Monday, May 30, 2011

11 Roles of Alfred Molina

Alfred Molina may not be a name that springs immediately to mind when you think of great actors, but he probably should be. The man has had a long and varied career, playing wildly different roles in bizarrely different productions of movies, and he always brings it.

Always.

So, without further ado, here's some of the work of one of the best character actors working in Hollywood today.

11. Mellersh Wilkins (Enchanted April)

You may not have seen this movie (I have, but only in passing) but suffice to say it's a Howard's End/The Pianist/Remains of Day kind of movie, where British people do British things and love is always unrequited and there's lots of talking, and usually nothing happens.

The movie's own description calls it "A slow-paced gem", which is like saying, "Look, we know it's boring, but it's not that bad." Molina plays a man who's wife is dragging him along on some ladies retreat to Italy, and to be honest, he's about the only thing in the movie that I paid attention to (it was on in the background while I was reading a comic book or something, and I looked up every time I heard his voice). He was quite good, I thought, and had charisma that far outpaced anyone else on screen.

Plus he looks a bit like a confused Gomez Addams.
Imagine my surprise when I realized this was the same guy who played...

10. Rahad Jackson (Boogie Nights)

Boogie Nights is as far a cry from Enchanted April as you can get. It's about porn. It has Marky Mark, Heather Graham, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, and Don Cheadle in it. It's a movie about all those people running a Porn Studio. It is the opposite of a movie about unrequited love. Love is being requited everywhere, and usually by naked people who are totally not British.

And who does Alfred play? Certainly not some nitpicked husband who's being dragged along to Italy for a Ladies retreat. Oh, no. He plays a Drug Dealer.

This is not a deleted scene from Howard's End.
A drug dealer with a silver robe, no shirt, a chain necklace and a pistol. The lead (Marky Mark) and some of his friends try to rob Rahad of 5,000 dollars at one point by selling him a kilo of baking soda, but they screw it up and end up in a shootout. If these were the only two roles Alfred Molina ever played it would still be a pretty impressive bit of "Really? That's the same guy?"

But it gets better. He's also...

9. Angel (Maverick)

Maverick, as you may know, was once a television show starring Jim Rockford (AKA, James Garner). Maverick was a conman, card player who traveled around the Old West, righting wrongs, getting in saloon fights, and gambling. He probably dated a bunch of hookers, also known as "Saloon Gals" back in those days.

At some point they made a movie (ok, it was 1994) and they hired Mel Gibson (pre-lunacy) to play Maverick and even let Rockford show up to play a sheriff chasing Maverick. But they also needed a bad guy, a foil for Maverick in this high-comedy western caper, and who did they call?

You rang?
Yep. Alfred Molina. He looks vaguely Hispanic as Angel (He is half Spanish), and was a gambler and gunfighter who caused all kinds of trouble for the title character. He was goofy, dangerous and funny, and add another notch to Molina's belt, because he has played a lot of really fun bad guys.

Not the least of which was...


8. Maxim Horvath (The Sorcerer's Apprentice)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice movie, starring Nic Cage, is one of those things that probably just shouldn't be. It should have died on some producer's desk at some point with him going, "Really? We don't have any other ideas?"

But it didn't. As Hollywood is wont to do, they filmed it, in color and everything, and all things considered, it wasn't terrible. Cage did some hamming it up, but in a good way, and they needed somebody to play the bad guy, who could carry his own scenes, seethe with rage, and still make us kind of like him, so they called upon the greatest "Oh, that guy" that Hollywood has to offer and lo and behold, Alfred Molina to the rescue.

In a perfect world, he would have been paid more than Nic Cage.
And as goofy as the movie was, Molina was a suave villain, with a few great one liners, and a couple of very cool scenes. Too bad the movie forgot about him, right near the end. (Seriously, if you watch it, after he gets knocked out of the park, something that happens to everyone in the movie at least five times, tell me where he goes. Cause the writer forgot.)

But Molina doesn't always have to be the big bad guy. Sometimes he's a misunderstood bad guy, who later becomes a friend, like when he's...

7. Sheik Amar (The Prince of Persia)

Prince of Persia was a Disney movie that wanted to capitalize on the good fortunes of the video game, and clearly on the Jake Gyllenhal is almost naked connection to young ladies. It was a fairly forgettable movie, overall, but if you look up, right there in the middle of it, playing a shady ostrich race organizer (no, really) there's Alfred Molina, as Sheik Amar!

Sheik Amar captures our heroes, then loses them, then captures them again, then sides with them, then I think he gets killed (I have to admit, I only half paid attention to the movie for the most part).

You'd trust this guy to organize your ostrich races, right?
He hammed it up like you almost never get to see him do, but he was still one of the best actors in the movie. He totally owns the crazy ostrich racing sleaze bag character. Plus, he just looks absolutely ludicrous, but still manages to be the coolest person in the whole movie. That takes effort. Speaking of effort, Alfred didn't always have it so easy with the big budget movies. There was a time when he was a struggling actor, like when he played...

6. Moody (Not Without My Daughter)

This is one of those Lifetime movies that make you wonder who comes up with these things, then you find out it's based on a true story, then you almost feel bad, then you realize that the movie is so overblown and not like the actual story that you still wonder who sits around reading newspapers looking for stories about abused women that Lifetime can put on the fast track to development, and...

Actually, this movie started out as an actual movie, but became a Lifetime movie (I think) at least, I know Lifetime showed it. Anyway, in the movie Alfred Molina is Iranian, and a doctor. He's married to Sally Field. They have a daughter.  They move to Iran, and then for no apparent reason, Molina's character becomes a wife abusing religious zealot (almost like he went to America to get his medical license and a wife to bring back and abuse) and Sally has to get her daughter and escape the country.

It's terrible, let's be honest about that. But Alfred pulls off both nice foreign doctor husband, and creepy, crazy abusive zealot in the same movie and he does it with panache.

There's a story in this paper about how I should be hitting you.
 Look at those creepy eyes in that picture. Yeah, I totally believe that guy would beat up Sally Field. Hey, I just realized he worked with both Burt Reynolds and Sally Field. That's weird. Not as weird as, say, Alfred Molina showing up on television in the mid-eighties...

5. Esther's Lawyer (Miami Vice)

Oh, wait, he totally did. Now, to be fair, I don't remember this episode, but I do remember Miami Vice (not Colin Farrel/Jamie Foxx Miami Vice, the other one). I remember Crockett and Tubbs. I remember Adama, er, I mean Edward James Olmos being the captain of the precinct. I remember, white suits and neon signs, and boats and guns and, hey, look at that!

The beard's doing most of the actin in this scene.
There's Alfred Molina, playing a lawyer so important to the plot he doesn't even have a name. But check out Crockett sporting some kind of purple Ocean Pacific t-shirt with a gun holster and hair long enough to rappel down a tower with.

That's some fine police work, Alfred. The only thing more awesome than this would have been if Alfred had also been on Law and Order, so he could have been on two of the most iconic television cop/lawyer shows of all time. Oh, wait...

4. Deputy D.A. Ricardo Morales a(Law and Order: Los Angeles)

I lost my beard, so I have no idea what you're saying...
Yeah, that's Alfred up there on Law and Order: Los Angeles, playing Ricardo Morales, who apparently started the show as a detective, then got promoted to Deputy District Attorney (cause, that's how it works, right?)

Holy crap, Alfred managed to land on Miami Vice and L&O! There can't be a lot of actors who can make that claim, and fewer still who also had a heavy film career. This guy's looking pretty impressive, I'll bet. But we have three more to go, and the next one freaked me out a little bit, because it's a movie I love, and I didn't realize he was in it...

3. Cezar (Ladyhawke)

Yes, that testament to cheesy fantasy movies of the eighties, Ladyhawke, starring Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfiefer also contains a young, dirty, almost animalistic looking Alfred Molina.

They pulled him straight out of bed for this scene.
Alfred plays Cezar here, a wolf trapper, and this is important to the story, because if you've forgotten, in Ladyhawke, Michelle Pfeiffer and Ruther Hauer are in love, but they're cursed and during the day he's a person and she's a hawk (thus the Ladyhawke of the title) and at night she's a person and he's a wolf. So the church is going to catch him using Cezar, the master wolf catcher.

That seems like an odd job, but perhaps it's just because I don't live in a fantasy world. Alfred would get a better job later, as a scientist, which, as you know he parlayed into another villainy role when he became...

2. Dr. Otto Octavius (Spider-Man 2)

Yes, the great Doctor Octopus is also Alfred Molina. Wow, this guy gets around. And I'm also just realizing that he's pretty much a great bad guy. I wonder why it is that some actors just seem to have that genetic thing that makes them play great crazy bad guys.


Why doesn't he keep the suitcase in one of the robot hands?

I think Spider-Man 2 is my favorite of the Spidey movies, and I think 90% of that has to do with Doctor Octopus just being a great villain. He was so much more fun that Green Goblin, and infinitely better than what they did with Sandman and Venom in part 3.

But I'm going to finish this post with the first role I ever remember seeing Alfred in, and one of his first roles ever in general, and one that still surprises me when I remember that's him in that classic role...

1. Satipo (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

That's right, the guy with all the spiders on his back (hey, a spider connection for Spider-Man, neat) the guy who tried to screw over Dr. Jones in the Temple in the beginning of the movie, only to forget about the sunlight trap and get speared to death. The guy to utter the immortal line, "Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip!" That guy, was Alfred Molina.

Nothing bad can happen to me now...
Great character, great actor. Great character actor.

16 comments:

Grammy said...

In the TV show, Maverick constantly referred to things his Pappy told him, but I don't think Pappy ever appeared in the show. In the movie (one of the best adaptation films ever done), Garner plays Gibson's Pappy. Nothing to do with Molina, but I love James Garner and the Maverick series so much I had to correct the record.

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