Jon Voight's Best Movies
In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Getaway star.
Jon Voight's latest movie, this weekend's Ethan Hawke/Selena Gomez thriller Getaway, has been consigned to late August oblivion -- but well before he spent summer's dog days playing an oddly accented kidnapper, Voight earned a reputation for being one of Hollywood's more talented and hard-working actors, with an eye for scripts that would challenge the audience as well as himself. Naturally, we decided to devote this week's list to an appreciation of his best-reviewed works, so without further ado...everybody's talkin' Total Recall, Jon Voight style!
10. Coming Home
Part political statement, part slowly unfolding love triangle, Hal Ashby's Coming Home paid tribute to the nation's Vietnam vets with an often heart-wrenching drama about a VA hospital volunteer (Jane Fonda) who finds herself drawn to a paraplegic ex-GI (Voight) while her husband (Bruce Dern) is overseas fighting in the war. Both Voight and Fonda won Oscars for their work in the film, and while some critics complained about Ashby's occasional allowance for melodrama, for others, the complicated relationship between the stars' characters more than compensated for any flaws. "Thinking about the movie," reflected Roger Ebert, "we realize that men and women have been so polarized in so many films, have been made into so many varieties of sexual antagonists or lovers or rivals or other couples, that the mutual human friendship of these two characters comes as something of a revelation."
9. The General
Voight reunited with Deliverance director John Boorman for 1998's The General, starring Brendan Gleeson as notorious Irish crime boss Martin Cahill, whose life of ruthless crime -- and eventual assassination -- serve as the grist for a grimly compelling black-and-white drama whose stark verisimilitude was no doubt aided by the fact that Boorman himself was once a victim of Cahill's string of burglaries. A Cannes favorite, The General wasn't much of a box office draw in the States, in spite of Boorman's pedigree and a cast that included Voight as a police inspector with a link to Cahill -- not to mention reviews from critics like Time Out's Geoff Andrew, who observed, "All the performances are impressive, but Gleeson and Voight are especially memorable, lending an almost tragic air of inexorability to Cahill and Kenny's cat-and-mouse games."
It takes some serious chutzpah to remake a movie as well-received as The Manchurian Candidate, but director Jonathan Demme was no rookie by the time he got around to putting together his own adaptation of the Richard Condon novel in 2004 -- and he was aided and abetted by a terrific cast that included Denzel Washington as war hero Ben Marco, Meryl Streep as a senator who's pushing her son (Liev Schreiber) -- who was also one of Marco's officers -- into a political career, and Voight as a potential vice-presidential candidate whose ambitions make him an obstacle to her plans. Manchurian's 1962 film adaptation proved an eerily timely political thriller, and the passage of time (as well as a handful of storyline changes) did nothing to dull its edge; as David Edelstein wrote for Slate, "Beautifully made and unsurpassingly creepy, it's the rare remake with something contemporary to add."
The idea of a director as accomplished as Francis Ford Coppola bringing his talent to bear on an adaptation of a John Grisham novel might seem offensive to some cineastes, but at least in the case of 1997's The Rainmaker, it proved a match made in critical heaven. Matt Damon stars here as Rudy Baylor, a young and (at least temporarily) naive law school grad who ends up filing a lawsuit against a shady insurance company, and he's in very good company, surrounded by a supporting cast that includes Voight (as the slimy opposing counsel), Danny DeVito, Roy Scheider, Mickey Rourke, and Claire Danes. Critics might have gone in expecting something that would live down to Grisham's lowbrow reputation, but they came away pleasantly surprised -- as Madeleine Williams of Cinematter observed, "With numerous entertaining subplots, plenty of well thought-out characters, brought to life by talented actors, and an invigorating trial, what more do you want from a Grisham film?"
Director John Singleton snapped a critical dry spell with 1997's Rosewood, a harrowing dramatization of 1923's shameful Rosewood massacre, during which the residents of a primarily black Florida town were attacked by whites from a neighboring city, setting off days of horrific racial violence that culminated in Rosewood's total abandonment. It's the kind of episode any country would rather forget -- and forget it most Americans did, for decades. Rosewood capped a 15-year period when the tragedy was rediscovered, first by journalists, then finally by the politicians who authorized reparations for its survivors. Starring Don Cheadle as a kind-hearted music teacher, Ving Rhames as a stranger whose arrival galvanizes white fear, and Voight as one of Rosewood's few white residents, the movie resonated with critics like Jose Martinez of Boxoffice Magazine, who wrote, "Comparisons to today's society can't help but be made while watching Rosewood; although moviegoers might wish to leave the theatre thinking we are living in a better time, they might not be able to."