Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Tommy Lee Jones

Another deviation for Tuesday's Overlooked Films, Audio & Video at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom. Don’t miss out on some real vintage action over there. 

Not long ago, we were watching The Fugitive when a member of the family remarked that Tommy Lee Jones was a very good actor and that he looked pleasant on screen. I thought about it and agreed he was pleasing but also brooding at the same time, which far from diminishing his screen presence actually enhances it. 

Tommy Lee Jones is one of those unassuming actors whom you don't tire of watching and have a certain comfort level with; someone who puts you at ease in your seat; someone like Morgan Freeman, who provides good entertainment and good value. His characters, at least the ones I've seen, are easy going, laconic, frequently bemused, often flustered, and never really in a hurry chasing good or bad guys, and he has been chasing a fair number of them. His cinematic appeal probably lies in his craggy-faced smile; if you think about it, he does smile a lot.

While watching The Fugitive, for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that Tommy Lee Jones has been cast as a law enforcer in a number of films. He has been stereotyped as cop, sleuth, agent, ranger, prosecutor, and military man, in character roles that, in fact, suit him well. Occasionally, he has played the saviour outside the confines of the law, as in the disaster flick Volcano and in the thriller The Hunted.

I haven't seen all of his movies—in a television and film career spanning forty-two years—but among the ones I have seen, The Fugitive, The Client, US Marshals, and No Country for Old Men stand out; perhaps, because of the common thread running through them. In all four movies, lawman Tommy Lee Jones is chasing someone or other to the point where he actually looks and sounds alike; whether in pursuit of Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford) in The Fugitive or the young client of Reggie Love (Susan Sarandon) in The Client and Mark J. Sheridan (Wesley Snipes) in US Marshals or Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) and Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) in No Country for Old Men.

The only film where his character looked out of sorts, perhaps owing to the presence of the formidable trio of Bardem, Brolin, and Harrelson, is the Coen brothers’ film, undoubtedly the most violent of the quartet.

Tommy Lee Jones seems to be content in doing the kind of films he has done so far, which is not to say that he doesn't have an impressive body of work behind him.  As he says, courtesy IMDb, “It's no mean calling to bring fun into the afternoons of large numbers of people. That too is part of my job, and I'm happy to serve when called on.” It's what makes him such a likeable actor.

Born in Texas, sixty-eight year old Tommy Lee Jones worked in underwater construction and on an oil rig, had future Vice President Al Gore as his roommate, and is believed to have said that he loved cinema and agriculture.

I have mentioned some of Tommy Lee Jones’ more obvious films while deliberately leaving MIB out. Which of his films do you like?



For previous Actor Profiles, see under Labels.

12 comments:

  1. I loved Tommy Lee in MEN IN BLACK, Prashant. Have you seen that one? A very fun film. Also liked him in DOUBLE JEOPARDY where he's called upon to chase down Ashley Judd. Another entertaining movie. Of course, I loved him best in THE FUGITIVE. Yeah, it seems as if Tommy Lee is always chasing after someone. He is a terrific on-screen presence.

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    1. Yvette, I enjoyed the first installment of MEN IN BLACK more than its two sequels. I agree, it was a nice sf comedy. Tommy Lee Jones has praised Will Smith for being a good guy and a live wire on the sets. I saw DOUBLE JEOPARDY years ago and, in fact, did think of mentioning it in my sketchy profile of the actor; somehow it slipped my mind. I haven't seen Ashley Judd in any other film since DJ.

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  2. My fav. is THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG and COA LMINER'S DAUGHTER/

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    1. Patti, I have not seen either of these films and will line them up for a probable Tommy Lee Jones festival of films.

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  3. Jones probably made THE FUGITIVE the hit that it was actually, stealing all his scenes from everybody! He was a great baddie in UNDER SIEGE (again stealing the movie) - I loved him in SPACE COWBOYS, which is a bit silly but great fun. He was amazing in early work like THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG - did you catch his very brief role in LOVE STORY?

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    1. Sergio, I didn't know he was in LOVE STORY; I seem to have missed him completely. You're right about his role in THE FUGITIVE and stealing the film from right under Ford's nose. While I've seen UNDER SIEGE and remember it more for Steven Seagal than Tommy Lee Jones, I haven't seen SPACE COWBOYS and THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG. I'll be looking up these along with some of his other earlier movies.

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  4. I don't think I have seen THEFUGITIVE. MEN IN BLACK would be a favourite and I can't really recall him in the Coen brothers flick - probably time for a re-watch then!

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    1. Col, I have seen both these films more than once which is a sign that I have a lot of free time and that I ought to utilise it to read more books. I don't think I want to see NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Bardem is kind of creepy and chilling.

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  5. I do like Tommy Lee Jones, he comes across as really genuine as well.

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    1. Rebecca, "genuine" is the word to describe Tommy Lee Jones, the actor. He has an endearing screen presence.

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  6. Many of his films wouldn't be on my list, but whenever I see him in anything I am struck by his quiet charisma. I did see him in the Fugitive, and Coal Miner's Daughter was a big favourite. Long career!

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    1. Moira, I think I first heard of him (and scores of other actors and actresses) only in the nineties with the advent of cable television in India and the beaming of Hollywood films in Indian households. But I still haven't seen him in any of his seventies and eighties fare.

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