DOWSE guide to the movies                                                                                         

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DOWSE Guide to the Movies
by Tony Lee editor of Pigasus Press

Bone Idle Idol - why I hate Tom Cruise

He's the blank faced boy who seems to think he's god's gift to cinema, but he simply can't act!
Let's not wonder why (perhaps, as a baby, he was dropped on his head, repeatedly?), instead just examine the damning evidence. In Ridley Scott's visually striking fairy tale, Legend, the young Tommy was overshadowed by Mia Sara's innocent smile, Tim Curry's devilish leer, a gaggle of creature effects and the stunning, painterly set design. Even co-star, David Bennent, the child actor who, five years earlier, had carried Schlondorff's The Tin Drum, steals every scene he's in from the hopeless Cruise. From "Jack o'the Green" to a string of high profile but vacuous roles in top grossing Americana, TC aimed his sparkly eyed gaze towards the end of his nose and missed. Top Gun showcased the full might of US Navy aviation. With such a recruiting poster backdrop of aircraft carriers and sleek jets, Tom's "Maverick" air-jockey could have been played by Woody Allen and no-one would've noticed. (Although the angst-ridden romance with Kelly McGillis might have been more entertaining!) Grizzled old Paul Newman made a sadly botched comeback with Scorsese's flashy sequel to The Hustler, The Color Of Money. Here, brash pilot becomes brash pool hall scuz. It's hard to make the game of pool an exciting spectator sport, even Scorsese should have realised that the climax would be a letdown. The movie ends where it really should have started, and takes far too long getting there. Rain Man saw Cruise struggle boy-fully to measure up to (wholly miscast) Dustin Hoffman, still more emotive in his pained silences than Cruise in his blustering spells, while in Oliver Stone's lame follow-up to the searing Platoon, Born On The Fourth Of July (not seen), I found Cruise left bruised by critic Pauline Kael: "Overblown right from the start…" who slams the film (about war casualty, Ron Kovic) and source autobiography (ditto), for being so staggeringly and stupidly naïve. Must I mention the alarmingly shallow Cocktail..? There, I mentioned it. By the time of his next film, TC was Hollywood's top cat. Anyone recall the remarkable poster which seemed to suggest the film itself was named after him? Only if your eyes tracked to the very bottom - and you squinted hard! - was it possible to discern the actual title. In Days Of Thunder, Cruise traded planes for cars yet his brash, screen persona (such as it is) remained the same. At least he met his future wife, Nicole Kidman, on this joyless ride. If you saw Jack Nicholson's performance in A Few Good Men you won't need me to tell you that the Cruise missile is miles off target here. His legal sparrow character's fairy flights of gee whiz temper in the courtroom scenes are totally outclassed by Nicholson's immense presence, making the trial's outcome (Nicholson cracks under the pressure) dreadfully unconvincing. No halfwit, herself, Demi Moore can also act Cruise right off the screen, and looks better in uniform, too! By the 1990s, my utter loathing of this amateurish boy blunder was firmly established. I sat, stony faced through The Firm, but ignored Ron Howard's period romance, Far And Away (by all accounts "an empty dud", with dodgy accents). In the latter, the legal sparrow has his wings clipped when he's duped into working for the mafia. As in previous films, Cruise finds himself surrounded by genuine acting talent, and basks happily in their reflected competence while displaying none at all himself. For a better, if more literal, deal-with-evil movie, I urge you all to check out The Devil's Advocate. At least - that one is not such a disappointment. Interview With The Vampire is probably the best film TC has yet appeared in. Thankfully, I managed to ignore his vulgar presence, but Cruise has developed a knack for making himself the centre (epicentre?) of attention, whether the scripted story or the scene requires it, or not. However, I'm quite prepared to overlook his starry eyed role here, if only because his obvious discomfort in the costumed flashbacks, adds to the comedy. What I can't forgive, though, is a Cruise film which desecrates fond memories of a clever, if formulaic, 1960s TV series. Brian De Palma finally put paid to his already sharply declining reputation as director of note with Mission Impossible. One scene in particular forced me to switch off the video I was watching of this film, before it triggered a dangerous pulmonary embolism. Does this fantasy spy drama benefit from Cruise's grandstanding, sleight-of-hand with the computer disc after the daring data-theft from a high security building? Would the stoic French actor Jean Reno (charismatic star of Besson's excellent Leon) normally have been fooled by this charade? No, of course not. He would not have let short-arsed creep Cruise get away with it, either, if he had been allowed to maintain his take-no-prisoners characterisation throughout this overlong film. Instead, like old hands Tom Skerritt, Paul Newman, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson, young turks Val Kilmer and Brad Pitt, or half the cast of The Firm, Reno was forced to bury his clear superiority to this film's major box-office draw and defer to the bone idle idol. Tom Cruise's approach to the acting profession seems to involve arranging things in his favour so he can play the outsider who becomes a popular hero. It's completely unfunny. I have been told that Jerry Maguire is a comedy. Eyes Wide Shut (which reunited Cruise with his missus on screen) took so long to finish that director Stanley Kubrick died making it. I'd be in a hurry to leave this world too, if I had to contemplate the sort of unwelcome public and media attention that working with Cruise inevitably brings.

Tony Lee
(editor of Pigasus Press)

For an alternative viewpoint, read Mike Philbin's article, Show Us The Money!

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