In 1999, Al Pacino had near universal acclaim and was an easy pick for “best actor” lists everywhere. Little did we know, that the greatest tragedy to come as modern society counted down to the new millennium wasn’t Y2K, it was the beginning of Pacino’s decade of decline. It is like his acting skills were made up entirely of computer parts and none of them got the memo about that whole year 2000 bug thing.
But what really spurred it along? I know I think Lindsay Lohan is a time traveling spy, but I’m pretty sure Al Pacino isn’t a robot. This was Michael Corleone we are talking about after all. Tony Montana. Frank Serpico. Carlito freakin’ Brigante! What killed Al Pacino’s ability to be entertaining?
When ’99 was getting ready to flip to double zeroes, Al Pacino was starring in the Oliver Stone football drama Any Given Sunday. Now, Any Given Sunday was a very good movie. So it wasn’t as if he accidentally attached his name to something so woefully terrible that his career couldn’t recover, that wouldn’t come until 2002 when he lost a bet and actually appeared in the crime against nature that was Gigli. No, in Any Given Sunday Pacino was great as an aging, pissed off football coach who was watching the game evolve and pass by him. It is also a pretty damn good allegory for just what the hell has happened to Al Pacino.
It seems, at some point after co-starring with Jamie Foxx’s dick in Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino forgot all of the reasons he was so awesome. There is a general wheelhouse of gruff, but intelligent, badassness that all of the characters Pacino plays fall in. One of the biggest bar arguments I ever got into was with a very drunk gentleman who had a large Italian flag tattoo and took great umbrage to the fact I called Al Pacino the world’s greatest one-dimensional actor. Or maybe he was just pissed I refused to call pasta sauce “gravy.” I don’t really remember. I still stick by my statement though – Pacino is (or was) typecast in the best possible way, and he always made sure to pick roles he could easily handle.
After his string of fantastic movies in the 90s, things started falling apart quick. “People I Know” was an interminably boring film that I suspect had the full title of “People I Know Talked Me Into Being In This Because I Owed Them a Favor.” Sure, Insomnia was good, but he followed it up with his attempt at comedic acting in the incredibly-annoying-to-type S1m0ne, a flat and unfunny piece of work involving a movie producer who invents a computer generated actress.
S1m0ne may have predicted Hatsune Miyu ten years early, and with the way Pacino sleepwalks through his performance you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking he was the one they grafted into the movie in post like skin from a pig onto a burn victim. Like that skin, Pacino probably should have rejected this one.
The “one step forward, two steps back” dance has continued nearly unabated since. Didn’t think the Recruit was bad? Don’t worry, he was in Gigli. He was pretty good in Angels in America right? I guess you didn’t see Two for the Money, which probably couldn’t have even kept its head above the water with Pacino in his prime since he was thrown into the water wearing two cement shoes by the names of Matthew McConaughey and Rene Russo.
After that, Al barely bothers with the steps forward anymore. 2007′s 88 Minutes is an inarguable choice for one of the worst films of the last decade. It is so bad that its Metacritic score can’t even legally vote, and its Rotten Tomatoes approval rating hasn’t even taken its first step yet. If you’ve ever actually sat through it, I think there are support groups that meet on the second Monday of every month. Luckily, it was such a terrible movie that Al Pacino decided to start picking his roles better and to never work with director Jon Avnet again, thus beginning a renaissance of his career…
… Until 2008, when he starred in the Jon Avenet directed Righteous Kill. This was notable because it was the perfect storm of awful, starring Pacino along side the equally declining Robert De Niro as they showed audiences across the country exactly what it looks like when two aging once-great actors who have let the industry meander past them show up just to collect a paycheck. Literally the only good thing anybody has ever said about this movie is “well, at least it isn’t as bad as 88 Minutes.”
It is only apt that, with Any Given Sunday being the last time Al Pacino seemed like he was actually Al Pacino, his inability to pick roles is rearing its head again as he pursues the lead in “Paterno.” It isn’t so much a bad idea that he wants to play the coach, it is that he wants to play the coach in the movie adaptation of the book by Joe Posnaski. A book that, for the record, has been called a waste of journalistic opportunity and been hammered in almost every critical corner for being overly sympathetic and poorly written. That does not bode well, and there aren’t any signs that things are going to get any better for this former great.
Plus, come on Al, you already played a football coach, and I’m pretty sure that one didn’t have anything to do with pedophilia.
Just Cameron Diaz.