It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these*, so I thought I might as well take on a real challenge, and that’s Antonio Banderas, an actor who I feel has lost his way in recent years, taking roles in movies that are mostly being released directly to VOD. (*Just a reminder for those who haven’t read previous pieces in this sporadic series. They are written out of love and admiration for the subject, as well as a true interest in seeing them return to the success they had earlier in their careers.)
In the past few months, Banderas has appeared in four movies released mainly On Demand for Lionsgate Premiere or Saban Films: Black Butterfly, Gun Shy, Acts of Vengeance and this weekend’s Bullet Head. I’ve only seen the first two of these, and both movies were pretty bad, but going by the trailers and the normal quality of these films, I’m not expecting much from the other two either.
I’m sure I’m not the first person who discovered Banderas by seeing him in Pedro Almodovar’s excellent 1990 thriller Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! The Spanish actor clearly had enough charm and personality to transition to Hollywood by teaming with Robert Rodriguez, leading to the breakout film Desperado. In fact, the ‘90s were very good to Banderas as he was cast as Zorro in The Mask of Zorro and was cast opposite Madonna in Alan Parker’s musical Evita.
As the ‘90s turned into the ‘00s, it seemed like Banderas was getting less promising roles, and he starred in some out-and-out bombs like Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. Instead, he started making sequels to his earlier hits with Once Upon a Time in Mexico and The Legend of Zorro as well as making four Spy Kids movies in ten years. More importantly, Banderas was hired to voice Puss in Boots in DreamWorks Animation’s hit Shrek series, and even branched off into his own Puss in Boots movie.
Since then, things seemed to have petered out with bombs like Machete Kills (again, with Rodriguez) and The 33, a drama about the Chilean miners that should have done a lot better than the $12 million it made in national release. In 2011, Banderas reunited with Almodovar for 2011’s The Skin I Live In and then appeared with Penelope Cruz in the director’s musical I’m So Excited! which was not received very well.
And that leads us back to today as Banderas seems to be joining his Shrek co-stars by remaining out of the public eye, but that’s only because few people even know about the On Demand movies mentioned above. To the general moviegoers, it appears as if Banderas has dropped out, but to those who’ve seen some of those Lionsgate/Saban films, it just seems like he’s taking whatever role that comes his way as long as it pays. (Okay, Black Butterfly wasn’t terrible but Banderas was the best part of the movie, which isn’t always the case.)
To be fair, I should try to figure out some actual advice that might be useful to Banderas and his management to help regenerate his career, At this point, even doing another movie with Pedro Almodovar or Robert Rodriguez might not be the idea for Banderas, even they’ve done such great work together. Both of those filmmakers are struggling to remain relevant in the 21st Century, and the success of Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel might make a big different on whether he’ll be moved back to the A-list of directors.
There are plenty of other indie auteurs, both foreign and American, who might be able to find something within Banderas to stir them to write better roles for him. If nothing else, Banderas might be better off trying to develop something for himself whether it’s a movie or a TV series, which is something that can elevate the actor’s presence by letting his fans know he’s still working. He also want to look at a few scripts for lightly higher budget films and a role that plays upon his strengths, which is his dashing looks and personality. (Although he’s done so well providing his voice for Puss in Boots, it’s surprising he doesn’t do more voice roles.)
It just seems like Banderas wasting so much of his time making generally bad low-profile movies like the ones being released by Lionsgate Premiere and Saban Film is really doing a disservice to himself as an actor.
Edward Douglas | East Coast Editor