Thursday, March 22, 2007

Viva La Mendes

After about 20 minutes into watching the Nicholas Cage stinker Ghostrider I had the uncontrollable urge to leave the theater. I couldn’t take any more of the junky dialog, the awkward narrative, the lame romance, the forced father-son relationship, the corny lessons in masculinity. It even had a voiceover for God’s sake! I hate voiceovers!
Then just as I was getting ready to call ten bucks a wash, Eva Mendes showed up on screen. And like a force of nature, she compelled me to stay.

Now our Eva is not a great actress by any stretch of the imagination. She is of the Aishwarya Rai school of acting – in other words she acts from scene to scene. Putting together a character that shows consistency through the length of the movie is not her forte. But to her credit, she seems to recognize it, tries hard and sometimes pulls off a fine performance.

And yes, she has oodles of sex appeal. If you haven’t seen Mendes in movies, you should – she is strikingly different than in the ad campaigns of her illustrious modeling career. She is tall and dusky. Her lips are full and in a permanent pout. She has big dark eyes and a strong square chin. She has a pugnacious ripeness about her, this girl. I love the fact that she wears her hair big, that she paints her eyebrows like an inverted devil’s checkmark, that she is such an uncompromising latino beauty.

Mendes goes on to save Cage in Ghostrider. Unfortunately one can’t say the same for the movie. But given strong material, Mendes can be so much fun to watch. I’ll go out on a limb and recommend two movies that you’ll probably really like her in.

The first you should see is Will Smith’s 2005 romantic smash Hitch. Cast as a fluffy romantic lead, Mendes brings defiance to the role that is worth watching. The second movie I’ll recommend is the criminally underrated Denzel Washington thriller Out of Time. Here, Mendes delivers a convincing performance as Alex Diaz Whitlock, former wife to Washington and torn between her job and her fondness for her ex.

Next up for Mendes, two crime dramas: We Own the Night with Joaquin Pheonix and Mark Wahlberg and Renny Harlin’s Cleaner with Samuel Jackson.

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