Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Sam Worthington: What's the Deal?

The astronomical rise of Sam Worthington is a mystery to me. Does he perform sexual favours for directors? Does he have a micro-film containing pictures of certain studio-bosses in compromising situations? Has he sold his soul to Satan?

If he had made any kind of impact in the films he has been thrust front-and-centre of in the past year or so, you could almost say Worthington had exploded into the industry. Blown up. Smashed his way onto the A-list. But as it is, it's more like he's kind of just suddenly THERE, like a piece of furniture or a shop-front mannequin.

Worthy is the new go-to guy for broody, stoic action hero performances that plumb shallow depths of emotion, and characterisation that amounts to nothing more than a blank-slate for audiences to project themselves onto.

Don't get me wrong, the man seems like a decent, down-to-earth bloke; ruggedly handsome, looks like he could do you in if he wanted to, but I cannot fathom why he has become the leading man of choice for so many high-profile projects when, on the strength of the performances I have seen him give, he is not up to the task.

I first experienced Worthy in the slightly dull "Terminator: Salvation" and, from the outset, I was thinking "That guy sounds Australian to me". His half-hearted accent was the weakest part of an otherwise solid, if a little bland performance marred by some terrible dialogue and the overall sombre tone of the film.

Then he was in the Giant Blue Cat-People film. You know the one. This was a slightly more colourful performance in more ways than the obvious, as his Jake Sully starts out as an arrogant prick and has to turn into some kind of noble warrior type thing, but still Worthington struggles with the American accent. He often sounds like an Aussie bricklayer who has stumbled onto the set and said "I can do a yank accent!" moments before they rolled. Hang on...

Sully spends about 60% of the film dressed as one of the blue cat people, so Worthington's performance had to be captured by computer and animated digitally, which must have been nigh-on impossible as he delivers another somnabulist turn punctuated by one or two humanising flourishes: a smile here, puppy-dog eyes there, which only serve to accentuate what a void he is for the rest of the duration.

Of course, the actors are second fiddle to the images in "Avatar", but Worthington is dominated by everyone else in the film. Zoe Saldana is emotional, expressive and dynamic, while Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi repeatedly run away with scenes while Worthington is busy furrowing his brow.

Now, some would say that this is a performance of subtlety and texture, but I would say "BALLS" to that. It's as though Worthy simply can't be arsed a lot of the time, like he's not convinced by the part or the script or something. He's just riding it out until they call "cut" and he can go to the pub.

In "Clash of the Titans", Worthy plays Perseus in the same manner he's performed in every film I've seen him in. Like a lunk-headed scrum-half with an emotion-bypass. His family get killed. He frowns a bit and doesn't say much. He finds out he's the son of a god. He frowns a bit more. Etc. And he doesn't even seem to be attempting to disguise his Aussie accent this time!

It's not that I find Mr Worthington particularly bad, it's just that, on the strength of these films, he is no more charismatic or convincing on screen than Keanu Reeves or Orlando Bloom (for example), and yet he is suddenly the next big thing, expected to carry HUGE movies on his own back and kick off massive opening weekends.

He has a burly physicality, for sure (the scene in "Terminator" where he kicks in the heads of Moon Bloodgood's would-be rapers was brutal and believable), and I must admit that I haven't seen any of his smaller, earlier work such as "Somersault" or "Rogue", but I genuinely can't grasp why Worthington has gone from bit-parts and indies to blockbuster figurehead overnight. What's the deal?


  1. He was definately the only redeeming part of Terminator: Salvation and out-acted everyone else by far. But that's not really saying much.

    Way I see it, he's another flavour of the month actor that'll be milked as much as possible then tossed back into mediocrity when people stop caring.

    Then he'll appear in some kind of lame comedy a year or so later.

  2. Dave: I would argue that the only redeeming quality of T:S was Anton Yelchin's performance as a miniature Kyle Reese. He was fully channelling Michael Biehn!

  3. Oh, damnit, yeah. I forgot about him, you're right about him being much like Michael Biehn. Definately.

    The original script apparently had him playing a much bigger part. Y'know, the one where John dies and is brought back as a terminator.

  4. I know everyone is entitled to their opinions, but it seems to me like the majority of the masses just want to bash the guy. Personally, I like him. I've never been a big fan of the typical go to guys that Hollywood has been churning out over the last decade. Strike me down for saying this, but Damon, DiCaprio and Gyllenhall do nothing for me. I have always gravitated to the more low key actors. That's just who I am. I've seen just about every indie that Sam has been in, and although I didn't necessarily care for some of the films per se, I did enjoy his roles.

    That being said, I am looking forward to seeing the darker, edgier side of Sam again. I loved his sociopathic performance in Macbeth, so I am really excited to see his take on The Last Days of American Crime and The Texas Killing Fields. Being a southern girl, I am hoping he is able to pull off that Texas twang. Botching that could be a major letdown for me.

  5. Ami: He doesn't have a good track-record with accents! I heard he was very good in "Macbeth", but it is another of his lesser known works that passed me by. Perhaps I should seek it out?

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  7. It is very true that he doesn't have a great track record with accents, and he has openly admitted to it. But he has been working with a dialect coach so I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    As for "Macbeth" I completely loved the film, but I will give you fair warning... you either love it, or you hate it. There really doesn't seem to be a gray area when it comes to opinions on that movie. I seem to find that most of those who do hate it, are extremely loyal to Shakespeare in it's original context instead of modernized. In a way, I prefer his darker, edgier side. But give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  8. Worthington is like any of us trying to expand, grow use each experience and get a promotion/better roles.
    I am GLAAD he takes these roles despite the criticisms, he has a family to support and bills to get paid... thumbs up!

  9. I couldn't disagree more.
    Sam Worthington was the best thing about TS and the fact he out acted Christian Bale speaks volumes about his acting ability.
    I thought he was strong and yet vulnerable, a very watchable combination.
    And yes he did give a subtle, nuanced performance as Jake Sully, exactly as the role required and what James Cameron wanted.
    I liked the fact he didn't turn it into an over-the-top look at "me" performance but instead made it real and genuine.
    In Clash of the Titans ALL the actors used their own accents, Irish, English, Swedish etc.
    It seems like a lot of bloggers have decided to jump on the same band wagon and trash Sam Worthington for being successful. The whole smug and condescending tone of the articles reeks of sour grapes and nitpicking for the sake of it.....lame.

  10. I agree with Ami. Those other "big actors" don't do a thing for me either. They are overly predictable. And cookiecutter in some cases. All the same "Hollywood schtick."

    Sam is a more subtle actor. He doesn't over do it. He has a quietly intense slightly dark style. And he can show the smallest nuances and vulnerability. I am impressed by him. He's still learning and growing as an actor. These things take so many years! Look at the likes of Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp etc. Took years.

    I like his personality. And I like his style. I think he's gorgeous and refreshing. I can't wait to see him in Dracula Year Zero. He will SHINE in that one! Anyone who's seen Macbeth will know what I mean. SAM ROCKS!!!!

  11. He's the new Mel Gibson. Or Russell Crowe. No,wait. Jason Statham. Erm. Dick Van Dyke?

    Maybe if he was just in a good film it would make him seem less... empty. Wasn't Avatard his first major film and he got Terminator off the back of that, but then it came out before because it takes less time to draw robots than it does giant cats?

  12. While I wouldn't argue the more scowling brooding half of Worthington's work. But in some cases they fit, i.e T-4 or Avatar. Being in T-4 this is a guy who begins in the movie just wanting to slink away and die, while with Avatar you have the warrior cut down and left behind by his peers, fellow marines and soldiers, as such the guy feels kind of worthless and depressed. However through all his work he has moments where he smiles and breaks a bit loose, and it's there you can see the sparkle in his eye, the charisma as a person that got him those roles. What I think is lets give the guy some more work and stretch out those acting muscles. The Fields an American crime seem to be the numbers I want to toss this guy in.

  13. I agree with all the pro-Worthington people here. I haven't had a problem with his acting at all. I agree that he, as well as Anton Yelchin are the best part of TS, and (as much as I hate Avatar - yes, I said it) I didn't have a problem with his Jake Sully either, and he had a pretty straightforward role in Clash of the Titans.

    I think the accent thing is really not that bad, because in all of the films (except Avatar) it's pretty much excusable. If I remember correctly, we don't know a whole lot about Marcus in TS so he could have an accent for all I know/care, and in Clash of the Titans, everyone had an accent, so there's not much to pick on.

    My only thing is that so far, he seems to play those brooding action hero roles. I'd really love to see him break out of that and play somebody really dynamic. I'm looking forward to seeing another side of him. As somebody here mentioned, we've only had a chance to see a few short glimpses of another side. That's my only critique, I guess. Enough with the sad war hero! I want a new Sam now haha.

  14. I agree so much with you... In fact, I arrived to this blog looking for reviews of SW acting ability or lack of...
    Though I must say that in Avatar, the avatar seemed to act better than him

  15. I like the guy and he is one of my faves and the main reason I went to see Clash Of the Titans(which I really enjoyed). I'm an Aussie myself and Sam went to one of the best performing arts schools there is. They are ruthless there, the fact that he finished NIDA is proof of his acting abilities. Wait and see this guy is going to do great things

  16. I do have to agree that today was the first day I bothered to click on this guy's imdb page,and up until a few months ago, I had never heard of him. Just put him, Channing Tatum, and Chris Hemsworth in a movie together and let them battle out who'll be the next Orlando Bloom. Maybe then they'll all go away just as quickly.

  17. He has a charm, please if you want to bash anyone, explain megan fox, she's a very horrible actress that came from no where, then transformers comes around and everybody is megan crazy. At least Sam worked his way up, while fox just probably gave a head job to Bay.