7 Guilty Pleasure Gerard Butler Movies
With the award season officially over (and Leo finally has that Oscar), we’re now settling into the doldrums of the early season fare. And what better way to dirty up your palate than a couple of back-to-back Gerard Butler stinkers, Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen?
But I must make a confession: Gerard Butler is one of my guilty pleasures. He’s an intelligent man who has a reputation for appearing in terrible movies, most of which have a nasty, insalubrious edge to them. Compared to the other classically handsome, well-dressed leading men that largely populate multiplexes these days, Butler is a bit rougher. His glowering appearance gives him a disreputable air onscreen, often portraying an unreconstructed ladies’ man, so macho that he will start a take clean shaven and finish it fully bearded.
His saving grace is that he flings himself wholeheartedly at any role, and is usually the best part of any dross that he’s starring in. Having blown his law career as a younger man, he chanced his arm at acting and is now headlining big, dumb Hollywood blockbusters. He makes no apology for that, which is his most endearing quality. He gives the impression of a man, now unencumbered by normal life, living the dream for all the geeks out there who ever fancied themselves as a movie star.
Let’s take a look at some of Butler’s greatest…ugh…hits.
1. Phantom of the Opera (Joel Schumacher, 2004)
This hot-and-heavy adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical megahit is a nostalgia piece, blasting you back into the ’80s from the first cheesy guitar riff of the title tune. The film looks like a bordello bedroom, with Schumacher lavishly spending much of the film’s substantial budget on gaudy costumes and extravagant set pieces. That’s a good thing, and frankly I think all films should include a falling chandelier.
Butler plays LeRoux’s Phantom as a murderous stalker, looking like he genuinely can’t wait to get his big hairy hands all over co-star Emmy Rossum’s supple young body. Under the lascivious direction of Schumacher, the starlet gives as good as she gets, giving Butler both barrels of a “let’s get it on” stare in most of their scenes. She also wears lots of frocks that fall down at the shoulder whenever she gets excited.
2. 300 (Zack Snyder, 2007)
Butler’s major breakthrough and most iconic performance came in Zack Snyder’s highly stylized interpretation of Frank Miller’s comic. He plays King Leonidas, a fierce Greek warrior who leads the legendary 300 Spartan troops into battle against the vast invading army of a decadent Persian pervert. 300 is infamously homoerotic, and Butler’s the straightest thing on the screen. He channels Brian Blessed as the noble king, maintaining his dignity despite spending much of the film dressed in red underpants. If your eyes can take the artifice of Snyder’s vision, it’s a true spectacle, and nothing can undermine the rousing nature of the old myth.
3. P.S. I Love You (Richard LaGravenese, 2007)
Another big hit for Butler in this club-footed and contrived chick flick. Butler play Gerry, an Oirish fella married to Holly (Hilary Swank). After Gerry dies suddenly, Holly is guided by a series of letters penned by her deceased hubby before his untimely departure, encouraging her to start living again.
Part of Holly’s journey takes her to Gerry’s homeland, shot like a Guinness commercial. Her potential new love interests include an Irish pub singer who looks creepily like Butler, and a mentally unbalanced Harry Connick Jr. This is queasy, unintelligible guff.
4. The Ugly Truth (Robert Luketic, 2009)
The pitch for this gravely misconceived rom-com could be: what if a man who hates women falls for a woman who hates herself? Butler plays Mike, the misogynist host of a crass relationship TV show for guys. His shtick is a little like a blue collar version of T.J. Mackie from Magnolia, without the good writing. He ends up butting heads and eventually bumping uglies with his new producer, Abby (Katherine Heigl), a shrieking, neurotic, self-hating woman-child. Despite her initial gag-reflex at Mike’s antics, she can’t help falling for his masculine “charms”. Together, they’re the most unappealing romantic pairing since Fred and Rosemary West.
5. Gamer (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor, 2009)
Although almost universally panned by critics, Gamer has a lot going for it. It’s a slick, brutal piece of business, combining elements of The Running Man and The Last Starfighter, imagining an all too plausible dystopia where people play video games using real-life avatars.
Butler plays Kable, a death row inmate controlled by a kid in an ultraviolent Call of Duty-esque shoot em up, which is televised to huge, baying audiences. Kable’s wife is trapped in a Sims-like game called Society, where closet rapists get to play out their most craven desires with living, breathing sprites from behind their semen-and-Dorito-dust encrusted keyboards.
Butler’s Kable is a typical Butler-esque action hero: a wronged man seeking retribution by murdering lots of people in a grisly fashion.
6. Law Abiding Citizen (F Gary Gray, 2009)
A throwback to the hackneyed Nineties trope of a criminal mastermind pulling the strings from behind bars. The moral centre of this gratuitously violent thriller feels a little off—Butler’s architect Clyde Shelton should be the protagonist, having witnessed his wife and daughter’s murder at the hands of two scuzzy home invaders. Thanks to a convoluted and far-fetched script, Law Abiding Citizen manages to turn him into a sadistic maniac orchestrating a series of gruesome murders from his cell.
7. Olympus Has Fallen (Antoine Fuqua, 2013)
Cruel, humorless and xenophobic, Olympus Has Fallen is a despicable piece of Right Wing trash. The dastardly North Koreans take over the White House in a spectacular bloodbath, holding Aaron Eckhart’s snivelling President hostage. The crux of the villain’s plan is that Americans won’t be able to tell evil North Koreans apart from kindly South Koreans. Bloody foreigners, all look alike!
Luckily, Butler’s special agent Mike Banning is on hand to save the day, with his penchant for stabbing people in the head. The whole film has a morbid fascination with massive head trauma, with countless skulls popped. Banning even tells the lead baddie to keep one bullet for himself, because otherwise Banning’s going to knife him in the brain. Perhaps that’s the best thing for him, because surely any terrorist ready to take time out from an all-out assault on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to shoot up the stars and stripes must truly hate freedom, and deserves a length of cold steel driven into his cranium.