I discovered Eric Roberts through Nobody's Fool. He played Riley, a stage technician who falls for the wacky but lovable Cassie (Rosanna Arquette). It's one of those flawed movies that's perfectly enjoyable when watched with the comfortable eyes of nostalgia -- it's not the greatest feat of filmmaking by far, but it's a movie of memories and awkward '80s charm. Watching that, Mr. Roberts became my movie hero.
Yesterday, the world belonged to sister Julia, and today it belongs to daughter Emma, but for some of us, it's always been Eric's world. Over the many years of acting, he's amassed controversy, critical feats, and brow-raising stinkers, bringing us a long selection of roles that should always stay on the radar. Tonight, I want to give you a taste of his accomplishments, as well as a little bit of heroics, because these days, he's like the wonderful Christopher Walken -- mostly pigeon-holed into the tough, meanie, or jerky roles. Without further ado, I give you: The Pope of Greenwich Village and The Best of the Best.
The Pope of Greenwich Village
All they needed was a little "artificial inspiration." (Oh, how I love that line.) Roberts stars with Mickey Rourke as Paulie and Charlie, two Italian brothers who decide to steal a huge chunk of change in order to bet on one of those delusional, infamous "sure thing" racehorses. But in a different sort of twist, this isn't a race they're scheming to bet on -- it's a racehorse they can buy, one supposedly bred from sperm stolen from a Belmont winner. Unfortunately, the robbery gets them into trouble, because they've stolen from the mob.
We've seen this sort of story before, most recently with Before the Devil Knows You're Dead -- a film that just about drives you crazy thanks to the stupidity of its characters, but also finds a way to charm you (at least partially) with their relationship. Greenwich Village just does it with less nudity and a mermaid instead of a Mona Lisa.
Director Stuart Rosenberg also helmed Cool Hand Luke.
Paulie visits his father.
The infamous horse gets a foot bath.
Siskel and Ebert discuss the film.
While I'm not a big fan of Spun, it does reunite Rourke and Roberts, the latter playing one heck of flamboyant, non-typical role. Their scenes would work well here.
Best of the Best
There's nothing quite like martial arts films from the '80s, and Van Damme is only the tip of the iceberg. In Best of the Best, Team USA has to beat Team Korea in the Taekwondo championship, and the team includes Roberts, Phillip Rhee, and Chris Penn -- under the watchful eye of coach James Earl Jones. Yes, it's pretty much the most unlikely martial arts team every collected, but that's part of its charm. The film is all sports, drama, and trying to come together as a team to be victorious. There's even a good dose of revenge as Rhee's Tommy aims to avenge the death of his brother, and Roberts being very, very emotional.
Cue heart-warming speech:
You've worked very hard. All of you. You've grown, as athletes and individuals. You've learnt a lot. We've ALL learned a lot. As Miss Wade would say; a teacher also learns from his students. Today, you have the chance to be the greatest martial artists in the world. It's up to you. If you give everything you've got, EVERYTHING, you'll be winners. That I promise you. You can be the best of the best.
Roberts' character was named after his father, Walter Grady Roberts.
Eric cries ... and cries.
The teams train.