Authoritatively Bad Oldman
This year the chameleon-like Gary Oldman will traffic in authority figures. This summer he plays a sinister dictator in the action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard, due in August and starring the promising team of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. At year’s end he’ll be seen taking on the towering role of Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright’s historical World War II drama Darkest Hour, which also features the late, great John Hurt as Churchill’s predecessor as British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Today he arrives on movie screens nationwide as a visionary and caring NASA scientist trying to save fugitive teenager Asa Butterfield, the first human being born on the planet Mars, whose journey back to our planet threatens his life in the romantic science-fiction adventure The Space Between Us. This diverse array of characters is far removed from the gritty, establishment-tweaking succession of roles three decades ago in which he first gut-grabbed our attention in Sid and Nancy (1986), Prick Up Your Ears (1987), The Firm (1989) and his reckless Manhattan Irish gangster in State of Grace(1990, a Twilight Time Blu-ray title). Twenty-three years ago tomorrow marks the U.S. opening of a wildly careening neo-noir crime caper in which he was also gloriously bad to the bone: Romeo Is Bleeding (1993). Director Peter Medak was coming off two bracing real-life criminal sagas, The Krays (1990) and Let Him Have It (1991), and decided to pull all out the stops with this outlandish study of corruption and carnality (scripted by Fatal Beauty and Road House co-writer Hilary Henkin) that cast Oldman in glamorously scummy company as amoral NYPD detective Jack Grimaldi, who’d just as much break as enforce the law in service of Mafia boss Roy Scheider, to whom he leaks the secret identities of Witness Protection informants for hefty cash payments. That Grimaldi has no scruples when it comes to two-timing his wife (Annabella Sciorra) and mistress (Juliette Lewis) positions him for a big-time fall. In true noir fashion, the instrument of that pending doom comes in the sexy, steely form of a psychotic lady Russian assassin who’s a thorn in the side of both the law and the mob: the brash and beautiful Mona Demarkov, mightily incarnated by an actress who could steal a scene lock, stock and gun barrel from Oldman, the splendid Lena Olin, who’d previously slain audiences by her blazing performances in The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988) and Enemies: A Love Story (1989). Their scenes together – including a brazenly violent sequence involving gunplay, wire strangulation, testicle-grabbing, handcuffs, leg-locking suffocation, all in a speeding car – are a white-hot wonder. One of the film’s few defenders, Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers, reveled in it: “Wait till you get a load of this babe from hell in scenes that are sure to put the gorgeously lurid Romeo Is Bleeding on the Moral Majority's shit list. The rest of us – those who believe it's children and not adults who need protection from movie mayhem – will be too busy relishing the riveting fireworks display from Olin and Oldman in this scorcher of a thriller. Director Peter Medak keeps the action stylish, sexy and fiendishly funny. The film rarely makes a lick of sense, but it's compulsively watchable. Behind the guns, gross-outs, high heels and hard-ons, there's a subversive wit at play. It will be a shame if audiences don’t get the joke….This is a nutso movie of splendid excess, from the hallucinatory gleam of Dariusz Wolski's cinematography to the throbbing pulse of Mark Isham's music. Screw the moral watchdogs; Romeo is terrific, twisted fun.” Today and later in 2017, you can revel in Oldman facing down menacing government forces, Reynolds, Jackson and Adolf Hitler. For now, experience how he mishandles one of the screen’s iciest femme fatales ever, when taking a out-of-control ride with Romeo Is Bleeding on TT hi-def Blu-ray.