We’re really starting below the bottom of the barrel with this fish-out-of-water mobster tale, never quite as punchy as it could be, nor as surprising. But here’s a disquieting fact: In a cast that includes John Malkovich, Dennis Hopper, Seth Green and Tom Noonan, Diesel is the most intense performer onscreen.
In what’s become an expected move by action stars, this kid-friendly comedy casts Diesel as a Navy SEAL whose latest mission involves him infiltrating the home of five adorably rambunctious kids. Vin’s been better elsewhere, but his tongue-in-cheek self-awareness, parodying his own gruff persona, was a welcome sign of humor.
You’re playing a walking tree, and the entirety of your dialogue consists of three repeated words: “I am Groot.” Diesel correctly saw this as an actor’s challenge and threw himself into the comic role with relish. His multiple readings of the line were emotionally varied and communicated plenty to the other Guardians.
Before this film evolved into the ridiculous Riddick franchise, it was simply a satisfying sci-fi thriller starring Diesel as an ultradangerous criminal forced to cooperate with a space crew stranded on a desert planet. Even behind his glowing contact lenses and shades (Riddick has surgically-assisted night vision), Diesel conveyed gruff, Hawksian charm.
Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is best appreciated over the entire series, as simple traits come into view. For all his prowess behind the wheel, the guy would clearly rather be in the backyard, grilling. Every movie gives him an instantly quotable catchphrase (“This time, it ain’t just about being fast,” he mutters in the new film). And he’s always in a wife-beater T-shirt, even at his own wedding.
Did you know that Diesel actually launched his career as a writer, director, producer, star and composer? After crafting the 1995 short “Multi-Facial,” Vin upped the ante for this bona-fide feature debut about a drug dealer trying to make good. It’s a scrappy little indie, one that debuted at Sundance with plenty of signs of promise.
A successful lunge for gravity, Diesel’s turn as real-life Mafioso Giacomo “Jackie” DiNorscio—a man who would rather stand trial rather than rat out his associates—revealed a complex sense of swagger and insecurity. Credit is due to legendary director Sidney Lumet, who saw in the action star a malleable talent.
No less a personage than Steven Spielberg was knocked out by Diesel’s short film “Multi-Facial,” and made it a point to accommodate the rising young actor in his monumental war movie. Diesel’s Private Caparzo is transfixing in his brief screen time, making the film ever that more universal in its band-of-brothers appeal.
More dazzling voice work (à la Guardians of the Galaxy) from the underappreciated Diesel. A pre-Incredibles Brad Bird made his feature debut with this moving E.T.–like fable about a boy who comes to love and protect a hulking robot from outer space. Vin voices the title character with subtle humor and pathos.
Somewhat forgotten in the wave of turn-of-the-millennium indies, this terrific NYC drama foreshadows The Wolf of Wall Street in its focus on louche, corner-cutting stock brokers (and was inspired by Jordan Belfort as well). Cool and commanding, Diesel stands out in a deep cast, especially during a frenetic scene of deal-closing.