Tell me what’s wrong with this sentence:
Anthony Mackie is currently, and consistently, one of the best supporting actors around.
Answer: the word “supporting.”
In anticipation of next week’s wide-release, “Pain & Gain,” (which I’m really hoping is good) I wanted to do an article on Mackie, who co-stars in the film.
The pre-release spotlight so far has understandably been on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Mark Wahlberg, and I’m not saying that will change after the movie is released. They’re established stars, they’ve led a variety of movies, and frankly, they’re two of the most likeably charismatic mainstream actors at the moment.
Mackie is a guy audiences recognize, but he’s not carrying tent-pole movies by himself.
Well, he can, and it’s probably just a matter of time until he does.
It’s not that he hasn’t had lead roles. He broke out in 2004 when he starred in Spike Lee’s “She Hate Me” and Rodney Evans’ “Brother to Brother,” where he was nominated for Best Debut Performance at the Independent Spirit Awards (you probably remember him as Papa Doc in “8 Mile” before these came out).
In 2010, he led Tanya Hamilton’s well-received “Night Catches Us” with Kerry Washington, which cleaned up at the Black Reel Awards. These are just the notable leads; he’s had great supporting roles in everything from “Half Nelson” to “The Hurt Locker.”
Despite this success, Mackie hasn’t become a bona fide movie star yet. Granted, this achievement eludes most actors because they don’t have that “it” factor (that magical combination of charisma, screen presence, attractiveness, acting chops, and a killer smile; I’m sure there’s a more specific formula for it somewhere out there in the annals of Hollywood). That isn’t the case here, as this guy’s got it in spades, but it’s not only that: he’s also incredibly diverse as an actor.
I have a hard time picturing Will Smith as Tupac Shakur in “Notorious” or Frank, the smooth drug-dealer in “Half Nelson,” but I can see Mackie in a “Men in Black” role without hesitation. He’s a likeable guy onscreen, and I’d be willing to bet he has a flair for the comedic, which has gone mostly untapped so far.
This isn’t a critique of Smith, nor should it be. He’s branched out in things like “Ali” and “Six Degrees of Separation” and he’s been a movie star for so long, he’s at an unfair disadvantage when it comes to picturing him as much else. Although this is precisely why it’s Mackie’s time to become a go-to guy, he’s that rare combination of character actor and movie star “it” factor. He’s got the best of both worlds.
Fortunately, Mackie, and most likely his agent, seem to have confidence in his potential future as the next big thing. He’ll be making his Marvel-debut next year as Falcon in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and has the Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) directed “Runner, Runner” opening later this year with Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake. With a line-up like that, he seems to be following a career trajectory similar to his “Hurt Locker” co-star Jeremy Renner, and that’s turned out incredibly well for him.
The thing to really look forward to though is Mackie’s portrayal of jazz icon Buddy Bolden. Shadow and Act has been tracking development on that project from Dan Pritzker for quite some time, and I’m hoping we’ll see it sooner rather than later.
If you see “Pain & Gain” (I should have a review up next week) be sure to keep an eye out for him. He’s the real deal, and has been for a while. If those Black Panther or Luke Cage projects ever come to fruition, I’m sure Mackie wouldn’t mind adding another superhero to his filmography.