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Saturday, January 28, 2006 

From Gandhi to BloodRayne: Is Ben Kingsley going to Hell?

There was a time when Sir Ben Kingsley was a sure sign of solid, if not entirely flawless, filmmaking. If knighthood wasn't enough, he convinced us with his elegiac and unique screen presence. A hub of quiet intensity, he captured imaginations in the likes of Gandhi, Twelfth Night and Schindler's List with the ability to brood but also enthral. More recently, however, he's been caught in a movie its studio is trying to sweep under the rug, another directed by the next Ed Wood, and can be shortly seen in a film critics are touting as Revolver Redux. Which beckons the question, what is Ben Kingsley smoking and can we all have a taste?

The answers, almost certainly, have to be crack and no respectively. The horrific rejection both financially and artistically of pseudo-fantasy cum trite action/adventure A Sound of Thunder, in which Ed Burns is sent back to the prehistoric ages on Kingsley's 'time travel safari' only to unwittingly kill a butterfly and bring about the apocalypse (or something), is a huge blemish on his already frankly bizarre filmography. I personally haven't had the pleasure of seeing it yet, nor do I want to or think I'll get the chance to, especially since the original production company went bankrupt during post-production. It's these kind of lazy choices which we've seen Kingsley grow more accustomed to recently (remember Thunderbirds?) purely done for hard cash and nothing else. What's more tragic is that Sir Ben is a terrific thespian and this hasn't declined with age: this century alone he's knocked out two dizzying performances in both Sexy Beast and House of Sand and Fog showing when stimulated he's capable of grounded, painful realism but also a charming degree of the fantastic.

Which leaves me flabbergasted that he'll even consider working with someone like Uwe Boll -the film community's equivalent of Hitler but without the charisma. Gamers everywhere slit their wrists when he massacred the already slight Alone in the Dark and House of the Dead and then turned his hand to BloodRayne (currently voted the 23rd worst movie of all time on IMDb) which aside from Kingsley features Michael Madsen, Meat Loaf, and Billy Zane hamming it up in 18th Century Romania. If anyone, anyone, can explain to me why the Oscar-winning gentleman who gracefully translated the Mahatma to the silver screen would star in a piece of shit like this wins a prize.

Kingsley's been quoted as saying that acting gives him "that strange old tribal pulse" and "actors are hunters, we hunt for our characters". If he still holds true to this notion, he must be touched in the head. You would hunt to work for Uwe Boll? Even Oliver Twist has been met with a relatively lukewarm reception. All of this exemplifies the tragedy of House of Sand and Fog and really draws to attention the fine work Kingsley can do, if he could be bothered. He has a whole a slate of films ready to be unleashed -chief among them the aforementioned Lucky Number Slevin- with only a handful showing any real promise. Sir Ben has really built a reputation for himself on a foundation of dignity and effortless commanding presence, working with directors like Steven Spielberg and Richard Attenborough, but his career choices of late are inexcusable -even more so than when he did Species.

I can understand an actor wanting to push himself, but this is not an example of that. And if Don Logan is "sweating like a cunt", surely Ben Kingsley must be.

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