Seriously, What's Happening Here?
Date of Assessment: December 10, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Ensemble, directors, rawness
Negative Buzzwords: Wooden, lead roles, Marky Mark
The Case: For awhile there (up until the past few years, actually), it appeared as if Mark Wahlberg had proved 'em all wrong. During his very early showbiz career, he was forced to endure the title of Least-Known Wahlberg Brother, and many in the (now virtually shuttered) music business presumed that Marky Mark had made a fatal career move by ditching his pre-fame position within New Kids On The Block. Yet following a very brief rapping career, Mark Wahlberg really hit the big time by showing off his Calvins. Shortly thereafter, Mark made a surprisingly impressive acting splash alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries, not to mention his portrayal of the creeptastic villain who seduces a young Reese Witherspoon in Fear and a breakthrough role as porn star Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights. From there, his credits continued to accrue from a hit-and-miss standpoint, but it's impossible to deny that Wahlberg has exceeded all expectations that anyone ever held for the front man of The Funky Bunch. Granted, the mere fact that the guy's not lying in the same gutter as Kriss Kross would also be impressive, but I'm merely stressing the fact that none of us ever surmised that Mr. Self-Crotch Grabber would ever make an Oscar-nominated turn (for Best Supporting Actor) in a Martin Scorsese movie.
None of Mark Wahlberg's early acting success could be considered a mistake or a result of attention-seeking maneuvers. Quite simply, there was a raw authenticity to his early work, and he later made a smooth transition to playing key roles within strong ensembles throughout many genres as illustrated by the following movies: Perfect Storm (George Clooney, John C. Reilly, Diane Lane); The Italian Job (Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Donald Sutherland); I Heart Huckabees (Jason Schwartzman, Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin); Three Kings (Clooney, Spike Jonze), and The Departed (DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen). Again, the fact that he managed to climb to such heights is pretty fucking impressive for a punk kid who was initially written off the show business map.
Despite being "on" in the above-mentioned projects, Mark Wahlberg's also responsible for laughable performances in several clunkers like Rock Star, Planet of the Apes, and Four Brothers (although I secretly enjoyed the latter). Even worse, his most recent acting delivery has been rather abysmal even by the standards of inexplicable drivel such as The Happening, We Own the Night, Max Payne, and The Lovely Bones. And no, he really wasn't that funny in The Other Guys either.
Somewhere along the way, Mark Wahlberg's abilities as a thespian have stagnated, and he's not only refused to develop further as an actor but also regressed considerably. Even worse than delivering a series of awful leading performances is that the guy's made the mistake of pissing off the gamers in Max Payne (from the looks of things, he may have never touched the video game in preparation); and, for whatever reason, Mark Wahlberg has signed on to turn off the same targeted audience by accepting the lead role in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. To put it mildly, that one can't turn out well. As an actor, Wahlberg thrives only in an optimal environment -- where director, script, and fellow cast members are also close to impeccable. Take away any of these factors, and Wahlberg's presence crumbles as well.
On the bright side, he's one of the main players (opposite the one and only Christian Bale) within an upcoming Oscarbaiter, The Fighter. Fans of Mark Wahlberg shall get the warmies for this movie's early buzz and also because he's re-teaming with director David O. Russell (I Heart Huckabees). Indeed, Mark is clearly capable of delivering fine performances under the guidance of a seasoned and proven director. Perhaps he can find some repeat action with directors like Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights), James Foley (Fear), and Martin Scorsese (The Departed). There's definitely an equation to reaching a decent Mark Wahlberg performance -- now, he's just got to realign all the factors properly and make an acting comeback.
Prognosis: While very few folks in the Pajiba crowd shall be impressed by Mark Wahlberg's forays into television producing (Entourage" and "How to Make It in America"), the practice has proven quite lucrative for his continuing Hollywood career. The unfortunate truth about Mark's acting abilities is one of stagnation, but he'll keep himself afloat through producing. We can only hope that, someday, he'll get his acting shit back in gear too.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.