His IMDB page may still call him “one of Ireland’s best rising stars” but in my opinion, Colin Farrell is one of the most entertaining actors working today. His roots were those of many an actor, playing an uncredited role of Young Man In Cinema No. 2. These roots have blossomed into a vast and varied career for which he doesn’t always receive enough credit. Farrell is much more than the pissed-off Irishman that many see him as.
After being a recurring character in Ballykissangel, Farrell’s big break came in his first collaboration with acclaimed director Joel Schumacher. Schumacher placed a fresh-faced Farrell as the film’s lead, as a Private Class member of the US infantry in their last training stop before Vietnam. The film received rave critical reviews for its gritty nature, setting itself apart from Apocalypse Now and Platoon, whilst Farrell’s raw performance gave audiences a glimpse of the young actor’s potential.
Tigerland launched Farrell’s career to the stars, but it was another production with Schumacher which cemented him as a true talent. Having worked alongside powerful lead actors such as Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise since Tigerland, Farrell was at home in a film that is essentially a one-man show. Phonebooth’s revolutionary style placed a lot of pressure on Farrell’s inexperienced shoulders. The vast majority of the film’s attention and camerawork is on Farrell alone, and its success in producing a special piece of cinema is not simply down to the excellent direction. Farrell’s physical deterioration reflects the inner meltdown he is facing at the hands of an unknown caller and the skill and reality which his performance emanates is amazing. His performance ensured I was wholly gripped and is more than simply part of the reason Phonebooth should be regarded as a modern classic.
This, however, has been the height of his critical success. After the resounding triumph of Phonebooth, Farrell’s career took a critically average turn. For a space of five years, Farrell was a commercial success. He worked with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Al Pacino, and Jamie Foxx among others and in some big budget productions, such as the lead role in Oliver Stone’s Roman epic Alexander, which was rumoured to have a budget in excess of $150,000,000. Most of the films he made in this period were given mixed receptions, and none more so than his foray into the world of Marvel. Daredevil was unable to recreate the critical successes of X-Men and Spiderman, as the film’s arch was heavily criticised. Ben Affleck, whilst now criticised for his performance, was in my opinion a worthy Daredevil and his co-lead Jennifer Garner earned herself a spin-off flick, Electra. Farrell put in a very intriguing take on the classic Marvel villain Bullseye, and whereas I like to praise him for his role in the picture, others have largely overlooked his role due to the film’s poor action and the presence of a larger villain in the picture.
In Bruges (2008)
Farrell’s fortune took a sharp critical spike in 2008, after taking the lead in director Martin McDonagh’s debut feature. In a dark, brash and very Irish picture, Farrell plays an unorthodox hitman. He is no ruthless, power-driven murderer but a young man trying his hand at the profession and having trouble with it. Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson complete the trio and have a level of comedic and emotional chemistry rarely seen in a film of this manner. The respect shown between the three men is a fresh take on the aged profession and Farrell’s inner turmoil is a sharp hark back to his earlier work. In Bruges is the best movie of its kind and rightly placed Farrell back at the summit of his craft.
Seven Psychopaths (2012)
In Bruges saw a mild rise in the fortunes of Farrell’s next films, as he starred in the critically acclaimed Crazy Heart and as a ‘tool’ in the hit Horrible Bosses, before taking roles in two disappointing revamps; Fright Night and Total Recall. His career hit another high as he recreated some of the successes of In Bruges in Martin McDonagh’s second feature film. Seven Psychopaths is a film in the same vein as In Bruges, but is taken in a lighter tone. Colin Farrell plays another troubled man, a screenplay writer down on his fortunes. Another stellar cast lights up this McDonagh pic, with Walken, Harrelson and Rockwell completing the formidable troupe. Another hilarious and outrageous picture is made in a way only McDonagh can, and rounded off by acting in the manner only Farrell can.
True Detective (2015)
And that brings us to the present. Farrell has kept occupied with action smash Dead Man Down, kids flick Epic and a stand-out performance in Disney’s Saving Mr Banks, but will take his career back onto the small screen this coming year. Squaring off with Vince Vaughn in the sequel to the excellent series that re-established the McConaissaince, Farrell will have to put in a different set of performances to those we have seen of late. However, he is more than capable of doing so and in my opinion, should be an inspired choice to take HBO’s newest success in a whole new direction.