Film Bitch History
Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.

Powered by Squarespace
Don't Miss This!

Big Little Lies - first two episodes reviewed

Comment Fun

New Classics: 20th Century Women

"I watched this movie on plane and was so moved by it. By its intelligence, its voice, the way it said, showed and layered its elements and ideas..." -KD

"I made a promise to myself to rewatch this movie once a year to remind myself how much I adore intelligent movie making..." -Martin

Keep TFE Strong

We're looking for 500... no 461 Patron SaintsIf you read us daily, please be one.  Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience



Ritesh Batra on Photograph


Daniel Schmidt and Gabriel Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)
Christian Petzoldt (Transit)
Richard E Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)
Toni Collette (Hereditary)
Glenn Close (The Wife)

What'cha Looking For?
« Genie Awards: It's "Incendies" and the Red Carpet | Main | you will have a thousand affairs... »

Take Three: Anthony Mackie

Craig here with Take Three, a weekly look at a character/supporting actor's career through three movies. Today: Anthony Mackie. Mackie’s had a sprinkling of leads so far (Spike Lee’s controversial She Hate Me, the period drama Night Catches Us, and the upcoming biopic Bolden!), and he’ll undoubtedly get a star-making role of his own someday soon. But in the meantime he’s working hard to create a still very-much-on-the-rise profile as an exemplary supporting player in a variety of fine films.

Take One: Half Nelson (2006)
Mackie puts in a vital sincere performance in 2006 indie drama Half Nelson. He’s Frank, a former friend of Drey’s (Shareeka Epps) jailed brother and a Brooklyn drug dealer, who is intent on dragging Drey into his orbit as a local drug mule. That's an idea that her teacher Dan (Ryan Gosling) takes umbrage with, especially in one riveting scene where Dan confronts Frank on the street, warning him to leave her alone. Mackie avoids the overplayed clichés in portraying drug dealers on screen. He’s calm, charming and actually feels he’s helping by keeping Drey near. He wins Dan around, in a way, too. He’s just someone making his way, just like everyone else in Ryan Fleck’s sombre, thoughtful film.

It’s Gosling’s film, obviously, and he’s great in it. But Mackie adds the kind of concrete support that's essential to the emotionally intricate structured character dramas. Frank is as key to Drey’s understanding and growth as Dan is, just in a different, more dubious way. The regard evident in Frank’s demeanour throughout suggests a tricky back-story to their friendship. It’s an essential detail for our understanding of the story, too. 

Take Two
: The Hurt Locker (2009)
There’s a trio of solid actors dominating Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winner The Hurt Locker. Leading from the front is lead Jeremy Renner as reckless firebrand Sergeant William James. Backing up his ostensible one-man deactivation outfit two up-and-coming actors, Bryan Geraghty as Specialist Owen Eldridge and Mackie as Sergeant J. T. Sanborn. All three are making waves in the film world (twice Oscar-nominated Renner is the best known); their respective roles added exposure and gravitas to their résumés. Mackie was subtly commanding in the film as the operation leader, trying desperately to keep everthing running smooth and fine-tuned whilst maintaining a clear head.

Though it initially seemed that he'd be merely an antagonistic presence for Renner’s vented spleen, Mackie is so persuasive that he is never merely a guide and an obvious audience identification figure. He makes Sanborn the guy we trust to interpret for us the searing heat, hurt and hellishness of modern-day warfare. He transferred to the audience a measured perspective on it all; not the kinetic, compulsive thrill – is that the right word? – of it all (Renner owned that), but the responsibility, the discursive aspect and the drudgery, the stifled panic – the things that aren’t always first on the list of desired attributes for a sergeant in a war film. Mackie was, in a small way, quite revelatory. His presence cemented the film for me as much more firmly thought-provoking for a long period after I saw it.

Take Three
: The Adjustment Bureau (2010)
In The Adjustment Bureau (now playing) Mackie looks just fine in a snazzy hat and trench coat combo – dashing through illogically mind-bending doorways across a rain-drenched New York. I’ll hold off on suggesting he’s Matt Damon and Emily Blunt’s personal guardian angel, as some reviews have offered up, as this seems to stretch the point a bit. But who this mysterious bureau “employee” Harry Mitchell is is left teasingly open. But he’s more a bespoke Deep Throat, an anonymous Mr. X silently assisting our political-wannabe hero in his time-loop of need. Harry can do crazy-mad magic sci-fi stuff like, er, tip coffee on people on buses and, um, creep up on you during wet weather. Ok, so he may be the least dynamic otherworldly entity currently on our screens -- a low-fi sci-fi shy guy --  and he may inexplicably fall asleep on park benches (thus, rather oddly, setting in motion the entire film’s plot), but Mackie more than makes up for it for the duration of Bureau’s running time. And I do mean its running time.

It’s a shame that Mackie is temporarily replaced halfway through by Terence Stamp as the dominating shadowy figure intent on giving Damon a run for his money. (Mackie is the best casting in the film and it rankles when he’s sidelined.) He disappears for a large chunk of the action, but there’s a game amiability to his performance. As an actor he pays keen attention to what makes such workaday genre hybrids as this tick. He plays his part amid the inscrutable daftness finely.

His appearance also makes you wonder: what if he had been cast as the hero? Isn’t it about time Mackie was upgraded to leading man? Move over Matt, Mackie’s next in line for star status.

Three more key films for the taking: She Hate Me (2004), Freedomland (2006), Night Catches Us (2010)

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (11)

He is definitely ready for a prime lead gig. It seems so odd that it hasn't really happened. Black Actresses have always had it rough but after the 90s and super stardom for Denzel Washington, Will Smith and Samuel L Jackson and others it didn't seem like the current crop of young black actors would be having such trouble.

maybe the right guy hasn't come along but still... it'd be nice to see what Mackie could do with more "star" opportunity.

March 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

The thing is unlike white actors (or maybe exactly like all types of actors, honestly), there's only so many roles for a certain type of actor and since Hollywood isn't know for gambling, they stick with the tride and true stars they know can open a film (Denzel, Will Smith, etc.). Unfortunately, Mackie has yet to prove himself in that area and since they'll never be a buffet of roles for actors of color, he's gonna have to really fight for that breakout role. He'll definitely get it but it won't be easy and it won't be as soon as it should be.

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Armour

He's screaming leading man status that he'll have to fight to get. Sad. Honestly he might have to go the television route to get the success that he deserves. And if you want to see Anthony Mackie really shine, check out "Brother to Brother."

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLenny

Wasn't he also in a movie about Scottsboro, the event that "The Kill a Mickingbird" is based on?

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo

I think we're all forgetting the important fact that he is very very handsome.

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeRightBack

Little fun fact, this guy has two Best Pictures in his resumé. Besides The Hurt Locker, he was also in Milion Dollar Baby (remember Shawrelle, the guy who kept taunting Danger and whom Scrap described as having a heart the size of a split-pea). He's a great actor, and I would love to see what else he's going to do. I loved your description of his performance in Half Nelson. I haven't seen the film in a while, but I feel I need to nowjust to admire Mackie's performance.

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

I saw him play Pentius in that really awful Shakespeare in the Park Production of The Bacchae. He was great nd looked really sexy in a dress!!

March 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChris Na Taraja

@Nathaniel: My friends and I have always said that it seems as though the industry doesn't want several prominent actors of color at once, so I guess Mackie has to wait until the current crop falls into oblivion. It's unfortunate, but there definitely seems to be some type of glass ceiling affecting black actors and actresses lately. They either have to take lead roles in predominantly black films or supporting ones in major-studio fare.

March 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H

Chris -- i saw that one too. I didn't hate it as much as everyone else but mostly that was because i liked watching Jonathan Groff and Mackie do their thing (in tandem)

Troy -- well... i guess we should stop to realize that Mackie is pretty blessed as these things go given that he does get good roles in major and award winning films -- as Richter points out.

March 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel Rogers

We just saw The Adjustment Bureau yesterday and were discussing how unearthly Mackie's good looks are. He's...sculptural.

March 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

He was really great in the underappreciated Night Catches Us, in my opinion a stronger performance than Kerry Washington's. And yeah, he's super sexy.

March 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCaden
Comments for this entry have been disabled. Additional comments may not be added to this entry at this time.