Samuel L. Jackson's star power refuses to burn out

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Samuel L. Jackson

Anyone with a legacy worth mentioning is likely to have numerous failures for every one of their achievements. While this rule can certainly apply to most careers, Hollywood celebrities can provide an especially cruel example of this. Even after overcoming the odds and being given a chance to prove one’s self, stars are sometimes rewarded only with an unforgiving audience and an unreliable future.

At the onset of their careers, actors find themselves in cardboard cutout roles, in boring family comedies, recycled horror plots or life-is-hard-for-the-new-kid teen dramas. Before Tom Hanks was Forrest Gump, he was Big; Johnny Depp’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas came after his Nightmare on Elm Street; and before Nicholas Cage took on Adaptation, he first had to star in Valley Girl.

But there is an actor whose cinematic slumps are nearly as entertaining as his famous triumphs: Samuel L. Jackson. Thinking of Jackson can bring up fond memories of gossipy gangsters in Pulp Fiction or witty cartoon comedies like in The Incredibles. However, as memorable as some of Mr. Jackson’s roles have been, he has devoted a considerable amount of his career to notoriously awful characters.

Samuel L. Jackson is not just one of the most prominent names in the movie industry, but also one of the most sought after. According to the Internet Movie Database, Jackson has six projects in various stages of production awaiting public release. Clearly Jackson is still a hot name and one capable of surviving one box office bomb after another.

Rather than falling victim to one repetitious formula in his career, Jackson has been part of a number of different tired formulas. We’ve seen him as the street savvy cop coupled with fish-out-of-water Eugene Levy in The Man " a role quite similar to that of Chris Tucker’s in Rush Hour. He’s been a sassy lone wolf standing for justice in the pornographically titled Shaft and both XXX films.

When it comes to monster flicks, Jackson hasn’t had the best luck, but that hasn’t stopped him from being eaten in both Jurassic Park and Deep Blue Sea, proving that man was not meant to coexist with big-toothed creatures.

Jackson’s recent roles in Lakeview Terrace and The Spirit ought to receive a certain degree of respect. They prove that he can portray a believable villain in both a mundane suburban environment and a surreal Frank Miller comic book world.

Even his less plausible roles have been able to reel audiences in. While logic limits most actors, Jackson is apparently able to operate outside of the boundaries.

Jackson’s most notable explorations into absurdity include his role as Lazarus in Snakes on a Plane, Mace Windu in the Star Wars Trilogy and the upcoming voice of Afro Samurai.

While defenders of these films might say that Snakes on a Plane is a satire so it’s allowed to bypass normal qualifications of taste, or that carving up robots with a glowing purple phallus makes sense in the Star Wars universe, you might be hard-pressed to find many to defend Afro Samurai.

Jackson is a powerful actor in Hollywood with an established name in film history. Most of his films don’t break a 6.0 on many public review websites, such as Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb, yet he continues to be cast in numerous projects with hardly a break in between them.

In the movie world, Samuel L. Jackson is like that friend who’s in the same program as you. He’s managed to get a few impressive marks but is barely maintaining a passing average. Everyone knows him, and he’s an especially popular butt of jokes when he’s not around, but it would be hard to imagine life without him.

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