Samuel L. Jackson has range. Only we love him best when he doesn’t show it.
The 68-year-old star is back on the big screen this month with “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” The action comedy finds him playing a reluctant witness — and hit man — trying to live long enough to testify against a despot (Gary Oldman).
Jackson showcases what makes him so endearing throughout. A sense of irreverent charm. A dash of danger. And, of course, his mother-bleeping mouth. It’s the ideal Jackson role. but it’s hardly the first.
Consider these other Jackson vehicles that revealed that inimitable style audiences can’t get enough of.
The Hateful Eight
This neo-western from Quentin Tarantino isn’t dumb. The film cast Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, one of several twisted souls stranded by a snow storm. His character may be ripped from the past, but he’s got a very 21st century vibe that’s all Jackson.
It’s in his sass, his style, his attitude. Tarantino knew better than to mess with any of the above.
Snakes on a Plane
The movie itself might have underwhelmed at the box office, but its legacy endures all the same. Why? The movie established, in stone, Jackson’s big-screen persona. Foul-mouthed, in charge and wildly watchable. The actor took the film based on its comical premise, and on screen he didn’t disappoint.
His signature line, which features a double barrel of cursing we can’t share here, speaks volumes. It still does.
We don’t actually “see” Jackson in this Pixar delight. And, because it’s a family friendly film, the actor can’t uncork his usual stream of profanity. His Frozone character still epitomizes Jackson’s screen persona. Affable, a tad cranky and always ready with a broad, knowing smile.
The Legend of Tarzan
This failed attempt at a new franchise did one thing right last year. It let Jackson be Jackson. Did it seem odd to have such a modern character running around the jungle? Of course.
Would you rather sit through this stiff, unremarkable studio effort without Jackson’s snap, crackle or pop? No way.
This is where the Samuel L. Jackson legend began. Sure, the actor had plenty of gigs before this 1994 classic. The film still established what he could bring to the big screen.
Director Tarantino gave Jackson too many killer lines to recount here. He delivered them all in a way that became cult film lore. Whether it’s debating John Travolta on the merits of a French Big Mac or intimidating a witness, Jackson’s Jules character mesmerizes … and scares us silly.