Confession: I normally remember actresses names with their faces straightaway even if they've only had a bit role that impressed me. Sometimes actors take a few roles to reel me in as if I'm face blind. And so it was at Tribeca where Dominic Rains took the Best Actor prize for his strong sympathetic work as Osman, an Afghani journalist transplanted to rural California in Ian Old's The Fixer (2016). All throughout the picture I was like "who is this guy?" like I'd never seen him before only to discover thereafter that I'd already seen him AND loved him in two other movies. In my defense the Iranian-American actor, born in Tehran and raised in Texas, looks different in each of his key roles. But still! I'd never let this talent slip by me with an actress no matter what they did with their hair and costumes.
Rains was the mohawked punk rocker in the little-seen but high-energy Taqwacores (2010) and the sleazy drug-addled pimp in the stunning Iranian vampire picture A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014).
Of those three pictures the only one that he wasn't the single best part of was A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) but that's surely because he had a ridiculous amount of competition in that altogether striking award winner. And now I've discovered that he's also somehow in my favorite Marvel movie (Captain America: Winter Soldier) albeit in a bit role and I heretofore pledge to never lose sight of him and hope he gets cast in everything. (I'm only now aware that he logged time in American soaps, too, but they are a highly distinct and isolated wing of entertainment that doesn't generally cross over into primetime TV and the cinema)
Though he's strong in The Fixer, willing to push his character's initially endearing curiousity into aggressive and stubborn places and show real emotional confusion in a foreign land, the picture is otherwise a mixed bag. Melissa Leo plays an earthy no-nonsense cop who's also acting as his host mother. Her biological son is still in Afghanistan and she's putting his overseas friend up as both a favor and, one suspects, as a proxy for her son who doesn't seem to want to return from the mad rush of war journalism. But the showiest role in the picture belongs to town troublemaker Lindsay played by James Franco. I amend: All sorts of people in this picture are troublemakers but James Franco is the only one of them getting all the closeups with his "look, I'm doing A CHARACTER!" wigs and dirty teeth. Franco is entirely distracting and the plot frankly strains credulity (what's with hippie actors intermingling with drug dealing rednecks out of Deliverance?) but Rains keeps it interesting throughout, ably carrying this somewhat awkward load.
Grade: The Fixer: C+; Dominic Rains, though: A every time.