With Robert De Niro currently stinking up theatres in Grudge Match - a film that our very own Bruce Kirkland called “a stupid idea designed to swindle the public out of hard-earned cash” - we started to wonder if the Oscar-winner's best days are long behind him.
Then someone mentioned Al Pacino, and it got us thinking: Whose career has taken a bigger turn for the worse?
They're both Oscar winners, but the past decade hasn't been kind to either one of them - 88 Minutes, the Fockers, Righteous Kill, we could go on endlessly.
QMI Agency's Jim Slotek and Liz Braun have their own opinion on who has suffered the worst cinematic decline.
Should they ride off into the sunset gracefully, or can they keep going strong, critics be damned? Read Jim and Liz' defence of each below and sound off in the comments.
JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency
Both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have been spending the last few decades burning their immense cred like Yule logs soaked in gasoline.
But until a few years ago, I would have given the edge for suckitude to De Niro, on the Focker movies alone.
Then I saw Pacino act like he was sexually aroused by Adam-Sandler-in-a-dress in Jack & Jill, a movie that made me go blind for two days.
From that point on, the race was well and truly joined for these two alumni of the Actors Studio. The objective: to see which one could make Lee Strasberg spin in his grave at sufficient velocity to register 5.0 or higher on the Richter scale. (“You guys are killin’ me here! Oh wait, I’m already dead!”).
I will argue that Pacino has scored enough points for egregious scenery-chewing in just-for-the-money roles to steal the crown from his fellow Godfather Oscar-winner. To wit:
-Despite his worst efforts, De Niro, has never been nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Pacino, meanwhile, has impressed the voters enough to be nominated three times – including twice in the same year (2008) for two different movies (88 Minutes and Righteous Kill). His previous nomination was for Revolution, in which he played a trapper who fights to overthrow British tyranny.
-One word: Gigli.
-What have you done for us lately? Well, you may have missed 2013’s Stand Up Guys, a comedy with Alan Arkin and Christopher Walken, about retired criminals who get out of the rocking chairs for one last heist. The movie’s big gag is what happens when Pacino’s character gulps down too much Viagra. The movie came and went, pun intended.
- While that was happening, De Niro got coaxed into actually acting his way to his first Oscar nom in 22 years in Silver Linings Playbook. For his part, it’s been 20 years since Pacino’s last Oscar invite – a nomination for Glengarry Glen Ross, and his only win – for the embarrassing Scent Of A Woman. Serpico? The Godfathers? Dog Day Afternoon? And Justice For All? Sorry, no cigar. I repeat: “HOO-ah!”
-Pacino’s previous nomination? Dick Tracy (1991). What kind of horrible film year was it when a character in the season's worst bomb, and whose face is slathered in latex, gets an Oscar nom?
-Cruising; Author! Author!; The Devil’s Advocate; Ocean’s 13; Two For The Money… there really can be only one explanation. Aliens kidnapped Al Pacino sometime in the ‘80s and replaced him with an android programmed with his mannerisms.
There’s some evidence that the extraterrestrials may have been benevolent captors – allowing the real Pacino his freedom to walk among us for brief periods, expressly for the purpose of starring in TV mini-series. Because the Pacino who won Emmys playing Jack Kevorkian (You Don’t Know Jack) and Roy Cohn (Angels In America), and who was nominated for Phil Spector, clearly does not share DNA with the one who slummed with Channing Tatum in the direct-to-video thriller The Son Of No One.
LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency
Are you talkin' to me? Are you talkin' TO ME?
About Robert De Niro and Al Pacino?
Throw in John Goodman, and you could recast The Three Stooges.
Think about it: Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk! Or not.
Let us agree: De Niro and Pacino are neck and neck for squandering their talent in films that are beneath them.
Let us disagree: Slotek can argue all he likes that Pacino is the reigning king of career suckage, but here's the thing — Pacino was a mentor to Jessica Chastain and helped her make the transition from stage to screen, so a lot is forgiven. He had to set aside his own ego for that gesture.
De Niro has no such saving grace.
How can the same actor who made Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, The King of Comedy, The Untouchables, This Boy's Life, Casino, Heat and Sleepers also be involved in such drek as Little Fockers or Freelancers?
Anyone who sat gobsmacked in a movie theatre and watched De Niro play Jake La Motta in Raging Bull can attest to what this actor can do. He is an extraordinary talent. Al Pacino's fall is little more than a stumble in comparison. He was never on a pedestal as elevated as De Niro's.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen, etc.
Things began to go pear-shaped for the Goodfellas star somewhere around 2000, when he appeared as Fearless Leader in The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle and starred in Meet The Parents. When the laughs depend on such details as the family name 'Focker' , you know you're in trouble.
But maybe, reasoned the fans, those were just aberrations. Maybe De Niro had a big mortgage or a bad agent or lousy luck — there were any number of other reasons why he'd star in crap movies. You could still hold out hope during the string of lacklustre cop/crime movies he made next (15 Minutes, City By The Sea, The Score) but how to explain Godsend or Meet The Fockers in 2004?
De Niro's films over the last dozen years have ranged from terrible to mediocre, with Silver Linings Playbook being the one important exception. The movie is wildly overrated, but De Niro and Jennifer Lawrence both give wonderful performances.
And all that resurgence of hope was dashed by De Niro's next starring role in The Big Wedding. Anyone who sat through that known carcinogen, a 'comedy' co-starring Susan Sarandon and Diane Keaton, knew that something terrible had happened to De Niro. Probably not anything as terrible as actually having to watch The Big Wedding, but something pretty bad.
Could the aliens who abducted Pacino in the 1980s have come back for De Niro 20 years later?
Could the exigencies of being a restaurateur have taken a toll? De Niro is closely involved with at least three highly successful Manhattan restaurants, including Nobu.
Or did he just decide to dismantle the myth-making machinery? Maybe when you're Robert De Niro long enough, all that gravitas and serious fare and dark tragedy starts to wear thin. And you just want to make movies like Meet The Asshats.
Speaking of tragedy ...