Monday, November 28, 2011

The Aging Christopher Walken - His Greatest Performances

Christopher Walken (2008)
There are certain actors who are so consistently excellent that I'll watch any movie they star in. Christopher Walken is one of these. My favorite Walken classics are "Deer Hunter" and "Pulp Fiction." You don't remember his cameo role in "Pulp Fiction"? Check it out. Because he gives a kind of off-beat intensity to every role, he has also played more than his share of villains.

At the time of this writing, Christopher Walken is 69 years old and has been a prolific movie actor for over 40 years. He's not slowing down in his old age, starring in 25 movies since the year 2000. Recently I watched two of them, which had remarkably similar story structures. In both, a man with a shady past and a terminal disease re-enters the life of his grown son. In spite of animosity and distrust, the son agrees to accompany his father on a bizarre road trip. Along the way they experience a variety of misadventures, which help the two men achieve reconciliation.

The two father characters are quite different. In "$5 a Day" (2009), Nat is a small-time hustler who claims to have cancer to convince his reluctant son to accompany him to an experimental treatment facility. Endlessly creative and high-energy, Nat is a genius with the petty con, and his scheming mind leads to hilarious situations.

In "Around the Bend" (2004) - the more serious movie - Turner is a moody man whose criminal past has isolated him from his father, son and grandson. He shows up unexpectedly; and when his father dies, he convinces his son and grandson they have to accompany him on a journey to fulfill his eccentric father's wishes.

These are two very off-beat films that didn't get wide distribution. But the stories are engaging and moving. We wonder, who is this man? Where is the journey taking them? The events are so unexpected that we can't imagine what will happen next. How will father and son make peace?

It's amazing how the viewer is made to care about a character who is so flawed. The magic happens when the camera zooms to Walken's face. Perhaps only he could have pulled it off. This is an actor at the top of his game.

Good news for Netflix junkies - both movies may be watched instantly on streaming. Treat yourself to a double feature!

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo of Walken by John Harrison under terms of license of Wikimedia Commons)

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