Making up for lost time after his subpar Bond, is Pierce Brosnan one role away from recognition as an actor?
Recently, Pierce Brosnan commented that his turn as the iconic James Bond was “‘never good enough”. While the millennial Bond really was subpar, the problem was more to do with unimaginative direction and lazy scriptwriting than it was to do with Brosnan’s performance as the MI6 superspy, but a wealth of poor roles in poorer films has only exacerbated the depreciation of Brosnan’s reputation as a talented actor. However, a few relatively recent gems suggest that the oft-derided Irishman is, at 60 years of age, about to enter into something of a career revival.
Brosnan brought his enigmatic The Matador character to life with a brilliant concoction of vulnerability and swagger
It’s not hard to see why Brosnan has faded rather than flourished in the period following his rather immediate elevation to mainstream popularity. To go from bit part roles and overblown action dramas to the lofty heights of 007 stardom is no mean feat – and to successfully navigate the aftermath is significantly more taxing. Following the spectacular train wreck that was Die Another Day, Brosnan dived headfirst into the forgettable likes of Laws of Attraction and After The Sunset, a throwaway romantic comedy and action film, respectively.
While Brosnan’s performances in those films were reasonably strong, the real surprise came with offbeat 2005 comedy The Matador. Highly praised by many and somewhat enjoyed by others, Brosnan’s turn as an emotionally broken assassin was unanimously hailed as his career best. Though certainly a highlight, the performance was oversold largely due to it being his most enigmatic character in some time. Still, Brosnan brought the character to life with a brilliant concoction of vulnerability and swagger that transformed a watchable film into a thoroughly entertaining one.
Then there was the 2006 revenge western, Seraphim Falls, a flawed film kept afloat by some standout acting from (most of) its cast. The film features a hugely underrated central performance from Brosnan, and one can’t help but think that, if more people had seen it, the actor’s image as the suave, charming businessman of cinema would not be so concrete. Alongside The Matador, Seraphim Falls provided Brosnan with the kind of role that he could sink his teeth into; just the sort of acting that might remedy the damage done by his days as the popular, albeit vapid, James Bond.
Despite some uninspiring casting, Brosnan’s performances have never sagged in quality
Brosnan consistently surprises with his ability to provide any given role with some level of depth or complexity – whether it’s his sleazebag antagonist in The Tailor of Panama or his disaffected father in Love Is All You Need, Brosnan usually brings something edgy to the part. It’s that talent of Brosnan’s that has been increasingly celebrated in recent years, and perhaps explains why he rues his frankly tame 007.
Sure, recent parts in Love Punch and Love Is All You Need might reek of what happens when a British actor becomes eligible for Saga holidays, but neither one is particularly awful. Actually, Love Is All You Need might be one of the only recent romantic comedies that one can truly love, and Brosnan is a delight throughout. Despite some dreary and uninspiring casting, Brosnan’s performances have never sagged in quality, and his presence and range is better than some of his roles would lead us to believe.
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Unlike fellow reconaissance-er Matthew McConaughey, Brosnan isn’t likely to be dropping 21kg for any future role. To the contrary, he looks set to stick with the kind of leads that he’s been given for years, in romantic comedies, thrillers and anything that can take advantage of that whole James Bond-meets-Mamma Mia schtick. But whereas some actors have gone from the peak of their genre into the depths of mediocre, 12A action comedies – that’s you, De Niro – Brosnan just keeps getting better with every film.
A Long Way Down might be utterly disposable, but Brosnan’s performance is evidence enough that Pierce is in his prime
Even in the tonally askew A Long Way Down, Brosnan impresses as the most able and interesting actor of the lot. He not only manages to deal with the jarring mix of tragedy and comedy, but also seems unfazed by the irritating likes of Imogen Poots and her apparently trademarked ‘kooky, effervescent Brit’ character. The film might be utterly disposable, but that performance is evidence enough that Pierce is in his prime.
Of course, it would be fantastic to see Brosnan go wild with his career, but that path just isn’t for everyone (though by jove wouldn’t it be good to see him teaming up with a director like Wes Anderson?). As it stands, Brosnan is one dramatic role away from the recognition he deserves, and while it’s too early to say whether or not the film will come, there’s little doubt that he’ll nail that particular performance, just as he has with innumerable roles in the past.
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Featured image: Lionsgate
Inset images: The Weinstein Company; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment