Take Three: Paddy Considine

Posted by julian On 11:49 AM
Craig here with the last in the current series of Take Three. Today: Paddy Considine


Take One: Dead-end England, twice

"Phil" in My Summer...
Colin Firth, Daniel Craig, Colin Farrell, Clive Owen. And so on. When I think of an actor who encapsulates exactly what is crucial, surprising and truly versatile about British male acting right now, none of the above quite pass muster, for me. Paddy Considine, on the other hand, hits the mark. His two roles for director Pawel Pawlikowski – kindly arcade manager Alfie in Last Resort (2001) and Jesus freak Phil in My Summer of Love (2004) – couldn’t be any different from one another, yet both cover all the above attributes. Watch the two films back to back and tell me Considine shouldn’t be up for every great role an actor of his range and calibre could be suggested for right now. Then ask me why he doesn’t have a shelf full of awards already. We can then all lobby hard for the gongs to be shovelled Paddy’s way more often.

Considine put the mental into fundamentalist in Summer where he plays an ex-con turned Christian zealot converting Yorkshire with a cross on a hilltop. Phil’s internal rage fires up in Considine’s eyes in every one of his scenes, pre-empting his true conversion, his relapse, later in the film.

Considine in Last Resort

In Resort he's all heart and a breath of fresh air, amiably easing the desperate isolation felt by Russian asylum seeker Dina Korzun and her son. (The look on Considine's face when he comes home to them with a takeaway is perfection.) Alfie’s sacrifices – his beating of Korzun’s “pimp”, his early hours assistance in their escape, his stolid, ongoing protection – were some of the most altruistic, selfless acts a character has committed in a film this last decade. Considine was electric in both films  – in small and grand ways. Both films, two contemporary takes on dead-end England, form a pair of genuinely indispensable gems.

"Mike" in Cinderella Man
Take Two: Working hard for Uncle Sam

Considine's name in a film's opening titles guarantees my immediate interest. Two US-set films that he added some strong support to, but which on the surface could have felt like paycheck gigs were were Cinderella Man (2005) and In America (2002). Cinderella Man was of course the Russell Crowe show, but tucked away lower on the cast list Paddy popped in for a few minor scenes, adding a chunk of flat-capped rakish charm as Crowe’s New Jersey friend and co-worker Mike Wilson. The East Staffordshire-raised Considine fit into Depression-era America well, and mastered the NJ accent to go with it. His scenes with Crowe are heartfelt and are demonstrative of the essentiality of the  character actors in propelling a film's drama forward.

In In America he has a more substantial part, as cash-strapped Irish immigrant family man and struggling actor Johnny Sullivan. Samantha Morton and Djimon Hounsou snagged the Oscar nods, but the Academy missed out on honouring his shrewd and thoughtful turn. The film took on extra emotional heft whenever Considine was solo on screen, whether sadly scouring the NY streets for acting work or staring manfully across the city. Only an actor who’s worked hard on his way up could make such moments plausibly memorable. Both stateside trips were integral roles that he owned from the periphery. Any film historian glancing back at Considine’s career may see both films, perhaps rightly, as serviceable CV stepping stones that helped gain him his respected position today.

Take Three: Avenging Angel of the North

Director Shane Meadows and Considine go way back. They met on a performing arts course at Staffordshire's Burton College and have successfully, but intermittently, worked together ever since. Outside of the two Pawlikowskis, Considine’s appearances in three Meadows films offer up his most invigorating performances so far. He had a small role in 1999’s A Room for Romeo Brass and was the first half of Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee in 2009, but between the two was his gruff, electrifying turn as Richard in Dead Man’s Shoes (2004), a Nottingham-based revenge thriller in the mould of Death Wish; Kill Bill on a council estate. He plays a troubled soul easily turned to wretched violence by the abuse doled out to his younger brother. (The exact plot details of which I’ll keep mum about, for fear of spoilers.) He’s a Travis Bickle up North – a terminating force in a trench coat and gas mask. Think Charles Bronson playing the disgruntled miner in My Bloody Valentine.

Close to the edge: Paddy wears Dead Man's Shoes

This is the kind of role usually relegated to a shadowy bit player, the killer loitering in the background of a shot in a horror flick, but Considine brings him front and centre; he’s the (anti)hero and the devil, depending on how you see him. Watch the way he laughingly bares teeth through a kind of half-smile; at any minute this will sour into a scary sneer. Meadows' camera focuses in on his face, catches it slowly twisting into despair as the film barrels onward. The actor is especially formidable in the acid-trip party-gone-wrong scene. He’s fascinating to watch... and frighteningly good.

Three more key films for the taking:  24 Hour Party People (2002), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (2009)

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