Ryan Reynolds has always been a bone of contention for cinema goers over the years, his blockbusters being a point of discussion for many critics. Bring up his career and people will commonly question ‘where did it all go wrong?’, or ‘I want to like him but he’s no Tom Hanks, is he?’ nor is he claiming to be… Reynolds himself even addresses this in Deadpool when he remarks that his acting isn’t the force that has pushed his career forward. At least he is humble and sane enough to address this and at least laugh at himself, he’s not stupid, he knows some of his cinema releases have been disgraces but he isn’t letting that stop him. He has a gorgeous wife, a daughter and now, one of 2016’s most anticipated anti-superhero films, Deadpool.
However, the release of this subversive Fox film seems to be the beacon of redemption for the actor with many people who once slashed him for poor acting, raising him up on a pedestal and applauding him for being to Deadpool what Robert Downey Jr. is to Iron Man. There’s no denying the populace are fickle but at least they’re not kicking down the doors and sharpening the pitch forks, people are entitled to their opinion and they shouldn’t be judged for that. But before you make an opinion on an actor, is it your opinion or just a formation of others comments? ‘I don’t really like him (or her)’ isn’t sufficient enough when you’ve only seen one film. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I’ve been a fan of Reynolds since I was 9 when my dad put Blade Trinity on to watch (yes I grew up watching action films from an early age, it hasn’t hurt me), from then on, I was a fan. Some of you might have films or actors that you watch that make you laugh or make you feel better when your down, Ryan is that for me. He takes life with a pinch of salt with infectious enthusiasm and a witty outlook. I’m not writing this because I think an actor has faced some sort of injustice but rather to challenge and reconsider the ideas or unwarranted misconceptions surrounding Reynolds and his career. So, as I go back into the archives (mainly a row of my bookcase containing old films starting with Ryan’s first VHS film Ordinary Magic (1994), I run through some of his best underrated films that might make you reconsider your perspective on the Canadian actor.
Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place (1998-2001)
In perhaps one of the funniest and underrated comedies of the late 90’s, Two Guys and A Girl follows the lives of Sharon (Traylor Howard), a 20 something who hates her job at a chemical company, Pete (Richard Ruccolo) an ‘architect’ who flounders through life with little direction and Berg (Reynolds) a self obsessed med student whose main goal is to get everyone to love him.
Ryan’s first major comedy role occurred as Berg, a smooth talking, medical student in Two Guys and A Girl.
This is the show that catapulted Ryan into the category of a comedy actor with his witty comebacks and quick delivery, whether he’s sparring with his sarcastic but hilarious on and off girlfriend Ashley (Suzanne Cryer) or remarking that the medical establishment ‘doesn’t appreciate his comic genius’, he is by far the standout of this show. You can definitely begin to see Reynolds get into his groove with his acting style, this kind of role is mirrored in 2005 hit, Just Friends, another cult classic in comedy. You can pick up a 4 season box set for around £30 as well, what are you waiting for?
Finder’s Fee (2001)
Ryan as a gambler who wants his daughter back, alongside Matthew Lillard.
Ryan’s role as Quigley, a bordering alcoholic whose debt and distance from his daughter depresses him, is a complete 180 from the witty and loquacious, Berg. Although not the main character, Quigley’s observations and characteristics add to the mysterious ambience of the films narrative.
The film is structured in an ambiguous fashion and we get the feeling that all the characters are betraying each other. Pepper, the lead character finds a winning lottery ticket of $6 million and he must decide whether to return it to its owner or solve everyone’s problems. Finders Fee is ultimately about doing the right thing, the extension of good deeds and the corruption of good people. If you’re looking for an early film that showcases a good cast and narrative, then this may be the one for you.
Van Wilder: Party Liaison (2002)
So pretty much every review site and critic gave this film a one star but… sometimes these films shouldn’t be judged from a ‘critical perspective’. Van Wilder is described as the party king, the ‘biggest man on campus, he’s the boss with the sauce that all the girls want and all the guys want to be’. Basically, Van is an undergrad that is afraid to graduate because then he will actually have to live in the real world. Tara Reid plays a journalist who is writing an article about his popularity, her article in fact sets in motion the storyline for Van becoming a party king as geeks and jocks alike clammer to him for the best party.
Reynolds as cocky Van Wilder, a college undergrad who decides to charge students for his skills in party organisation.
As a British undergrad, I honestly thought university was going to be the ‘Van Wilder experience’ and lets just say it isn’t. This is probably the most crude, vulgar and cringe-worthy (ignoring The Change Up, because that movie never existed) film that Ryan has ever done before Deadpool. Yet, I can’t tell if its heartening to see Ryan act the same as he did in 2002. Either way, this film was a defining moment in his comedy career.
Buying The Cow (2002)
Buying The Cow is not what I would categorise as an amazing film nor even a ‘good film’ but the saving grace is in fact Ryan’s performance as Mike. Mike is like a mix between Berg and Van Wilder, he knows how to pick up women and he’s just as smooth talking as you’d imagine.
A mix between Berg and Van Wilder, Ryan plays Mike, a guy whose sexuality is questioned when he gets mixed up in his friends relationship drama.
Except, he wakes up one day after a one night stand to find a man bringing him breakfast, cue an awkward realisation that he might not be straight and a bedroom runway to the sound of Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’. What follows is a hilarious turn of events including a naked Mike hanging out of a window, flashing every man and his dog and ultimately being chased by the police for flashing a young boy. Miraculously, his body doesn’t look any different in 2016 then it did in 2002, some people just age like wine.
School of Life (2005)
We’ve all had that one young teacher that thinks he’s really cool and hip, he cracks jokes and he makes the lessons fun. Mr. D is that teacher, he joins the school as the new history teacher and quickly gains a following in the students and the teachers, except for one.
This time, Ryan plays a high school history teacher, Mr. D, who is a little different to what you’d normally expect.
A grumpy biology teacher who realises he could learn something from his younger counterpart: how to be fun. High school dramas and can be either cheesy or melodramatic or both, this fortunately, is neither. And as the movie progresses we find out that Mr. D is holding a big secret…but you’ll have to watch yourself to find out.
Fireflies In The Garden (2008)
This film was once described by a reviewer as a ‘good film to do the ironing to’. I can see where this person is coming from as it isn’t an adrenalin rollercoaster but more of an emotional and character driven movie. This film is largely propelled by its heartbreaking flashbacks, Michael is emotionally and sometimes physically abused by his father (Willem Dafoe), and in later life the pair have not resolved their issues but being around family makes them realise that maybe they could begin anew.
Perhaps one of Ryan’s most recent lesser known films, Fireflies sees Reynolds portray Michael, a writer who returns home after the death of his mother.
Fireflies is poignant and quite sad at times, for example there is a scene where Michael cries for his mother (Julia Roberts) in a church and you can feel his pain. Michael Taylor is a far cry from the garrulous personalities of Ryan’s earlier films and it’s refreshing to see a more sensitive and mature character portrayal. These movies started to mark a change in genre for the actor as the films that followed such as Buried and Safe House, were classified as more of a suspense/action breed.
Reynolds plays Frank Allen, a man whose life relies on organisation suddenly becomes increasingly disordered in Chaos Theory.
Other honourable mentions include Boltneck (2000) in which Ryan’s character is killed and his brain swapped with a serial killers, he proceeds to torment the films protagonist, Frank. This film has gone by lots of names including Big Monster On Campus, Frankenstein and Teen Monster. Although a small role, Reynolds shines as a supporting cast member in hilarious agent-action comedy, The In-Laws (2003).
Although a small role, Reynolds shines as a supporting cast member in hilarious agent-action comedy, The In-Laws (2003).
Anyone who has studied business and organisation will be familiar with the term, Chaos Theory (2008). The film is retrospective and we get an account of Frank’s life as he lectures on the importance of time management and organisation, all the while his life is in ruins and his plan of action, out the window. Finally the most underrated of them all is The Voices (2014) Reynolds plays Jerry, a schizophrenic who hears the voices of his cat and dog (whom he also voices) talking to him, this leads him to murder his co-workers in a terrifying but darkly humorous manner. Bizarre and outlandish, this dark comedy is a disturbing must see for any fan of a hybrid genre.
These selection of films are not technically the best but are underrated for what they are and would do better to release the stigma surrounding Reynolds acting skills. We always see the articles transcribing that we should give him a chance despite the fact he seems to have failed in Hollywood but this ignorant stance seems to only be viewed on his popular but less entertaining films. He is by no means underrated, he won Sexiest Man Alive in 2010 and he has landed many big roles in high budget blockbusters but these ‘big hitters’ are the ones that have ultimately put a massive X on his career. There are some people who refuse to give him a chance as an actor and a person, mainly because he played a cack Green Lantern. But those people who once disliked him are now lining up to see Deadpool with their money in one hand and their RR signs in the other. Any way you look at it, Ryan has certainly come a long way and with any luck, will continue to surprise us. And if you haven’t seen Van Wilder, ‘write that down’.
Are you a fan of Ryan and have you seen Deadpool yet?
If you have seen Deadpool then check out our review from an early screening this week and even if you haven’t seen it and you’re deciding whether to, then follow this link.