Since Christian Bale has been pretty active in films lately, with The Big Short in December 2015 and Knight of Cups coming up on Mar. 4, let’s talk about his best and worst movies. He’s been around in the film industry, and seems to be able to do anything. Whether he’s masked vigilante or a serial killer, you can’t pin Bale down to a particular actor archetype, e.g the “character actor”, “quirky”, “badass,” or “hot.” Bale can be all of those, which shows he really is an actor’s actor. Bale cares about quality acting–he made that clear when he lost 63 pounds for a role in The Machinist (2004), only to gain it all back to star in Batman Begins (2005). However, it goes without saying that for every The Prestige, there is a Terminator Salvation. Here is a shortlist of best and worst films from one of the best actors of a generation:
Best – The Big Short (2015)
How many people actually knew what happened to the housing market in 2008, until Christian Bale played the punk office worker who figured out the most devastating recession since the Great Depression? In The Big Short, Bale is cast alongside other big-name actors like Steve Carell, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling, but holds his own as the driving force in this psychological thriller, if you will. Playing a character close to his own personality did wonders for showing off Bale’s affinity for abstract and counteractive renditions. Bale spends much of the movie behind a desk in sweatpants with loud rock music playing, and gambling billions of dollars in company funds to the banks he alone discovered will unexpectedly deteriorate.
Best: Batman Begins (2006)
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy contains some of the the best superhero movies of all time–except in Batman Begins, which gave life to a tired the origin story. Batman Begins is a young Wayne’s redemptive path to fight his past (Ra’s Al Ghul) and his fears (Scarecrow). After the disaster of Batman and Robin, Bale (and Nolan) brought the seriousness to this franchise that Keaton, Kilmer and Clooney could not.
Worst: Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
I’d recommend watching it for a good laugh at how hard Bale’s trying. Though Bale attempts to channel Charlton Heston from Ten Commandments, his interpretation on Moses is outrageous and an outright disappointment. Everything about this film makes me uneasy, like Bale getting cast as an arab jew. Why did this film get made? Maybe Ridley Scott, who usually tries to apply an epic tone to his films, saw Noah and said “I, too, can make a mediocre big-budget religious film.”
Best: The Fighter (2010)
The Fighter, directed by David O Russell is about a boxer, Mickey Ward, overcoming the odds that may come as an overdone storyline. It’s a movie made to win Oscars–take that whichever way you will. However, one of Bale’s exceptional talents is the fluidity with which he transitions between lead and supporting roles. In The Fighter, Bale’s downcast and drugged-out Dicky Eklund role was an extreme for him, losing 30 pounds for the part, but not as dramatic as the 63 pounds he lost for the The Machinist.
Worst: Reign of Fire (2002)
Do you ever wonder why dragons never really took off, like vampires or zombies? Reign of Fire is that reason. The plot is corny, and the characters are lifeless and uninteresting dragons. Bale plays a fire chief named Quinn in post-apocalyptic Britain in this bloated CGI mess. This isn’t necessarily a terrible performance from Bale (or Matthew McConaughey for that matter), but the movie drags him down with it.
Best: American Psycho (2000)
The materialistic delusions of a stock broker Patrick Bateman represents the iconic Bale movie. This was the first movie I saw where I said “that guy is a freak.” Being a freak is a good thing. You hear Bateman recites the discographies of Huey Lewis and the News and Whitney Houston right before committing grisly murders. This a dark, dark comedy in line with the wave of scathing critiques of consumerism of the late-1990s (Fight Club, American Beauty, The Matrix), and it was only natural that an actor so dedicated could be a part of it.
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