Monday, 7 September 2009
What makes a great screen actor? In the essentials column would be the ability to communicate verbally, and spatially, the given tone of the scenes in which their characters exists. An actor is the most obvious means of dialogue between filmmakers and their audience. If an actor is off-message, it can confuse intentions. Frequently, it's as much what an actor chooses not to do. A well timed pause, or a silent stare can mean more than any length of dialogue. This also entrusts the audience with a degree of contribution. Just what is the character thinking?
With this in mind, how great is Arnold Schwarzenegger? He does nothing. As the first explicit entry in Schwarzenegger's crossover brand of comedy slash action, Red Heat utilises Arnold as a blank-faced non-reaction to Jim Belushi's incessant crudities. Typically Belushi will spew a venal little insight requiring Schwarzenegger to just stare impassively. It's a back and forth that casts Belushi as the comedian and Schwarzenegger as the straight man.
Unfortunately for Belushi, a silent, still Schwarzenegger is automatically just as hilarious as anything that can be said. His impossible symmetry is accentuated by a too-tall flat-top hairstyle; bulging biceps barely concealed within a cheap, lank suit. Schwarzenegger looks like some absurd manga muscle bomb character - all alert veins and blaring, psychotic eyes. In this context, monosyllabic responses become symphonies of blunt comic misdirection. The dialogue in Red Heat has an air of improvisation, conversations digress and ramble in and out of scenes. Belushi and Schwarzenegger fiercely competing for the last laugh. Belushi rarely wins. How can he? All Arnold has to do is stare straight ahead and say 'No'.