Total Recall: Ed Harris's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Man on a Ledge star.
A prolific character actor with leading-man chops and four Oscar nominations under his belt, Ed Harris has been entertaining audiences for decades -- so when we saw his name in the credits for Man on a Ledge, we knew exactly what we needed to do with this week's list. From supporting parts to leading roles, from action to comedy to drama, Harris has done just about everything -- and done it well. The Tomatometer agrees, giving us a top 10 that bottoms out at an impressive 87 percent. Which of your favorites made the cut? It's time to find out, Total Recall style!
Can a life of violence ever really be left behind? Does a person who has committed violent acts deserve the chance to move beyond them -- even if he's tried to atone for his past? In his tense, gory adaptation of John Wagner and Vince Locke's A History of Violence, David Cronenberg asks these questions and comes away with a handful of suitably ambiguous answers -- but not before pitting seemingly ordinary restaurant owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) against a mobster (Ed Harris) who claims he has arrived to collect a debt from Stall's surprisingly shady past. "It's rare to find a filmmaker who can deliver such a message and keep us riveted every minute of screen time," wrote Bill Muller of the Arizona Republic. "But Cronenberg manages it, making A History of Violence one of his best, and most realistic, films ever."
9. The Abyss
1989's underwater epic The Abyss required the construction of the world's biggest tank of filtered fresh water, as well as newly designed watertight cameras and bleeding-edge special effects work from Industrial Light & Magic. It also required a lot of patience on the part of its cast (including Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, both of whom suffered emotional breakdowns during the grueling six-month shoot) and crew (including director James Cameron, who spent hours at a time under 50 feet of water) -- and the studio had its own cross to bear, enduring millions of dollars in cost overruns and weeks of delays. In the end, The Abyss wasn't as profitable as Cameron's other epics, only bringing in around $90 million against a $70 million budget, but critics were generally kind, particularly to the longer version that eventually surfaced on home video (Widgett Walls of Needcoffee.com called the theatrical release "an abomination" and wrote, "For God's sake, make sure you have the director's cut").
8. Swing Shift
It endured an infamously bumpy production period -- during which stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell went over Jonathan Demme's head to arrange edits and reshoots with a different director -- but even if Swing Shift didn't end up fulfilling Demme's original vision, critics still felt it effectively told the story of a war bride (Hawn) who enters the workforce (and starts an affair) during WWII while her husband (Harris) is overseas. Although more than a few viewers have taken issue with its soft-focused treatment of adultery, the picture's rich detail and well-written script impressed writers like Filmcritic's Pete Croatto, who observed, "Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson could learn a few things watching this. Or maybe they already have."
7. Sweet Dreams
Although it was roundly criticized for taking liberties with the facts of its subject's brief, fascinating life, the Patsy Cline biopic Sweet Dreams makes for a solidly compelling -- if at times frustratingly inaccurate -- film about the country star's (played by Jessica Lange) early years, short career, and tragic death, as well as her tumultuous marriage to the unfortunately named Charlie Dick (Harris). Earning Lange a Best Actress nomination for her work, Dreams won praise from critics like Time Out's Geoff Andrews, who wrote, "The two main performances are excellent: Lange plays the singer without a hint of condescension to her dreams of 'a big house with yellow roses', while Harris is persuasively menacing, with an inventively foul mouth."
Ben Affleck made his directorial debut with this pitch-black thriller, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel about a private investigator (Casey Affleck) who finds himself mixed up in the exceedingly shady case of a kidnapped girl. As he works with the cops (including Harris and Morgan Freeman) and his girlfriend/partner (Michelle Monaghan), it becomes clear that things are not what they seem. It's a basic framework that pretty much any filmgoer will be familiar with, but in Affleck's hands, Gone Baby Gone came alive; as Bruce Westbrook wrote for the Houston Chronicle, "A love-tolerate valentine to the city, it feels more real than the gangster-gorged mean streets of Martin Scorsese's The Departed, and just as tortured as Clint Eastwood's Mystic River."