l l l
' most electrifying performers. The fuller figure is
j an almost palpable aura of menace and power.
insightful. l mischievous glint in his eyes. he definitely had that
That ol’ Jack magic
In the all-star court martial dramaA Few Good Men. veteran Hollywood kingpin Jack Nicholson proves he‘s still up to acting everyone else off the screen. Trevor Johnston reflects on a movie career now firmly back on track .
Nicholson‘s 70s output represents a stirring run of l critical classics. or at least interesting near-misses. I his on~screen persona a restless man-of—the-people , type. Even if. as in Bob Rafelson‘s Five Easy Pieces. he happened to be playing a disgruntled concert pianist. he would still argue over a chicken ! sandwich in a roadside diner like one ofas. His 1 private reputation for enjoying life to the full 7 managed to bear out in reality the near-boundless suggestiveness in those oft and wickedly raised eyebrows. That Roman Polanski happened to be up to no good with an under-aged partner in Jack's , jacuzzi. for instance. did the Nicholson legend no harm at all. But by the time the 80s came round. he seemed
; to wobble a bit in adjusting to the older roles he 2 was now more suited to. Although a second Oscar I for his rumbustious ex-astronaut in Terms of Endearment added to the statuette he previously picked up for One Flew Over The Cuckoo 's Nest. his wildly over-ripe performances in Kubrick‘s The Shining and the FX-heavy romp The Witches of Eastwick indicated that his judgement might be slipping. He gained a fortune on profit-participation from Tim Burton's Batman in 1987. but his shameless mugging in the Joker outfit represented his most self-parodic bow to date. When the Chinatown sequel The Two lakes. ; obviously intended as both a return to thespian credibility and a platform for a prospective career behind the camera. turned out a shambolic exercise in self-indulgence. things looked to be
going from bad to worse.
As ifin response. 1992 has been a busy and
. potentially fruitful year for him. While the reunion of Rafclson on the Ellen Barkin co-starring oddball romance Man Trouble arrives in the UK in January with less-than-favourable advance word running before it. there‘s still the epic Danny De Vito directed union saga Hoffa to look forward to. with Nicholson as the teamster commedatore from i a David Mamet original screenplay. And. after all. g who‘s to say that come Academy Award time ! Nicholson’s name isn‘t already on the Best Supporting Actor prize forA Few Good Men. It‘s ' good news for the fans. and good news for the
movies— Jack‘s back alright.
A Few Good Men opens across Scotland on Sat 26 I Dec.
discipline that he may well have tacitly encouraged those serving under him to end a struggling recruit‘s military career by cold-blooded murder. Yet in the firmness of his belief that the harshest of means are sometimes justified in the cause of national security. Nicholson finds a core of integrity — albeit misguided — that calls for our admiration and gives greater depth to this career soldier than the usual two-dimensional quasi-fascism.
Age certainly hasn‘t withered him. At 55. Jack Nicholson may have a few years on the majority of his co-stars these days. but he puts in a piledriving performance in Rob Reiner’s A Few (iood Men. We could be about to witness a whole new avowedly mature era from the man who‘s now in his third decade as one of the American screen‘s
no surprise here. but. set off by a crisp crew cut. the heavier browline and generously jowled features seem to have acquired an oaken solidity too. Combine this with the actor‘s seemingly innate seything intelligence and suddenly you have
A couple of decades ago. though. it would have been hard to imagine Nicholson as such a pillar of establishment authority. He spent more than ten years in Roger (,‘orman exploitation territory. where his masochistic dentist‘s patient in the original grade-Z celluloid Little Shop ofllorrors became the stuffoflegend. It wasn’t until 196‘) that his big break came when Rip Torn dropped out and Messrs Hopper and Fonda drafted him in as Easy Rider‘s dope-smoking liberal lawyer. The result. ofcourse. was one of those movies for which the term ‘seminal’ might have been invented. and by nearly walking away with the entire picture Nicholson was firmly ensconced as a
rebellious young-ish talent to watch. And with his l slinky nasal drawl and an ever-present
Quite simply. the man has presence enough to knock you over as soon as he walks into the frame. It‘s good to see him acting. too. In his best work - and that list usually includes ('hinatown, The Last Detail. Five liasy Pieces and The Postman Always Rings Twice — Nicholson has always managed to suggest a darker aspect to the sympathetic roles he‘s playing or find a more human side to the sort ofcharacter who might easily be a complete audience turn-off in the hands ofsomeone less
At a glance. in A Few (joocl Men he falls swiftly into the Total Bastard category. Navy base commander Colonel Nathan R. Jessup is so strict ‘ in his adherence to a self-imposed code of l
; certain stellar something to take advantage of his newfound high profile.
Singling out the finest directorial talent rather than the surest moneymaking prospect.
J.J. Glttes in Roman Polanski‘s Chinatown j . (1974): the nose comes ott worst in atussle ' J80“ Torrance '0 Stanley KUWICK'STNB
with a stiIeno ; Shining (1980): ‘Heeeeeere’s Johnny!‘
The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman (1987): ‘Where does he get those wonderlul toys?’
Daryl Van Horn in George Miller‘s The Witches ol Eastwick (1987): “Just your average horny little devil'
The List lfl’becember i992; 14 Januarv 199353