Heroes of the Zeroes: Tropic Thunder
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise.
2008’s “Tropic Thunder” is peppered with actors who’ve padded Paramount Pictures’ coffers. After this subversive romp, consider their then-collective $4,970,802,499 at the global box office as long-held escrow on a prank.
“Thunder” played like party punch spiked with six sheets of acid. The modern Hollywood star-system, Oscar-pandering actors, studio-executive ogres, whacked-out method actors, war-hero opportunists, action-film expectations, ghetto culture as a commodity — each was mocked with brilliant buffoonery. And what wasn’t sent up was blown up and good.
Stiller, Black and Downey Jr. play actors in a Vietnam War film called “Tropic Thunder.” At the end of his rope with his trio of stars, director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) goes guerrilla, shooting alone with the actors deep in the jungle.
But when drug dealers violently ambush the cast and crew, kill some and kidnap others, those left standing are armed only with their acting as ammo to escape alive.
Resembling Cleavon Little possessed by the devil, the wily Downey offers a satirically inspired channeling of the great Peter Sellers in an Oscar-nominated performance.
And it takes a moment to sink in that it’s Cruise, under flab and a hairpiece, again channeling the misanthropic mastery of “Magnolia’s” Frank T.J. Mackey as Les Grossman, a foul studio executive.
Everyone involved doesn’t just flip the bird. They turn it on its side, wrap it in tinsel and twirl it around for off-their-rocker romping and comedy gold.