Total Recall: David Morse's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Drive Angry star.
The cop thriller The Negotiator is primarily a showcase for the dramatic chops of Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey, but give director F. Gary Gray credit for refusing to skimp on the supporting cast -- he surrounded his leads with talent, including J.T. Walsh, Paul Giamatti, John Spencer, and (of course) David Morse. Starring Jackson as a police negotiator framed for embezzlement, and Spacey as the other negotiator who gets called in when Jackson's character takes hostages in a desperate bid to clear his name, this wasn't one of the year's bigger hits at the box office -- but it did impress critics like Ron Wells of Film Threat, who chuckled, "I'm glad Warner Bros. has gone back to making movies instead of theme park rides."
Like the Stephen King story that inspired it, Frank Darabont's The Green Mile is a resolutely tender film. It's underscored with an appropriate level of tension and dread, given its death row setting, not to mention the presence of nefarious characters like the psychotic prison guard Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) -- but to a large extent, it's a story about finding grace where you least expect it, and this is partly exemplified through David Morse's character, the guard Brutus "Brutal" Howell, whose violent nickname and imposing physical size belie his compassion and intelligence. The Green Mile is pretty big, too, and its 188-minute length scared off a few viewers, but most critics felt it was worth the time -- including Joe Baltake of the Sacramento Bee, who wrote, "Superior craft is something we've come to expect from modern movies, but not soul. It's the soul of this movie that's so heartening."
Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia Barcha followed his Sixth Sense-ish thriller Passengers with this quiet character study, which traces the impact of adoption through the stories of three women (played by Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, and Kerry Washington) and their families. In a supporting role, Morse joined an ensemble cast that included Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman, and Samuel L. Jackson -- a tremendously talented group whose subtle work helped critics look past Mother and Child's occasionally bumpy script. "The film reminds us that character, not plot, is what binds us to a story," observed Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Cutting between scenes of each in her unique environment, the movie tantalizes us."
2. 12 Monkeys
Even in a filmography dotted with supporting roles, Morse's appearance in 12 Monkeys isn't one of his bigger parts; in fact, ReelViews' James Berardinelli dismissed it as "hardly worth mentioning." In terms of sheer screen time, James has a point -- but it's also worth noting that Morse's character, Dr. Peters, is responsible for setting in motion the events that drive the entire storyline. Either way, 12 Monkeys was director Terry Gilliam's biggest box office hit -- and a critical high point to boot. Janet Maslin of the New York Times, for one, thought it contained some of his best work: "There's always overripe method to his madness," observed Maslin, "but in the new 12 Monkeys Mr. Gilliam's methods are uncommonly wrenching and strong."
The Hurt Locker is essentially Jeremy Renner's show, but scattered throughout his cinematic coming-out party are brief appearances by a number of familiar faces, including Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, and -- as Colonel Reed, a fellow soldier who can't help but be impressed by Renner's bravado during a confrontation with an IED-planting sniper -- the one and only David Morse. Commercially speaking, Locker suffered roughly the same dismal fate as pretty much every movie about the ongoing war in Iraq, but what it lacked in box office receipts, it made up in acclaim -- including six Academy Awards (among them Best Picture and a history-making Best Director for Kathryn Bigelow) and raves from critics like Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who observed, "Like all the best war movies -- no matter what war, what era -- The Hurt Locker goes to the core of human nature."
In case you were wondering, here are Morse's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. The Green Mile -- 93%
2. Dancer in the Dark -- 90%
3. The Rock -- 85%
4. 12 Monkeys -- 84%
5. The Hurt Locker -- 83%
6. The Indian Runner -- 78%
7. Mother and Child -- 77%
8. The Negotiator -- 76%
9. Disturbia -- 75%
10. Contact -- 74%
Finally, here's Morse in the opening credits of St. Elsewhere -- along with some other people you might have heard of: