I have a soft heart for action films.
There, I said it, but can you blame me? I grew up on the works of Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. The first movie I honestly remember seeing was Lethal Weapon 2.
And one can only surmise that's when it started. But upon talking with my brother this past weekend, it dawned on me once more—Mel Gibson isn't that bad. And three of his late-career films have proved that he is, in fact, pretty damn amazing.
Especially at the whole crazy bit.
1. Conspiracy Theory (1997)
This mystery/suspense film was a bridge for Richard Donner and Gibson. They had hooked up, of course, on all of the Lethal Weapon movies. And if one were to judge a movie by it's poster, this one seemed to be a bridge of sorts for all involved. A bridge for Donner waiting for the guys at Warner to finish the script for Lethal Weapon 4 (aka, the one with Jet Li). A bridge for Roberts waiting for the next Garry Marshall production.
But Gibson chews up the screen as the pop-eyed taxicab driver who "pointlessly" and neurotically thinks of government schemes and buys copies of The Catcher in the Rye.
Conspiracy Theory is probably the darkest film Gibson or Donner were a part of back in 1997. The lighting crew on this one used two settings—crimson and black. And Patrick Stewart does his best evil grimace.
It isn't hard to notice that this film is way out of Donner's league. That guy is best when he's making buddy movies. Hell, even 16 Blocks wasn't bad. But this one, it's pretty damn passable. If only for the fact that Gibson does the OCD bit almost better than Jack Nicholson in As Good As it Gets.
2. Payback (1999)
Before Tarantino killed Bill, Gibson and the writer of L.A. Confidential, Brian Helgeland, were fighting each other over which version of this pre-millennium gem audiences would see.
Payback is a revenge flick. It's title says exactly what Gibson's Porter will do—he will payback all those people that tried to kill him. But Porter does this in the most gruesome ways.
This is Eli Roth-type stuff, before Eli Roth ever thought of writing it down.
But this isn't Hostel. No, this is badass. Gibson uses this movie to mutter and mope around like an estranged cousin of Clint Eastwood. And he fights none other than Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Gibson doesn't take no damned prisoners. He just wants his slim share of money.
If anyone were to write a film essay on the thesis "violence begets violence," this movie would hold its rightful place in that novel. But I have a feeling naming the flick, Killing Spree, wouldn't have got many Lethal Weapon fans in the theatre.
3. Ransom (1996)
I was roughly nine years old when this movie was released. In this movie, Gibson was on the last leg of his popularity, re-teaming with Rene Russo to create a drama about a kidnapping gone wrong.
This movie was a solidified hit when the trailer ran. Ron Howard was running off the fumes of the magical Apollo 13. Gary Sinese was earning his title as one of the best supporting actors in the business with turns in Apollo 13 and Forrest Gump.
Ransom earned Gibson a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of millionaire Tom Mullen. The film is worth watching just for his stellar TV-spot he does with a pile of money, asking the kidnappers to give him his child back.
In no way does this mean Mel Gibson should be categorized as a saint. He's not the best actor in the world. He's pulled some ludicrous stunts as well.
And these movies, they aren't perfect. Some might call them merely guilty pleasures. To me, they hint at something more.
Here's to hoping Gibson quits the detective schtick and comes back with something along these lines.