There’s so much going on in the film, both technically, with Anderson’s complex tracking shots, and plot wise, with a cast that includes the aforementioned Wahlberg and Reynolds alongside a young Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore. So it would have been easy for Cheadle’s performance to get lost in all the chaos. Alfred Molina’s audacious cameo as mixtape-making, gun-toting loose canon Rahad Jackson is now infamous, but that’s probably because it’s a showy affair. By contrast, Cheadle’s performance is about the little details: the skittish body language, guarded line delivery and of course his defining feature, those wide sorrowful eyes.
Anderson gives his characters as close to a happy ending as he can. But during the film’s final montage, it’s Buck’s happy ending that I look out for the most. All the characters in the film have been through the ringer enough to deserve a better life, but it’s because we’re placed so deep inside Buck’s internalised sadness each time we see him that I feel he deserves happiness the most.
When Buck finally achieves his dreams of opening a stereo store and starting a family (albeit through money acquired in a typically Anderson-esque traumatising incident), and we get to see that smile, it’s because Cheadle’s taken us on a journey with his performance. All that from a supporting character dressed as a cowboy.
In praise of…
- In praise of Forest Whitaker in Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
- In praise of Whoopi Goldberg in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple
- In praise of Pam Grier in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown
Watch the Black Star trailer