The Boyfriend of the Week
August 27, 2004
Sorry this write-up is so late, everybody. It's yet another case of Boyfriend blindsiding -- I was just about to wrap up a write-up on one guy when another popped up and distracted me so much I had to toss the first guy out the window (not literally -- he's a bit too heavy for me) and start over from scratch. I hate it when that happens! Except that secretly, I love it when that happens!
The odd thing is that I've actually been planning to feature Olivier Martinez for quite a while now. Over a year ago, when I discovered him for the first time, I had a write-up in the works and was renting his movies and looking up web sites and digging around for great photos. But somebody else distracted me then (I forget who), and then a series of somebody elses have been distracting me ever since. I'd actually almost forgotten about him completely until I happened to rent his latest movie last weekend (not even knowing he was in it). About 10 minutes after he showed up on-screen, that was officially it for me. He was all I could see. Well, you know, except that I could also see his costars, ex-Boyfriends Ethan Hawke (who I'm actually disgusted with these days, but that's a story for another time) and Kiefer Sutherland.
The movie, by the way, is the recently released (on video and DVD) thriller, "Taking Lives," starring Angelina Jolie and her big puffy lips as an FBI profiler who gets caught up in the case of a Canadian serial killer. Olivier plays the lead detective in Montreal, who is pretty bitter than an American feebie has been called in to work on his case. Ethan Hawke plays their first big break -- a witness who actually saw the killer smashing in the latest victim's skull with a big rock. Yes, he's not a terribly friendly or discrete kind of killer. Quite rude, actually. But perhaps I'm just being stodgy.
The film's no work of genius, of course. It's your typical stock thriller, which means I had the "twist" figured out approximately 90 minutes before the characters themselves got a clue (and I'm not even an FBI profiler!) and was starting to roll my eyes after the 86-millionth-and-one cheap "BOO!" shot (you know, those shots when suddenly something jumps out of nowhere and the music jolts in a totally unnecessary attempt to make you leap out of your seat? One or two of those, I love. Eight or nine of those, and it's clear the director and writer were utterly unable to create suspense using good writing and solid plot, and you might as well just turn it off right now because you know the ending is just going to make you start yelling obscenities at the screen, which is either going to get you kicked out of the movie theater for life, or, if you're watching it at home, make your husband think, once again, that he's married a complete maniac).
But, hey, I went into this movie with next to none in terms of expectations and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it. Which goes along, as a matter of fact, with a few other recent cinematic experiences of mine (namely "The Village"). I've discovered that the secret to liking a bad movie is becoming convinced that you WON'T like it before you actually see it. Go into it thinking it's going to be the worst, most crappiest, stinkpotiest pile of monkey poo, and you will then be pleasantly surprised when it happens to deliver even one little moment of suspense, one decent line of dialogue, or, in the case of "Taking Lives," a cop character who defies stereotype (Olivier and Angelina's characters start out vehemently hating each other and, wonder of wonders, do NOT end up in bed by the end -- truly refreshing!).
Now, the interesting thing about Olivier, and I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, is that ever since he started making American movies, he's basically been making the SAME American movies. He's been in three that I've seen, and they were all pretty much of the same genre -- suspense, thriller, that sort of thing. But, despite the fact he keeps showing up in the same sorts of pictures, his characters have been impressively varied. In "Unfaithful," the first movie of his I saw, he played an extremely sexy rare book dealer who bumps into Diane Lane on the street and quickly sucks her into an affair. She's married to ex-Boyfriend Richard Gere, who finds out about the affair, and, well, things go rapidly downhill from that point. I won't spoil the shocker for you, though the ending of the movie will do a pretty good job of spoiling the whole thing for you (in my opinion, the ending sux). Anyway, Olivier's role? Sexpot. Swinger. Cute Frenchie book dealer. Nummylicious, with a capital MY, MY, MY.
After that came "S.W.A.T," and in this one, Olivier played, believe it or not, a criminal! But that's not actually what made this role so unique. What made it unique is that he's really amazingly awful in it. But don't hold it against him; it's not really his fault. The whole picture is pretty much complete and utter. . . monkey poo. To be honest, all I really remember from it is one of Olivier's few lines ("One meeeeeeellion dollars!") and the fact that I thought to myself upon more than one occasion, "What the hell is Samuel L. Jackson doing in this?" Note that this movie also stars The Un-Boyfriend, Colin Farrell, which also didn't score it any points from me.
But, all is forgotten, and forgiven too, while I'm at it. And now we're back to "Taking Lives," in which Olivier plays a hot headed French-Canadian (or "Freedom-Canadian," as President Bush might call him). A police detective with a sexy accent and a rather large chip on his shoulder, who makes boob jokes in French and has a misogynist streak running a fathom deep. I love it! I mean, I don't love boob jokes and misogyny, but just look at this versatility! The man's a genius! Or, at the very least, he's so damn good-looking that it's utterly impossible to think critically about his actual acting talents. You're too busy being stunned by the way his dark eyes flicker, or the way his hair falls over his eyebrows. Come to think of it, this is in itself kind of a talent. It's sort of akin to the time I wrote a college paper on F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" without actually having ever read the book. I got a 4.0 on it. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with. . . French accents and amazing good looks. (Not that I used either method on my English professor, of course, seeing as how I am neither French nor particularly amazingly good looking. However, the concept is similar (behold the power of distraction), and this anecdote did give me an excuse to boast about a 4.0, which one should never miss an opportunity to do.)
The bad thing is that since Olivier's gone Hollywood, he really has yet to make an actual "film." And that's something I hope is going to change, because back when he was a Freedom actor starring in Freedom films where all the characters spoke Freedom, he was really a "film" actor instead of a "flick" one. Take, for example, the movie that finally made me fall in crush with him, "The Horseman on the Roof." It's a terrific film based on a novel by Jean Giono. The story follows two characters on the run from a cholera epidemic in 19th century France. Angelo (Martinez) is a chivalrous and utterly upstanding colonel who comes across Pauline (Juliette Binoche), who is fleeing the disease and trying to make her way back to her husband. He gallantly offers to escort her on her journey and as they race against infection and death, the adversity brings them closer, until ultimately they become lovers. But Pauline is on her way home -- to a husband she loves -- and their relationship is kind of doomed from the start. It's just a wonderful story full of history and France and love and sadness and death and hope. I can't wait to see it again, personally. And I almost wish I'd never seen it, so that I could see it again for the first time.
It's the only French movie of Olivier's I've actually seen. But he's good enough in it that I feel safe making assumptions about the others (plus, based on what I've read of some of the others, they sound like several steps above "S.W.A.T." Although, frankly, "Jaws 4: The Revenge" is several steps above "S.W.A.T." and it even has a guy who falls off a boat into the ocean and gets back on a moment later completely dry. So, what I'm saying is, I guess that's just not saying too much.). Anyway, If you've seen any of Olivier's foreign movies and enjoyed them, definitely drop me a line to let me know which ones they were?
Now for a quick biography about our handsome devil boy. He was born on January 12, 1966 in Paris, France. His father is a French Algerian, and former middleweight boxing champion of North Africa. His mother is a Spanish-Moroccan from Brittany (in France) (I think). The family was working-class, and traditionally, all the men started out as boxers and moved into auto repair after they burned out on the gloves. Olivier was all set to follow in those footsteps, but a car accident left him unable to continue fighting in the ring. At age 23, he decided he'd had enough of the unexamined life, and decided to "get [himself] out of the crap" and start focusing on something he felt passionate about. He promptly passed auditions and was given a slot at the Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique, a very prestigious acting school in France. Shortly after finishing his education, he landed a role in a Paris production of a Eugene O'Neill play, and it was there that he was discovered by the film world and given a part in Jean-Jacques Beineix's adventure film "IP5." After that, he was picked up for a Marcello Mastroianni film, and in 1993, he won the César for "Most Promising Actor."
After "Horseman on the Roof," people started calling him the "French Brad Pitt," which I'm sure he hated, and that film was the one that really put him on the map in the U.S. Unfortunately, not only did Olivier not speak English, but he was pretty vocally disdainful of American film (and who can blame him?) and it was several years before he gave the idea of going Hollywood any serious thought. But, as he himself will point out, for every 100 directors in the U.S., there are only 10 in France. And if he wanted to expand as an actor, the time eventually came for him to suck it up and move West.
Unfortunately, as I've pointed out, either the U.S. directors or Olivier himself don't appear to realize the man could do a lot better than just playing sexpots and cops. Not that he's not really, really great at playing a sexpot. In fact, there are few finer. But, I'm hoping that now that he's become a bit more established, the meatier roles are just around the corner. (And by the way, before anybody emails, I know I need to see "Before Night Falls" and plan to get on that ASAP.)
As of right now, there's nothing in his queue -- no new movies in his list at the IMDB and no hints of future projects on any of the fan sites. But he's already starred with some of Hollywood's hottest actors, so he's clearly been noticed. People are talking. And I think it's fairly safe to say that this boy is about to break the movie world right open.
If not because of his talent, than at least certainly because he looks so unbearably good in blue jeans.
MacGyver Factor Score: 94.358%. Points off because I just couldn't help but snort when I read in an interview from a few years back that Olivier wasn't interested in getting involved in the "glittery stardom" of Hollywood because, he said, U.S. blockbuster movies lack "nobility and honor." Yes, that's right -- this coming from one of the stars of "S.W.A.T."
I hate using this word, and most of the time, I think people assign it incredibly unfairly, but, can you say "sellout"? I sure can. And apparently, so can Olivier Martinez. Oh well. It's not like I wouldn't do the same thing. And there IS always the chance that he's just thinking the bad movies gotta come first, so he can afford to be more picky later. We'll see what pops up next on his horizon, and just pray, pray, pray it won't be "S.W.A.T. II : Olivier Blows It Again."