Sunday, February 23, 2014

Master Cast: Reign of Fire

Parts of Hollywood will be shut down starting today in preparation of the annual Academy Awards happening on Sunday, March 2nd.  Ellen Degeneres returns as host for the second time in a year dominated by nominees based on true life events like Captain Phillips, 12 Years A Slave, The Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club and American Hustle.  Nominees for Best Actor include Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey.  This is Bale's second Oscar nomination and McConaughey's first.  Bale had previously won for his wiry, crazy and shady portrayal of boxing trainer Dicky Eklund in The Fighter.  This year sees him being praised for his performance as a fat, hair piece wearing petty criminal in American Hustle.  Matthew's McConaughssaince has been building for several years as 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe and 2012's Magic Mike showed his serious and charming sides.  His performance as HIV stricken cowboy Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyers Club sees him shedding his Hollywood muscle and dropping some 40 pounds in a truly great destructive and desperate showcase.

Rewind 12 years and these two Best Actor nominees co-starred in the summer of 2002's awesome, post-apocalyptic, dragon fighting sci-fi/action romp, Reign of Fire.  Bale, fresh from his hilarious and villainous roles in American Psycho and Shaft plays Quinn Abercromby, leader of a struggling colony of survivors in the ash covered ruins outside of London.  Everyday is a struggle to feed and inspire the downtrodden community as many have lost hope and want to take their chances out in the wasteland.  One day, a small army arrives at their gates, led by McConaughey's bald, bearded and wild eyed Denton Van Zan, a dragon slayer who has rebuilt a military unit and come from America looking for the papa creature he believes to be the key in defeating the winged menace.  By now McConaughey had already made a splash with performances in Dazed and Confused, A Time To Kill and Amistad.  Genre fare hit and misses like U-571, Frailty and The Wedding Planner showed a varied if uneven career path in progress.

Director Rob Bowman wanted two strong actors in the leads who would be believable and able to carry the picture beyond it's computer enhanced spectacle.  Bale sports a mangy beard while McCon's shaved head and tattoos made him nearly unrecognizable.  Of course the two leaders butt heads as Quinn believes hunting dragons is suicide and that they're better off waiting them out.  Van Zan is eager to take back the sky and planet as he views Quinn's plan as nothing but a slow death.  While survival is the goal for both men, their opposing leadership styles eventually bring them to disagreement and blows, literally.  McConaughey admits to being overzealous in their one sided fight scene and headbutted Bale for real.  Bale, a consummate professional, took the blow and finished the scene but was plenty pissed afterwards.   Bale even punked McConaughey and asked if he was OK.  McConaughey responded, "Yeah, you mad bastard - I headbutted you!"  By the end of the film, both characters meet in the middle as they realize each of their methodology is flawed.  Teaming up, they defeat the fire breathing father and humanity's future looks to be back on track.

As if having two future Oscar nominated leading men weren't enough, Bowman's keen eye for casting also gives us Gerard Butler in a supporting role as Quinn's second in command, Creedy.  4 years later, Butler would star in massive hit 300 which would inspire a spate of imitator sword and sandal action movies while giving rise to a new style of Spartan-veined workouts.  Also along for the ride is 90's hot actress Izabella Scorupco, a former model and singer who popped up in Goldeneye and 2000's cheese/intense-tastic mountain climbing action flick, Vertical Limit ("Strap on the nitro.").  Here's hoping that Bale and McConaughey use their current pull in Hollywood to reunite in another flick as entertaining as Reign of Fire.

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