Top 5/Bottom 5: Robert Downey Jr.

Posted Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 02:50 PM PST by

by Aaron Peck

The buddy comedy 'Due Date' has hit Blu-ray, so we thought we’d look over the career of its star, Robert Downey Jr., and chronicle the high and low points.

The Best


David Fincher’s ‘Zodiac’ was an all around fantastic flick. One of the great American films of the last decade. Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Paul Avery, a chain-smoking, disheveled reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle is one of his best. It was ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ that marked the return of the actor to stardom, but it was ‘Zodiac’ that solidified it. After ‘Zodiac’ we all knew Downey was back and better than ever.

'Sherlock Holmes'

Playing the world famous detective in Guy Ritchie’s re-imaging of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ was a perfect part for Downey. He was able to lay it all out there. His Sherlock Holmes is a hyper-active, socially inept nutcase who also has a wicked right hook. While the story, overall, is a little convenient, Downey’s fresh take on Sherlock Holmes was a welcomed surprise.

'Iron Man'

Who acts like a giant douchebag better than Robert Downey Jr.? So, if he was going to play any superhero who would he play? Ah, yes, Tony Stark. A millionaire weapons mogul who thinks the world revolves around him. It was like a match made in heaven. His quick, biting lines of dialogue aimed towards those closest to him are perhaps the most hilarious parts of the movie. After ‘Iron Man,’ we all realized that not only can Robert Downey Jr. still act, but he can also carry a major summer tent pole release to box office success.

'Tropic Thunder'

Perhaps my personal favorite from Downey is his role in the extreme comedy ‘Tropic Thunder.’ Not only is he playing a white guy who’s pretending to be black. He’s playing an Austrailian who’s pretending to be black. He’s nigh unrecognizable in his makeup, but his performance is pitch-perfect and by far the funniest aspect of that movie. What I find most amazing is that he was able to do tackle the role in such a way that it seems minimal people were offended by it. Think about it, a white actor puts on black face and acts the entire movie that way. That takes guts to take on a role like that in the politically correct world we live in, but he pulled it off.

‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’

Looking back through Downey’s filmography, it’s quite easy to see ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ as the turning point in his career. Downey plays Harry Lockhart, a wannabe actor who’s moved from New York to Los Angeles to follow his dream. He gets caught up in the world of a private eye after he meets a hilariously flamboyant gay detective named Gay Perry played by Val Kilmer. After watching this movie it was easy to see Downey was once again poised for super stardom.

The Worst

'Johnny Be Good'

My favorite review of this movie is given by Roger Ebert when he says, “The people who made this movie should be ashamed of themselves.” Doesn’t that just sum it up right there? To be fair, the crappiness of this movie isn’t laid squarely on the shoulders of Downey, he was just a casualty of hapless writing and a terribly clichéd story about his best friend who’s the best football player in the nation. It’s just awful. Not even suitable for lazy Saturday morning viewing.

'Charlie Bartlett'

Don’t get me wrong, Downey isn’t actually bad in ‘Charlie Bartlett.’ He plays an alcoholic principal who counsels young Charlie (Anton Yelchin) it’s just the rest of the movie is simply mediocre at best. Maybe it was Yelchin’s portrayal of Charlie, trying so hard to be cool that really turned me off. Maybe it was the fact that everything about the movie screamed predictability. I don’t know, I just know that after watching ‘Charlie Bartlett’ I wondered why a great actor like Downey would take on a such a miniscule role like this directly after the success of ‘Zodiac.’

'The Shaggy Dog'

It’s true that ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ reignited Downey’s career, but when he appeared in Disney’s ‘The Shaggy Dog’ starring Tim Allen, his career was almost single-handedly flushed back down the crapper. Downey tries his best with what he’s given, but in the end this is a movie where Tim Allen turns into a sheepdog every now and then. No amount of writing and acting could change that fact.

'Lucky You'

You’d think a movie starring the likes of Robert Duvall, Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, and Robert Downey Jr., all directed by Curtis ('L.A. Confidential,' '8 Mile,' 'Wonder Boys') Hanson,' would have been a hit. Not so much. ‘Lucky You’ was anything but lucky for its viewers. It was a herky jerky love story centered around a guy who loved his gambling. Thankfully, Downey only played a cursory role in the movie, but still, it doesn’t stop it from being an absolute mess for its bloated two hour runtime.

'The Singing Detective'

A musical about a private detective that never really harnesses the talents of Robert Downey Jr. The entire movie felt discombobulated as it tried to juggle a musical with a detective mystery. Downey does an alright job here, but it’s noticeable that the weight of the movie’s identity confusion squashes an otherwise semi-memorable performance.

Downey has definitely had his ups and downs, but he’s emerged as one of the premiere leading men in Hollywood. One of the great Hollywood comeback stories.

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