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Feature What happened to Robert De Niro?
Did De Niro sell out?
August 15, 2010
What's the deal with Robert De Niro? His big release this year is Little Fockers. Forgive me if I'm underwhelmed by that particular project. I mean, Meet the Parents was funny, but Meet the Fockers not so much. I really don't think a third entry in this series is required.
At least he also has Stone coming out this year, which looks promising. Still, there's something wrong with De Niro's recent output. Let's peek at his film choices since 1999. Here are his high profile projects of the past decade.

YEARFILMIMDB SCORE
2000The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle4.1
2000Men of Honor6.8
2000Meet the Parents7.0
200115 Minutes6.1
2001The Score6.8
2002Showtime5.3
2002Analyze That5.6
2004Meet the Fockers6.4
2005Hide and Seek5.6
2007Stardust7.9
2008What Just Happened5.9
AVERAGE SCORE:6.1

I would think at his age (67) he would be looking to solidify his legacy as a great actor by taking on some challenging roles, maybe chasing some oscars. Instead he's been chasing bad comedies and mediocre thrillers. Throw in a couple animated film voice characters and some things nobody saw like Godsend, and Everybody's Fine to round out the resume. This is not a slate of high quality films. Maybe I'm to believe elder gentlemen roles are so hard to come by in Hollywood that even one of our greatest living actors can't land a decent part? Somehow I don't buy that. Why couldn't he have been in The Departed or No Country For Old Men?

Compare the 00s to his defining films of the 70s, 80s, or 90s

YEARFILMIMDB SCORE
1973Mean Streets7.5
1974Godfather II9.0
1976Taxi Driver8.6
1978The Deer hunter8.2
AVERAGE SCORE:8.3

YEARFILMIMDB SCORE
1980Raging Bull8.4
1982The King of Comedy7.6
1984Once Upon a Time in America8.4
1987The Untouchables8.0
1988Midnight Run7.5
AVERAGE SCORE:8.0

YEARFILMIMDB SCORE
1990Goodfellas8.8
1990Awakenings7.6
1991Cape Fear7.2
1995Casino8.1
1995Heat8.3
1997Wag the Dog7.0
1997Jackie Brown7.6
1998Ronin7.2
AVERAGE SCORE:7.7

For 3 decades, this guy made movies averaging around 8 on a scale of 10. But in the last decade he's dropped to an average of 6. So ... what happened? 1999 is what happened. In 1999 he released Analyze This. I understand taking this role. Much of the comedy comes from the fact we thought of him as a mobster, making him instantly credible, and it was cool to see him poke fun at his onscreeen persona. The movie wasn't great, but it was good enough. It opened at #1 and went on to make $106 million domestic and another $70 million foreign. That's more money than any of his movies had ever made. His highest grossing film before that was Cape Fear at $79 million in 1991. Even if we look at inflation adjusted numbers, Cape Fear doesn't quite crack $100 million in 1999 dollars. His best inflation adjusted films are The Deer Hunter at $106 million and The Godfather II with $130 million in 1999 dollars.

It sure looks like Robert De Niro sold out. Since 1999 it appears he's signed up for paydays instead of challenging roles. After Analyze This showed he could star in a money-maker movie, studios increased his pay to be in lesser movies. And he's taken advantage of it. I don't begrudge him making money. That's a major goal of filmmaking, to make money. But in doing so he abandoned the strong character pieces he was beloved for. I'd just like to see another Louis Gara or Sam Rothstein, and no more Jack Byrnes.

- crocoPuffs

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