Benicio Del Toro: 4 of His Best Movie Roles
Benicio Del Toro is perhaps best known for his immersive acting and strong supporting roles in films such as Che, Sin City, The Wolfman, and the Oliver Stone film, Savages. Del Toro, 48, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and also has Spanish citizenship, which was granted in 2011 based upon his work and his Spanish roots.
The actor has been in the news of late, because he has been attached to Star Wars Episode VIII. Del Toro is slated to play the film’s villain. In a recent CinemaBlend article, Eric Eisenberg wrote that while promoting his latest film, A Perfect Day, Del Toro visited the Spanish radio station RAC 1 and spoke about his upcoming work. He then broke into minor details about his role in Star Wars Episode VIII, saying that filming will begin in March. Then, according to a translation by StarWars7News, Del Toro said, “Ehhh… The thing is… They don’t let me talk too much about it, I’m like the villain.”
With Del Toro due to join the Star War universe, the juices started flowing and The Cheat Sheet began to think about four of Del Toro’s other noteworthy roles. The ‘results,’ if you will, are what follows.
1. 21 Grams (2003)
The first film is 21 Grams from 2003, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. It is a non-linear story with three main characters that intricately weaves together drama and heartbreak. Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is given a heart from Cristina Peck’s husband, who is killed, along with Peck’s daughters, in a hit-and-run caused by Jack Jordan (Del Toro). The characters do not know one another, yet as Rivers searches for the source of his heart, he grows close to the donor’s wife (Watts), which leads him to Del Toro’s character, who is dejected and struggling to find a reason to live.
In this film, Del Toro’s character, a former drug addict, alcoholic and convict, is instrumental to the plot ‘tightening’ that Iñárritu builds toward, and the Puerto Rican actor is committed, persuasive and ‘perfectly’ despondent.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film is certified fresh at 80 percent. The consensus reads, “Alejandro González Iñárritu deftly weaves an uncommonly structured narrative with panache in 21 Grams, a stylish, haunting drama full of fine performances.”
(The title refers to the peer-reviewed 20th century research by Dr. Duncan MacDougall, who attempted to connect weight loss at death to the departure of the immortal human soul.)
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam’s 1998 film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the drug-infused, aesthetically-driven film about Raoul Duke (Johnny Depp) and Dr. Gonzo’s (Benicio Del Toro) trip to Las Vegas. Duke is a reporter covering the Mint 400 motorcycle race, and Dr. Gonzo, his attorney, accompanies him to Las Vegas.
Fear and Loathing pulls no punches and is a roller-coaster ride and crash course commentary on the depths of a drug trip. Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s roman a clef novel of the same name, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas may be difficult to comprehend, for what little plot there is gets overshadowed by a lizard orgy, and even a vision Duke has of a fiery battlefield (among other phantasms).
This is not a particularly refined, artistic showcase for Del Toro, but it is hard to make the argument that it was not fun to adapt Thompson’s novel to the screen. The film is considered “rotten” on the Tomatometer, although 90 percent of audiences rated it favorably. The consensus reads, “Visually creative, but also aimless, repetitive, and devoid of character development.”
3. The Usual Suspects (1995)
Bryan Singer’s 1995 film, The Usual Suspects, is the next film to consider. Although Del Toro’s role is small, and he is for the most part carried off the screen in a hurry — with no shortage of carnage — it is still tough to ignore this film. Now 20 years old, it is still considered one of the best crime films of all time on IMDb, and it is said to have one of the most abrupt yet admirably executed plot twists of any Hollywood film.
Made on a $6 million budget, The Usual Suspects is now something of a cult classic, and Del Toro’s role in that is unorthodox; or, even one of cowardice, one could argue (for his character bails on the group of ragtag thieves, and is swiftly ‘dealt with’).
“Garykmcd,” in a finely-tuned synopsis on IMDb, writes: “After a number of people are killed and a cargo ship set on fire, Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint is questioned by U.S. Customs Agent Dave Kujan. Reluctant at first, Verbal begins to tell them what happened starting with when he met four men, all criminals, sharing a holding cell for a few hours. Together, they join forces to successfully hijack a jewel shipment and head to Los Angeles to lay low. There they are contacted by a lawyer, Kobayashi, representing the much-feared international criminal Kayser Sose who wants them to do a job for him. The result is the attack on the cargo ship. Verbal refuses to give evidence in the case and is set free. Only then does Kujan realize what’s really happened.”
The film is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with an 88 percent rating. Ninety-six percent of audiences rated it favorably. In The Usual Suspects, director Singer uses the at-times risky tactic of flashback quite nicely. That, coupled with an alarmingly lively cast, makes Suspects a ton of fun. It also stars: Gabriel Byrne as Keaton, Stephen Baldwin as McManus, Kevin Pollak as Hockney, Chazz Palminteri as Dave Kujan, and Kevin Spacey as “Verbal.”
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The last film to flesh out here today is a more current role for Del Toro, and one that crossed over into two separate movies, both of which are a part of MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe). The role is Taneleer Tivan; he’s better known as “The Collector.” The two movies are Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy.
The latter film, a box office smash hit ($774.2 million), features Del Toro in a more vulnerable, fresher sense. Taneleer/’The Collector’ shows a new group of unlikely heroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy, an orb and eventually the Infinity Stone inside, in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
The following is a concise plot synopsis written by Jonathan Harrison on IMDb: “After discovering a mysterious orb in another part of the galaxy, Peter Quill from Earth, is now the main target of a manhunt led by the genocidal villain Ronan the Accuser. Being hunted across the galaxy, Quill gets lumped together with a group of misfits that need to learn how to get along before they can become the “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
The film is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, holding a 91 percent rating among critics. The consensus reads, “Guardians of the Galaxy is just as irreverent as fans of the frequently zany Marvel comic would expect — as well as funny, thrilling, full of heart, and packed with visual splendor.” As for Del Toro, his role is minor, but his character is colorful, his appearance quite avant-garde (almost like Hannibal Chau in Pacific Rim). Altogether, he is just an agreeable character in a movie that lumps together inquisitive, adventurous people — and other beings — from across the galaxy.
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