THIS IS SPARTA!
Blame me not for opening this post with that all-too-famous line. When you speak of Gerard Butler, this quote from the movie 300 immediately rings in the head. 300 released in 2007 and made Gerard Butler an instant star. As King Leonidas, he was monstrous in his persona and absolutely gripping on the screen. It’s been a long time however since that iconic movie and nothing Gerard Butler has done since then has ever matched up to his appearance in 300. As we get ready to step into a bit of a ‘Gerard Butler’ phase in Hollywood as he has two movies releasing back-to-back, viz. Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen, we look at his body of work since 2007.
Gerard Butler has never been short of work once he made his mark with his part in 300. In late-2007, he hit another jackpot in a totally different kind of a role in the romantic-drama movie P.S. I Love You. Speaking from beyond the grave, Gerard Butler showed his softer side, a more sensitive nature, a romantic touch that, for reasons not yet clear to me, worked well with the audience. Butler’s future ventures in the romantic movie genres have largely worked – his pairing with Katherine Heigl in 2009’s The Ugly Truth was a massive success; his partnership with Jennifer Aniston bore dividends in 2010’s The Bounty Hunter; and only in 2012 did this run end with Playing For Keeps.
While Gerard Butler’s breakthrough performance in 300 was rich in action, he could never become an action hero despite having a personality that would fit the bill. In 2009’s Gamer, he is a death-row convict who had to kill people in an online game to survive; in Law Abiding Citizen of the same year, he seeks revenge on the killers of his family members; in 2011’s Coriolanus, a movie adaptation of the Shakespearean tale, he plays the commander of an army; and in the biopic Machine Gun Preacher, he plays a former drug-dealing biker who becomes a crusader for the freedom of hundreds of Sudanese children. None of these movies worked at the box-office, none of them showed that Gerard Butler could carry the weight of an action movie on his shoulders. Until 2014’s Olympus Has Fallen. Despite the average reviews, this action movie earned almost close to $100 million in North America which is the second-biggest domestic tally for a movie with Gerard Butler as the lead actor (first being 300, of course!). Butler stars as the disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning who finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack and has to protect the President. The movie wasn’t an out-and-out success, since the budget too was relatively high, but it still must have done decently well enough to warrant a sequel which releases in early March 2016.
Ever since 300, the one role where Gerard Butler made a really strong impression for me was in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla. A crime comedy film that came out in 2008, RocknRolla has a fantastic cast in which Butler manages to shine as One-Two, a Scottish mobster who is the leader of the so-called “The Wild Bunch”. The movie didn’t do too well at the box-office but like most Guy Ritchie movies, it has its own set of fans who loved every moment of it. Gerard Butler’s crudeness in a way was the perfect character trait for One-Two. Butler has also been part of the successful animation series, How to Train Your Dragon. He lends his voice to Stoick, the chief of the Viking tribe and the lead character Hiccup’s father. His booming voice was the sort of thing needed in that movie where Vikings clash with dragons, and as he famously led his troops to fight Xerxes once, he rouses up his tribe members once more in How to Train Your Dragon. The biopic Chasing Mavericks in which Gerard Butler plays a surfer failed to surface above the waters, and his presence in the much maligned Movie 43 does not need to be mentioned.
It has been a mixed bag for Gerard Butler ever since 300, both in terms of exploring his acting depth and the commercial success of his movies. He has never been regarded as an action star, even though his next two movies lined-up could come in that category, but his stock has surprisingly grown in romantic-comedy movies. One thing is for sure, Gerard Butler has never been out of work. While I will hesitate in attributing this to his versatility, Butler does have the sort of blank face that may work in most of the movie genres for he does bring in a commanding personality on screen. He is already filming the drama movie The Headhunter’s Calling where he is also the co-producer. A typical disaster movie is going to follow in 2017 called Geostorm. And I bet there will be more to come. It however seems that Gerard Butler will forever remained burdened by the legacy of King Leonidas and 300, and whether he can ever carve out another epic role for himself of the same kind is for him to figure out.