What the World Needs Now: A Vin Diesel Comeback
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 16, 2008
“The things I’m gonna do for my country…”
So that preview up there…it doesn’t look too great, does it? I mean, sure, it’s got the Requiem for a Dream music, but that’s quickly joining the ranks of Sia’s “Breathe Me” and Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” of music so emotionally manipulative that using it to sell a sub-par product is just straight up cheating. And while admittedly the plot skeletons of just about all sci-fi movies sound ridiculous when written out, observe the Wiki summary:
In the near future, Toorop (Vin Diesel) is a mercenary who takes the job of escorting a woman from Eastern Europe to New York. While he thinks this is just an ordinary mission, he gradually finds out that his guest is carrying an organism that has the potential to become the next Messiah — and everybody wants to get their hands on it.
Hachi machi. Plus, it doesn’t really seem like Vinny’s heart is in it, does it? Especially in that exchange guaranteed to be an classic ’08 preview quote along the lines of 21‘s “Don’t call me dude!”:
Chick: “Are you a killer, Mr. Toorop?”
Dees: “Yes. Now please. Get in the car.”
Actually, it’s been a while since there was anything involving Vin Diesel that was really worth getting excited about, and to me, that’s really sort of a shame. He started out promisingly enough a decade ago, with his scene-stealing roles in Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room, but truly came into his own a few years later as an action hero in The Fast and the Furious and XXX. The movies were far from critically acclaimed, but they were commercial blockbusters, and more importantly, they felt like something new in a relatively stagnant genre–high-octane, street-level action; socially rebellious (key line from XXX: “Dude, you have a bazooka. Stop thinking Prague Police and start thinking Playstation. Blow shit up!“) but not socially irresponsible (The Dees doesn’t smoke, drink or do drugs on screen). Working with director Rob Cohen on both flicks, the combo looked like they could go on to be the Schwarzeneggar and Cameron (or at least Schwarz/McTiernan) for a new generation.
But something got lost along the golden path. Despite his clear limitations as an actor outside a very narrow subset of film types, Diesel appeared bothered by the idea of typecasting, and turned down roles in franchise sequels 2 Fast 2 Furious and XXX: State of the Union. However, he did think it wise to reprise his Pitch Black role in The Chronicles of Riddick, which would go on to be one of the least successful movies of the decade. He’d rebound commercially with kiddie comedy The Pacifier, but his cred was ruined, and by the time of his attempted Serious Breakthrough in Sidney Lumet’s Find Me Guilty, no one was particularly interested (the movie was confusingly uncompelling, anyway).
In the meantime, no one’s really stepped up to carry the torch as Action Star of the Decade. Jason Statham certainly has the resume to lay claim to being the closest thing (The Italian Job, The Bank Job, Crank, Transporters 1 &2, Cellular, even certain scenes in bizarro drama London), and is a certified film badass if ever there was one, but he doesn’t have the kind of marquee star power, that ability to sell a movie based solely on his presence, that Dees could’ve had if he had stayed on the straight and narrow. Instead, most of the great action movies of recent years have been turned over to more everyman types like Matt Damon and Colin Farrell, actors who certainly serve their roles and movies well, but just don’t have that kind of singular brute force awesomeness to them.
We need him back. Sure, he’s starting to get on in years a bit, but he’s still younger than Arnie was when he made Total Recall and T2, and the good thing about most true action heroes is that since they were never particularly good looking to begin with, they just look tougher and less forgiving as they get older. I don’t think Babylon A.D. is going to be the movie to do it, but at least Vinny seems to have finally come to the realization that being Pacino just isn’t in the cards for him. Even more encouragingly, Vin’s announced plans to appear in yet another The Fast and the Furious installment, simply called Fast and Furious, as a sequel to the first movie but a prequel to the Dees-less 2 Fast–also featuring return appearances from Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, and even the relatively useless Jordanna Brewster for good measure. The world is once again ready, and the return seems imminent.
It better be, anyway–the clock is ticking on the 00s, and if he doesn’t make it back by the time the decade runs out, I think he’s more or less doomed to permanent relic status. C’mon, Vinny, do you want to be Lil’ Wayne, or do you want to be Lil’ Romeo? The time is now.