt that may be partially fueling his refusal to pull himself together. A one-night stand with a "normal" girl (Roxana Zal) offers Tom the hope of redemption, which he promptly rejects.

The film is certainly well made. Working with a limited budget, Ziehl and cinematographer Antonio Calvache give the adrenaline-pumping occupation of ambulance drivers a gritty reality. The actors convincingly create portraits of lost souls, especially London with a lemming-like devotion to his mentor and Field with a cocky swagger that seduces his young partner into joining a dangerous lifestyle.

But the film, much like its protagonist, becomes too fascinated with hard drugs at the expense of story and character development. How many scenes of drug buys, shooting-up and vomiting are necessary to make a point?

The film's best line belongs to Gramps who, referring to his longtime drug habit, says, "When people talk about living, this is not what they're talking about."

Ziehl should have realized that with a line like that, he could have cut 20 minutes of junkie high jinks.


Unapix Films/Zeitgeist Films

Producer:Roxana Zal, Scott Ziehl

Director:Scott Ziehl

Writer:David Baer, John McMahon, Scott Ziehl

Co-producers:David Baer, Robyn Knoll, Todd Field

Director of photography:Antonio Calvache

Production designer:Rodrigo Castillo

Costume designer:Roseanne Fiedler

Editors:David Moritz, Chris Figler



Jimmy:Todd Field

Tom:Jason London

Elizabeth:Roxana Zal

Suzy:Susan Traylor

Mr. Chen:James Hong

Gramps:Patrick Cranshaw

Running time -- 90 minutes

MPAA rating: R

See also

Credited With | External Sites