Total Recall: Matt Dillon's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Takers star.
For a lot of teen idols, all that screaming adulation is a one-way ticket to oblivion -- but it can also be the first step in a long career. A case in point: Matt Dillon, who suffered his share of professional setbacks after rising to glowering fame in films such as The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, only to re-emerge at the end of the '80s as a versatile actor with dramatic depth (Drugstore Cowboy) to match his gift for comedy (There?s Something About Mary). With Dillon appearing in Takers this weekend, we thought now would be a great time to revisit some of the many critical highlights from his three-decade film career. (Notable exception: 2008's Nothing But the Truth, which sits at a healthy 78 percent on the Tomatometer, but missed a theatrical release due to its distributor's financial woes.) It's time for another round of Total Recall!
Before it was one of the most hotly contested Best Picture winners in recent Oscars history, Paul Haggis' Crash united an eyebrow-raising ensemble cast (including Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton, Brendan Fraser, and Ludacris, to name a few) to explore modern American race relations. Unsettling, often violent, and told using the multi-narrative style that was in vogue at the time, Crash was eventually accused of everything from being undeserving of its Oscars to perpetuating negative racial stereotypes -- but its willingness to address oft-neglected issues impressed critics like Eye for Film's Anton Bitel, who called it "a searingly powerful, at times transcendent, examination of a nation's culture, alienated from -- and afraid of -- itself."
As far back as the 1990s, Dillon started dividing his time between mainstream titles and independent pictures, and his projects during 2005-06 are a case in point -- in between making Herbie: Fully Loaded and You, Me and Dupree, Dillon turned in critically lauded performances in Crash and Factotum. Adapted from the Charles Bukowski novel, this Bent Hamer production follows Bukowski's hard-drinking alter ego Henry Chinaski (played by Dillon) as he tries to make it as a writer and half-heartedly pursues a relationship with a fellow alcoholic (played by Lili Taylor). Crash got all the awards, but Factotum was more of a showcase for Dillon's maturing gifts -- as Tom Meek wrote for the Boston Phoenix, "The entire production hangs on Dillon, but he's up to the task, serving up Hank's heart with bottom-of-the-barrel bravado."
With Ted Demme behind the cameras, a script by Scott Rosenberg (High Fidelity), and a stellar ensemble cast that included Dillon, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman, Mira Sorvino, and Timothy Hutton, how did Beautiful Girls end up grossing less than $11 million at the box office? Chalk it up to another of life's mysteries, but don't miss this tenderly drawn portrait of a group of friends grappling with the twilight of their 20s in a small Midwestern town. Though critics were quick to point out that dialogue-heavy films about maturity-fearing young adults weren't exactly novel, particularly during the mid 1990s, most reviews echoed the sentiments of Empire's Darren Bignell, who wrote, "This film really succeeds with its warm treatment of ordinary hang-ups -- no life-shattering revelations or pain repressed since childhood, just the genuine, everyday trials of life."
Dillon celebrated the flannelriffic early 1990s by growing his hair out and sporting a soul patch for Cameron Crowe's Singles, a Seattle-set, grunge-fueled look at the romantic entanglements of a group of Seattle twentysomethings. (If it sounds like a West Coast version of a certain long-running sitcom, there's a reason: NBC's foiled attempt to turn Singles into a series resulted in Friends.) Here, Dillon plays Cliff Poncier, the brooding frontman of Seattle band Citizen Dick (played by future members of Pearl Jam), whose relationship with Bridget Fonda's character acts as a counterpoint to the commitment struggles of another couple (played by Kyra Sedgwick and Campbell Scott). Released just as grunge artists were really starting to dominate the charts, Singles was more of a soundtrack phenomenon than a box office hit, but it found favor with most critics -- including Kevin N. Laforest of the Montreal Film Journal, who wrote, "Brilliant dialogue, killer musical cues and hilarious comic beats. It made me happy, it made me cry... Right movie, right time."
Dillon followed his turn as the unctuous bully in My Bodyguard with the title role in Tim Hunter's adaptation of the S.E. Hinton novel Tex -- a character described in the synopsis as "sweet" and "slightly dim." Critics were also pretty sweet on this Disney-distributed coming-of-age story, which follows the young McCormick brothers (played by Dillon and Jim Metzler) as they struggle to move on with their lives following the death of their mother and their abandonment by their father; as Roger Ebert summed it up in his review, "There is a shock of recognition almost from the beginning of Tex, because we're listening to the sound of American voices in an authentically American world."