Ask a group of 100 who the greatest screen actor of all time is and chances are two of the most recurring names will be Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Leading figures of the New Hollywood age of the 1970’s, Pacino and De Niro will always be remembered for the dedication they used to have to their craft and intense performances in some of the greatest films in American cinema; The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America, Glengarry Glen Ross, Analyze That, S1m0ne….wait.
Yes unfortunately, both of these once great men long ago surrendered to phoning it in during every film they appear in. On the one hand, it’s understandable, they’re both getting on at this stage and acting is sleepy work. But knowing what they’re capable of, it’s disappointing to see some of the dross they’ve been acting in for many years now, often via misguided attempts to send up their image. While De Niro usually appears as though he’s sleepwalked onto a set and just coincidentally happens to be mumbling the same words that are in a film’s script, Pacino’s downfall has led him to the opposite extreme, turning him into a terrible ham who flails and shouts like he’s being given a prostate exam by a snowman. Here are some of the worst performances by two of the all-time greats.
|"So what are you in for?" "I need the money. My grandkid told me he wanted a pet white tiger and I just ate my last one."|
1. Robert De Niro is Shark Tale
In the animation family, Dreamworks have always been seen as the deadbeat no-good son, failing in comparison to the favoured overachiever that is Pixar, and although reputations on both sides of that equation are beginning to shift, terrible children’s films like Shark Tale are part of the reason why they exist to begin with. Little more than an excuse for stunt casting and fish puns, Shark Tale features the voice of De Niro playing a mafia don shark because ROBERT DE NIRO HAS FAMOUSLY PLAYED MOBSTERS IN THE PAST AND SHARKS ARE MEAN IT’S FUNNY HAHA. With cheap looking CGI, a by-the-numbers ‘tell the truth’ plot and a series of groan-worthy pop-culture gags, nothing about Shark Tale could possibly have grabbed De Niro’s attention other than the generous pay cheque, as every recording of his voice sounds as if he was just about to nod off and dream of a better time, when the world was his oyster and Martin Scorcese hadn’t abandoned him for the prettyboy from Titanic.
2. Al Pacino in 88 Minutes
The plot of 88 Minutes reads like the result of an ill-advised amateur improve class. Pacino’s forensic scientist, “Jack Gramm” (the kind of name only a crime thriller protagonist would be unfortunate enough to have) is responsible for the conviction of a brutal killer awaiting conviction. But someone starts killing people in the same way as the man Jack Gramm convicted! But in a way that makes Jack Gramm look suspicious! But then Jack Gramm gets a mysterious phone call telling him he only has a certain number of minutes to live! 88 minutes to be exact!! Holy shit!!! 88 Minutes is an overly melodramatic, confused mess of a film. It also carries the worst vague misogyny of bad thrillers, where women exist to have sex with the bitter, grizzled, older leading man and/or to get murdered to piss off said leading man. When a former student of Jack Gramm’s is found dead with his semen inside of her, he claims he never slept with her, and the real criminal must have pumped his semen out of the dead body of a different woman, who he did sleep with, a prostitute, only he didn’t know she was a prostitute at the time oh and also she’s dead too. I think that sick absurdity speaks for itself.
3. Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers and Meet the Little Fockers
The entire premise of this trilogy is to laugh at De Niro for being old and lame and overbearing and later on to make jokes about The Godfather. This is stupid because the character he plays in these films doesn’t fit his role in The Godfather Part II, were he was rising through the criminal underworld and wasn’t yet the Don. It’s also stupid for more obvious reasons. Seeing De Niro make jokes about himself only ever makes me wish he took himself more seriously.
4. Al Pacino in Jack and Jill
Pacino decides to get in on the self-deprecating fun that worked for his colleague, at least in terms of box office if not acclaim. In the hope of doing this, he sold his soul to the devil. Or at least the shitty comedic actor who once played the son of the devil, Cinecal Bastard’s favourite, Mr Adam Sandler. The premise of Jack and Jill sounds like a fake movie, as audiences are punished by Sandler playing two characters, a thinly-veiled version of himself and himself in a dress. Surprisingly, playing a woman did not provide Sandler with the same fresh perspective that it did when Dustin Hoffman did it. Pacino’s purpose in this dreck is twofold; firstly, the Jack character is courting Pacino to appear in a Dunkin Donuts commercial. Sandler’s character is an ad executive, handily justifying the egregious product placement that is stuffed into every Sandler film. And Pacino sounds a little like cappuccino, so the ad writes itself! The second reason he is in the movie is to be smitten by the Jill character. It seems that even in drag Sandler needs to have his ego massaged. Here is that Dunkin Donuts commercial, in case you want to affirm that indeed, all empires are destined to crumble and all great men grow old, and weak and sing songs about caffeinated beverages.
5. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in Righteous Kill This may be controversial (The disappointment in my father’s eyes becomes even more striking when I say it) but I’ve never been a big fan of Heat. I think it’s very of-its-time and is merely a standard action movie that coasts on the fact that it’s got these two on screen at the same time. However, at least Heat didn’t have 50 Cent in it. Heat may be of-its-time but Righteous Kill is of that time as well, which is a problem seeing as it was released in 2008. The characters are bland, the twists are telegraphed and the novelty of the two sharing a lot of screen time comes at the wrong time in either man’s career. Sadly, Righteous Kill is indicative of the stage both men are in in their film careers, just done for the sake of it and with one self-conscious eye on the past.