I tried to wait a while so that you all would not think this blog was really just a poorly-disguised shrine to Russell Crowe, but the time has come to unveil for you my five favorite Crowe movies. A couple of these are some of my favorite movies, period, and some were chosen based on the strength of the performance(s). They’re all worth a watch, in my opinion. So, without further ado, here they are, in order of release. Enjoy!
The Sum of Us (1994)
A story about the relationship between a young gay man and his father, this one is about the performance. If I was at all skeptical about Russell’s abilities to somehow come across as homosexual without losing his masculine edge, I shouldn’t have been. I found him to be very convincing, as well as charming and enjoyable in this nice little Australian movie. Even in the early stages of his career, he has such incredible range — compare this to Romper Stomper (1992) or Virtuosity (1995), and the differences are amazing. Also excellent is Jack Thompson as Crowe’s dad.
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Crowe’s first outing after his Oscar-winning turn in Gladiator, this biopic about troubled economist John Nash is far superior, I think. Hey, I’ve got an anecdote for this one! A professor-type I know spent some time at Princeton, and he related how there was this strange old guy who was just sort of there…he didn’t know who he was, only that it was clear he was supposed to be around. Then, at some point, he saw this movie, and suddenly realized who that old guy was: John Nash. Crowe’s performance was so dead-on that it was perfectly clear to him [my friend]. I thought that was amazing. Not that I needed any convincing, of course, because this for me is Crowe’s absolute best performance … the emotional response that it elicited from me is something I have only ever experienced in dealing with real people, much less an actor on the screen. Don’t forget the outstanding supporting cast: Jennifer Connelly (who won an Oscar for this film), Paul Bettany, Christopher Plummer, and Ed Harris. Winner of four Oscars, (Best Supporting Actress, Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Adapted Screenplay (Akiva Goldsman), and Best Picture) I’d highly recommend this. Crowe’s performance, in my opinion, is what makes this a Best Picture, despite the fact that the Academy chose instead to honor Denzel Washington instead. I think this is the second time Crowe was robbed, but I will spare you my conspiracy theories. Just go see the movie.
Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
M&C is possibly my most favorite Crowe film as a whole, but I have to admit that when I went to see it, I was really nervous. From what I knew about it, it just seemed … kind of boring. But, I had a friend at the time who was also a rabid Crowe fan, so off we went, opening night. And seriously? It’s fantastic. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this movie. It is gorgeously filmed, impeccably directed and written, and well-acted all around. The main story, based on two of the popular Napoleonic War novels by Patrick O’Brian, revolves mainly around the friendship of Capt. Jack Aubrey (Crowe) and his friend, naturalist Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany, who seriously should have gotten a Best Supporting nod out of this). Famously, there are no women in this film, but it doesn’t suffer at all. It’s just … So.Good. I have “forced” it upon countless friends, all of whom started out merely humoring the crazy Russell Crowe fan, but ended up really enjoying this movie. One even went on to rip through all of the novels. Also, while visiting San Diego a while back, I actually got to take a tour of the ship from the film. Squee! Sadly, it is my opinion that M&C got overshadowed, both in terms of commercial and award-season success, by the release (a month afterward) of The Return of the King. But that’s no reason not to Netflix this one immediately. Hey! I’m talking to you! DO IT.
A Good Year (2006)
Critics pretty much lambasted Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s foray into romance, which makes me very sad, because A Good Year is one of my favorite own it/watch it bi-monthly selections. Besides the absolutely breathtaking French scenery, you have Russell playing the a**hole-turned-charmer, and the fabulous Marion Cotillard as the object of his attentions. I really don’t understand how you can go wrong. Seriously, though, Scott is an excellent director, and Crowe is an excellent actor, and there you have it. It was always my sense that the critics were mostly weirded out or turned off by the duo making a film in which nobody was being hacked and/or slashed, so they just tuned out. The result, however, for those of us who love it, is an attractive and charming little movie, a sort of “rom-com for adults” without the cheesy one-liners or stereotypical character types. It’s not breaking any new ground, it’s just treading the same ground with grace, maturity, and style. You know, like a good vintage.
3:10 to Yuma (2007)
I remember first hearing about this movie, and being SO excited that Christian Bale would be appearing opposite Russell Crowe. I’m not a Bale fan, necessarily, but I do think that he’s a dynamic-enough actor to go head-to-head with Crowe. And hey, presto! I was right. The result is a fascinating, if slightly flawed picture depicting a down-on-his-luck rancher (Bale) who takes on the assignment of escorting a notorious bandit (Crowe) to the train that will carry him to justice. I generally recommend this movie to people who are not so acquainted with Russell Crowe and who mostly identify him with the noble Maximus. Newsflash: Russell Crowe plays an awesome, awesome villain. His charisma and charm are his weapons, and the audience, along with the other characters, are drawn into the warmth and soulfulness of Crowe’s Ben Wade. 3:10 has plenty of Western-style action, but this movie is really all about the internal struggle between Wade and Evans (Bale). I would be remiss if I did not mention Ben Foster’s scene-stealing supporting turn as Wade’s right hand man, and for the truly curious, check out the original 3:10 to Yuma (1957) starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin.
I find it hard to choose favorites. Like the joke about how you can destroy a computer by asking it to divide by zero, I’m pretty sure you could watch my head explode if you asked me to pick a favorite book. Please don’t. So just briefly, here are a few more Crowe films that I felt bad about leaving out, for whatever reason.
For an excellent performance: Proof. See my review here.
If you want to explore more of Crowe-as-villain:Virtuosity, Romper Stomper
All-around fun film (critics be damned!): The Quick and the Dead, Robin Hood
Simply excellent: L.A. Confidential, Gladiator (both duhs.)