We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10. It seems that every role for Christian Bale is a type of event. He is famously known for lunging himself into his roles, usually playing a hero (Batman) or villain (Bateman), or an obtuse mix of the two (Jim from Harsh Times). Considering his work in the past ten years, he both portrayed iconic characters (Bruce Wayne, and now John Connor) and in turn has made some of his characters iconic (Patrick Bateman of American Psycho). With each role he seems to meet his standard of impressiveness, though this could be argued against his take on John Connor in Terminator Salvation (you can read Jeff Bayer's review here), chugging ahead with even the most lackluster of roles and movies (Reign of Fire) and unearthing a certain type of quality not many other actors can provide. Whether we realize it or not, he is one of the most important actors in Hollywood today.
In honor of both Terminator Salvation and July's Public Enemies, The Scorecard Review has taken on the tough task of trying to narrow down the Top 7 of Bale's most ultimate roles - the one's he will always be remembered for, even if the movie housing such a performance fades into the black of memories of those smart enough to experience them (Equilibrium). This may be the first list ever to put The Machinist before The Dark Knight, but as we know with this certain actor, it's a whole different ball game.
7. Dieter in Rescue Dawn - The director of this film, Werner Herzog, is a bit crazy (he once ate his own shoe). This combination of two extremely dedicated artists was only inevitable, and thus came Rescue Dawn, a survival film that stood out among others - partially thanks to it's star, Bale. He accentuated the character's general cockiness, laughing at his enemies and overall maintaining a high ego despite his lowest of circumstances. To Bale's credit, this is also one a role that finally gave him some long overdue critical buzz, despite the awards circuit's continuation of thinking he doesn't exist.
6. Walter Wade, Jr. in Shaft - Yes, Christian Bale was in this movie. You may not remember his actual face in the picture, (or much else), but it's easy to recall how much that snotty young man whose sociopath behavior was covered up by his rich daddy deserved the Shaft. This is all due to Bale's smirking performance, which like Jeffrey Wright's in the same movie, is successful in making the best of limited space. Bale has some great bad guy moments that are also reminiscent of another one of his roles from the same year - Walter Wade Jr. and American Psycho's Patrick Bateman seem like they could be the best of friends.
5. Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight - Last year's summer blockbuster behemoth was an overall pretty OK movie (just kidding, it was amazing). The "second" Batman film was the continuation of a joyous resurrection, guided full steam ahead by an intense performance from Bale as Gotham City's caped crusader. Not only did he provide CPR to a movie character corpse abandoned speedily by George Clooney, Bale improved him - working off of the mysterious nature of Bruce Wayne, instead of his extravagence. With that certain Bale twinkle in his eye, he maintained our curiousness about a character who at one time carried a Visa card ("don't leave the cave without it," Clooney once said). Bale also introduced a growling Batman, which seems to separate fans as much as it differentiates the multi-billionaire from his other personality. But it takes a real hero to make ideas such as Batpods cool, which is partly why Bale can be considered the best Batman ever. That, plus the many instances of spectacular butt-kicking, and his overall very Bale-like "me against the world" mentality.
4. Jim in Harsh Times - Bale tends to rage in his roles, but rarely puts himself against the world with such bitterness like he does in David Ayers' Harsh Times. In this film he plays a veteran that binges on anger when his application to the LAPD is denied. Not talking abut his gross usage of the words "homie," "dawg," and "homeboy," but this is one Bale's most profane performances, and also one where his attempt at having an American accent just feels awkward. It is the closest that the English actor has ever come to playing a bro, so to speak, but it is not the first time he's played a hot-head with severe anger issues. Nonetheless, Harsh Times owes most of its enjoyability to watching that kid who sang like an angel in Empire of the Sun lose his sh*t in spontaneous moments that will have you, at the least, admiring the risk he took in taking on the Harsh role. That, or it gives you another reason to think twice when you see him on the street.
3. Trevor Reznik in The Machinist – It’s no secret that Bale is devoted to his work. But this particular film will always be remembered as this time his dedication made him look like a total loony. To play the disturbed character of Trevor Reznik, Bale went under a very strict diet and lost sixty-three pounds, apparently eating only one can of tuna and an apple each day. Even though the film is more than decent, his “gimmick” seems to overshadow anyone’s memory of the movie, The Machinist's spectacular ending talked about less than how many bones of Bale’s ribcage one can count in a particular scene. And turning his skill full circle, Bale gained all of that weight back, and more, to play his next role - Batman.
2. John Preston in Equilibrium – Two words: “gun katas.” The Swiss cheese philosophical plot may flaw this futuristic sci-fi actioner, but it is enhanced at a most visceral level with its many instances of awesomeness – many of which have Bale proving this is his most badass performance yet. In a society where emotions are illegal, he plays a “cleric,” a government official who is assigned to maintain order by destroying any traces of love and hate (paintings, people crying). However, when Bale stops taking his federal issued sedatives, he realizes the importance of feelings – and begins to kick some serious ass to protect them. With the aforementioned “gun katas,” Bale dances around the room, two semi-automatic pistols in hand, and dispatches an absurd amount of security guards with an elegance that would make a ballerina weep with joy. He wipes out another police squad in a different scene midway through Equilibrium – but this time in order to save a puppy stowed away in his trunk (and earns double points for being the breed of my dog). In another scene, he both disarms a co-star AND slices his face off, with only three swipes of a sword! Though this movie faded into Blockbuster shelf obscurity, it packs one of Bale’s most memorable, and certainly most exciting roles.
1. Patrick Bateman in American Psycho - Bale could play Batman in three hundred more movies directed by Christopher Nolan, and he still wouldn't have made that role as essential to his Bale-ography as his work in American Psycho. Years from now, people will still be writing confused essays (and top 7 lists) on the absurd greatness of this movie, all of which is dependent on a purely and wonderfully insane performance by Bale. As corporate world robot Bateman, he hacks away at human beings in his apartment with the same delicious craziness as when he embarks on long monologues discussing the history of the band Huey Lewis and the News. Bale injects magnetic insanity into lines like "I have to return some videotapes," or any scene of bland office dialogue (which sometimes involves a debate of who has the better business card). In the film American Psycho, everyone's personality melds together to create one big synonymous walking tie and suit, a fate that Bateman and Bale battle similarly.
There’s the Top 7, now what should be in the Top 10?