Vin Diesel's Best Movies
In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Riddick star.
5. Boiler Room
A sort of miniature blend of Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street, Ben Younger's Boiler Room looked at the seedy underbelly of the tech bubble's millionaire boom, peeking inside the price-fixing exploits of a seedy Long Island "chop shop" brokerage firm. It wasn't a big hit, and critics were fairly divided in their opinions, but it gave Diesel the opportunity to deliver a nicely understated dramatic supporting role, and with just a few more reviews from writers like the New York Times' A.O. Scott -- who said it "reflects the sensibility of the generation it holds up to critical scrutiny, and it's a cunningly ambiguous act of self-portraiture" -- Boiler Room would have a nice fresh tomato next to its title.
After shifting into a higher critical and commercial gear with Fast Five in 2011, the Fast & Furious franchise kept the pedal to the medal with Fast & Furious 6 two years later, retaining the series' new heist thriller approach (and recent cast addition Dwayne Johnson) for another round of souped-up action and automotive mayhem. While the series' sixth installment ultimately fell a few percentage points shy of its predecessor, it still went down as one of the summer of 2013's better-performing blockbusters, rolling up nearly $800 million in worldwide grosses -- along with applause from critics like Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who wrote, "It's a ripsnorting carmageddon that stylizes automotive annihilation the way John Woo used to choreograph death and destruction with guns and explosions."
3. Fast Five
Very few franchises notch critical high marks with their fifth installments, and The Fast and the Furious series -- a perennial critics' target since its debut in 2001 -- hardly seemed like a logical candidate for ever achieving Certified Fresh status. But lo and behold, that's exactly what happened in 2011, when Fast Five roared off to 77 percent on the Tomatometer (and over $625 million in worldwide grosses). So what changed? Well, it didn't hurt that Five's storyline took a "heist action" approach rather than the "street racing action drama" of previous installments, and the returning cast members (including Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, and of course Vin Diesel) benefited from the copious charisma of new addition Dwayne Johnson. Whatever the reasons, longtime Furious fans had company in critics like Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald, who called it Five "Embarrassingly fun, the sort of speedy, senseless, violence-crammed action flick that virtually defines the summer season, with superheroes who aren't gods or crusaders in tights but guys in T-shirts and jeans who can drive cars really fast."
Movies like xXx and The Pacifier make it easy to forget this, but Vin Diesel has always been more than your average action star; in fact, he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in his film debut, 1995's Strays -- and managed to have it screened at Cannes, where it attracted the attention of Steven Spielberg, who was inspired to create the role of PFC Adrian Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan specifically for Diesel. And while it wasn't the film's biggest role -- in fact, Diesel's character is the first member of the squad to be killed -- it still gave him a nice leg up from one of the biggest directors in the business, and allowed him to be a part of what James Berardinelli of ReelViews called "a singular motion picture experience."
Today, he's animation royalty, but in 1999, Brad Bird was still a relative unknown getting his first big break with a Warner Bros. feature based on Ted Hughes' 1968 children's book, The Iron Man. Commercially speaking, Giant was a less than auspicious debut -- thanks to what many saw as a misguided promotional campaign on the studio's part, the movie only managed a pitiful $23 million domestic gross -- but the adventures of young Hogarth Hughes and his imposing metal friend struck a deep chord with critics like the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro, who wrote that "animated films excel in conjuring up colorful fantasy worlds, but few evoke an actual time and place as vividly -- and playfully -- as The Iron Giant does." Diesel, of course, was the voice of the titular giant -- and lest you scoff that lending your voice to an animated robot doesn't require much in the way of actual, you know, acting, we defy you to watch the film's climactic sequence without having your heart torn out by Big Vin's delivery of one simple word: "Superman."
In case you were wondering, here are Diesel's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Saving Private Ryan -- 92%
2. Fast & Furious 6 -- 84%
3. Fast Five -- 82%
4. The Fast and the Furious -- 79%
5. The Iron Giant -- 78%
6. Pitch Black -- 76%
7. Boiler Room -- 74%
8. Fast & Furious -- 73%
9. The Chronicles of Riddick -- 69%
10. The Pacifier -- 66%
Finally, here's Diesel's acting and directorial debut -- Strays, from 1997: