Latest posts by Erin Miskell (see all)
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Welcome to Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits.
Favorite Movie Roles: Moon, The Winning Season, Seven Psychopaths, The Green Mile, Charlie’s Angels
Upcoming projects include a cameo as Sam Bell in Duncan Jones’ Mute and a biopic called Blaze helmed by Ethan Hawke.
Gentlemen Broncos (2009)
Sam Rockwell does serious fare so well that it’s incredibly easy to forget that he can slip in and out of comedy well. The first taste we got of this ability was in 1999’s Galaxy Quest, playing an extra angling to get a bigger part in a show whose cast is zapped into space for a real-life adventure. While he went on to do some high-profile stuff – including the absolutely divine Moon that same year – Rockwell managed to fly under the radar for Jared and Jerusha Hess’s Gentlemen Broncos in a cameo role of a film that’s actually not that bad.
Some background on the film: the Hesses are a husband-and-wife team that brought us 2004’s Napoleon Dynamite and 2006’s Nacho Libre. That should give you a bit of a hint when it comes to the type of story you’re going to get with these two (for yours truly, it’s delightfully offbeat without the twist of twee that someone like Wes Anderson forces upon us). The story itself is rather different: sheltered, homeschooled Benjamin (Michael Angarano) attends a writer’s camp and submits his story to visiting author Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement). Chevalier, upon threat of being dropped by his publisher, steals Benjamin’s story about the intergalactic adventures of Bronco (Rockwell).
Along the way, Chevalier makes some changes to the story: namely, he changes the moniker of the main character from Bronco to Brutus, and makes some, shall we say, personality adjustments. Translation: Bronco is a macho, rugged space cowboy, while Brutus is an effeminate, over-the-top glam-rocking space explorer. And no, Benjamin is understandably unhappy about this change.
While a bit offbeat, this one really shines in terms of its performances. The Hess team can stumble a bit once they reach a certain point in the story, but the cast is so adept that they’re able to keep the audience engaged without much struggle. Clement is perfect as the pompous, self-righteous know-it-all author – his voice is dead on for the role, reminiscent of Matt Berry (who really is the only other person who could have pulled off this role). Angarano does painfully quiet and shy in such a manner that you want to hug him, which makes him a good hero. Even Jennifer Coolidge is good as Benjamin’s ultra-supportive, quirky mother, Judith.
So how does Rockwell do? Total honesty, he’s not in this film for very long at all: he’s only in there as either Bronco or Brutus for the story-within-a-story, and we get snippets of his adventures depending upon who’s writing the story, Benjamin or Chevalier. He’s maybe got 10 minutes’ total in the entire film. That being said, Rockwell steals the entire movie. He walks off with the whole thing, whether he’s playing the indignant, valiant hero Bronco or the gay-icon-worthy Brutus. Some would argue the Brutus is the real star of the show because he’s a meta-gag for the audience: we’re so used to serious Sam Rockwell that over-the-top, flamboyant, obviously gay Sam Rockwell is surprisingly humorous. You’re not laughing at a gay man in space – you’re laughing at Sam Rockwell going so far out of type that he’s literally on a different planet. Some may argue that this makes for a poor performance, as we’re more focused on Rockwell the actor than losing ourselves in the tale itself. Rockwell is more than capable of being a cinematic chameleon – however, this film reminds us that it’s okay to make fun of yourself in the most ridiculous way possible. It reminds us why we love him so much. This is a guy that knows how to cut back and not take himself so seriously. For a few minutes, Sam makes us laugh.
Final score: 4/5
Rockwell’s performance: 11/5