Sony Pictures Classics
All of a sudden, Pierce Brosnan is absolutely everywhere. The Greatest, a family drama that begins its nationwide rollout today in New York and Los Angeles, marks the fourth theatrical release in the last two months for the 56-year-old actor. In that brief period he's played a bearded, wheelchair-bound teacher who also happens to be a centaur (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief); a combative former British prime minister (The Ghost Writer); and the aloof pinstriped patriarch to Robert Pattinson's plaid-clad sulk (Remember Me).
The erstwhile James Bond has received by far the widest acclaim for his work in Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, a film the director reportedly finished editing while under house arrest in Switzerland. And Brosnan does bring a lot to the political thriller as Tony Blair-with-an-eight-figure-book-deal, letting more fury than usual break through that peerlessly charming exterior. Noting that the actor "catches the defensive self-righteousness of power," The New Yorker's David Denby wrote that in The Ghost Writer Brosnan gives "the strongest performance of his rather lazy career."
While Denby's prose is often amazingly precise—the phrase "punitive luxury," which he uses to describe the coastal state of exile in the Polanski film, really gets to the heart of things—his description of Brosnan's career as "lazy" still rankles me a little bit. It's not that I have a constant Denby in my bonnet, or that I make it my business to mull over every word employed by the often fogeyish critic. But I do think that Brosnan has made more interesting choices than he generally gets credit for. He can be rather wooden, but he hasn't just been coasting on charm.