Thursday, March 10, 2011

Watch Online In praise of Charlie Sheen: In the days before #winning and 'Tiger Blood,' actor could actually act

Watch Online In praise of Charlie Sheen: In the days before #winning and 'Tiger Blood,' actor could actually act
Joe Neumaier
Thursday, March 3rd 2011, 11:02 PM

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In 'Navy Seals,' Charlie Sheen can be seen in his pre-'Tiger Blood' days.

The former "Two and a Half Men" star's very public meltdown has led to the usual "Can his career be saved?" questions. Which got me thinking about how his career started. Yes, his older brother Emilio Estevez got better early roles, but Charlie had his father Martin Sheen's looks and cadence, and certainly had more of a presence than Estevez.

I first noticed him in "Lucas" (1986), in which he played a high school football player, a hotshot but not a jackass who wound up with the girl (Kerri Green) beloved by a geek (the late Corey Haim). Sheen was soft-spoken and breezy, a bit dopey but unexpectedly kind, and while you rooted for the bookish title character to win over his crush, you could see where she, a cheerleader, would connect with Sheen.

Later that year Sheen had a cameo (being shown a lot now, of course) as a bruised, scruffy thug in a police station in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."

"Why are you in here?" asks Ferris's sister (Jennifer Grey). "Drugs," Sheen replies dryly.

And in the fall of 1986, Sheen was the stand-in for the young Oliver Stone in "Platoon," the Best Picture winner for that year. There's a reason, I think, why only two Vietnam war movies have won Best Picture Oscars ("The Deer Hunter" being the other): It's because there's someone, something, general audiences can identify with in them, and in writer-director Stone's "Platoon," that's Sheen, absolutely. In it, he's lost as a lamb, eager to do right but confused by what that means. Wide-eyed naivete gives way to hard-eyed survival instinct, and Sheen embodied that.

He wasn't nominated for an Oscar as his costars Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger were, which reflects how much of the power of "Platoon" was ultimately in its black-and-white, good military-vs-evil military scenario; the murky grey middle ground was where Sheen's character resided, and so the actor was forgotten. Not the wrong choice, but it's interesting how people don't seem to associate him at all with the movie.

Sheen reunited with Stone the next year for "Wall Street," and again, while the picture is remembered, and Michael Douglas got a Best Actor Oscar, Sheen is regarded as incidental. He's not shake-the-rafters great, but again, he's a strong conduit for Stone's anger, and the scene when he shouts at his father -- played by his real-life dad Martin -- in an elevator is visceral, potent stuff.

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