The death of Haskell Wexler a few months back reminded everyone how important his movie Medium Cool is, and also just what an awesome lead actor he cast in the shape of Robert Forster. With leading roles in Lewis Teague’s always enjoyable Alligator (1980), Bill Lustig’s phenomenal Vigilante (1983) and Norbert Meisel’s criminally underseen Walking the Edge (1985), he reached a career high with an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of bail-bondsman Max Cherry in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997).
While the QT effect didn’t exactly lead to the kind of career boost experienced by John Travolta, Harvey Keitel or Samuel L. Jackson, this veteran character actor, who adds a little class to any movie he’s in, still churned out some high end performances in a handful of under-the–radar films you need to seek out; here’s five of the best…
OUTSIDE OZONA (J.S Cardone, 1998) This serial killer drama which revolves around the late nineties narrative du jour of a handful of strangers whose lives cross paths, stands out primarily for its cast. Kevin Pollack, Sherilyn Fenn and Meat Loaf head up the ensemble, with Forster on fine form as lonely trucker Odell Parks – a role he stepped into at the last minute following the death of J.T Walsh.
DIAMOND MEN (Dan Cohen, 2000) Undoubtedly his best role after Jackie Brown, here he plays a world weary diamond salesman tasked with training his soon-to-be replacement. Forster is perfectly cast alongside Donnie Wahlberg in a film that’s an unheralded gem, albeit one that’s yet to receive a UK DVD release, so get importing all you Brit-based Forster fans before it goes OOP.
FINDERS FEE (Jeff Probst, 2001) So, the host of trashy reality show Survivor decides to write and direct a movie? Cool your cynicism, as this tale of a found lottery ticket is a really well-structured tale of intrigue and drama. True, Forster is only here in a minor supporting role, but he still brings the requisite bit of class to the table. Described by EyeForFilm.co.uk as “A flat, soulless piece of throwaway trash”, what more do you need to convince you to track it down?
MURDER IN GREENWICH (Tom McLoughlin, 2002) Although Forster’s name undoubtedly catches the eye here for his portrayal of retired detective Steve Carroll in this cold case true story, it’s the director’s name which may twist the arm of the undecided. McLoughlin of course is best remembered for holding the megaphone on Jason Lives: Friday 13th Part VI, as well as Sometimes They Come Back, but here he adds a little bit of extra suspense to the format of a TV movie.
THE HUNT FOR THE BTK KILLER (Stephen Kay, 2005) Another selection, another made for television slice of reality, but as with Murder in Greenwich, it was shot by a director with an eye for the macabre. Kay had lensed the overly-castigated Boogeyman the same year, and in this dark true story we find Forster leading the investigation to capture a serial killer who gloats over his acronym (Bind, Torture, Kill) and has spent thirty-one years at large.
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