You might be surprised when looking at Mel Gibson’s filmography that he’s seldom played villains. He’s played his share of bad boys if you go by his Martin Riggs in the “Lethal Weapon” franchise. Otherwise, he’s mostly been a heroic figure in movies going way back to his “Mad Max” days.
All of the above is about to change with Mel Gibson’s big screen comebacks. It all starts with his role of antagonist Luther Voz in “Machete Kills” this September. Yes, it’s a far cry from playing in such esoteric fare as “The Beaver”, which still needs a rational explanation to many moviegoers.
Perhaps playing a villain is an all too common move today when you’ve been away from starring in movies and want to reinvent your acting persona. But that might have more scrutiny when you’ve had personal controversies in your life like Gibson has had. Or it might be the way to deflect criticism when Gibson playing a good guy may no longer be believable to audiences.
In fact, the darker the persona of that villain, the more it can separate from how dark Gibson can apparently be when he’s not a happy camper. How dark of a villain he’ll play in “Machete Kills” is yet to be determined, despite the “Machete” franchise already being as tough as Michelle Rodriguez’s eye patch. Seeing Gibson as the main antagonist could provide a chilling effect to those who remember hearing his hysterically angry voice in leaked telephone conversations to his ex-wife.
His fictional villainy won’t stop at “Machete Kills” either now that he’s rumored to also play the villain in “The Expendables 3.” If that’s the streak Gibson is going on, it could be an interesting examination of how to have a comeback in Hollywood without any fallout. Although it may also be a rough ride if sticking with playing villains in all action movies.
What would happen if Gibson decided to play a villain in a domestic drama or even an historical epic? One can only imagine how compelling it would have been to have Gibson play someone like Pontius Pilate in his “The Passion of the Christ” or one of the Maya in “Apocalypto.” Regardless, it was commendable enough that Gibson didn’t place himself in a movie he directed and produced.
Considering he’s played a family man more than once, playing someone very close to his own experiences might be the catharsis he and his fans need in figuring Gibson out as a person. Perhaps “The Beaver” was enough of a psychological portrait, albeit one that nobody saw. Let’s see Gibson as an abusive husband and put a new spin on why that person is the way he is based on past history or other circumstances.
If that’s the new act of contrition in Hollywood, then we may see more actors with well-publicized personal demons take on roles more tolerable to audiences. For some Gibson fans, playing Martin Riggs again for a “Lethal Weapon 5” would be more tolerable than anything else. All told, Gibson’s Riggs character may fit the persona many movie fans view Gibson as: Somewhere between heroic and crazy.