Robert De Niro’s latest film, “Last Vegas,” opened on Friday, and although it won’t bring any Oscar buzz to Bobby D, I have to admit that I unleashed a few unintentional snot-rockets due to pure laughter. The physical appearances of the characters alone were enough to challenge my bladder, and I barely escaped the theatre with dry clothes. Despite the mediocre quality of “Last Vegas,” I left the theatre asking myself a question: Can Robert De Niro win another Oscar in the future?
De Niro plays a Brooklynite named Paddy who is dealing with the loss of his wife, and spends a weekend in Vegas with the old gang from the neighborhood. Michael Douglas sports an aggressive bronze tan, Kevin Kline rocks the Newsy cap/artsy beard and Morgan Freeman wears a tremendous elbow-patch, multi-colored coat.
The “Last Vegas” role is a nice turn for the seventy-year old De Niro, and it allowed him to show more depth than his Oscar-nominated role in “Silver Linings Playbook.” I think it’s safe to say that most viewers were surprised to see “old De Niro” in Silver Linings as opposed to truly appreciating the acting. De Niro was on point, and proved that he doesn’t have to rely on the tough-guy gangster schtick to win over an audience.
When was the last time De Niro carried a heavy drama? Was it the brutal “Everybody’s Fine” in 2009? I will always remember the Kirk Jones film not because of how awful it was, but because it allowed me to see Robby De Niro in person. I had returned to Hollywood from a month-long European backpacking trip, and realized AFI Fest was taking place in my neighborhood. The “rush line” allowed me to see the film for free, and I was quite happy to see Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore at the historic Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. Director Kirk Jones introduced his film, and then announced the appearance of a special guest…Robert De Niro.
After several questionable roles from 2009-2012, it appears that De Niro may have reached a new epoch in his career. How long will it be until he can deliver another historic lead performance? It always happens with the greats. There is the one heavy-duty role that aging stars seek to find. De Niro has nothing to prove, but one has to wonder if he could take home another Best Actor award in the next five years.
De Niro plays a retired boxer in his next film “Grudge Match” alongside Sylvester Stallone. The combo will likely draw in viewers, but will only be a reminder of the glory days. Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is currently in development, and De Niro will star as a mob hit man alongside Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. Will it be amazing? Yes. Will it be the most memorable role of De Niro in the last fifteen years? We shall find out.
Perfect World Scenario: Robert De Niro teams up with director David O. Russell in a film that will truly showcase the actor’s talents. The film wouldn’t be specifically about an aging father, athlete or gangster – but rather a film about a man on his own in the world. De Niro will appear in David O. Russell’s upcoming “American Hustle,” and he has obviously already worked with the director previously in “Silver Linings Playbook.” Make it happen.
De Niro in Italy. “The Fisherman.”
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