Throughout the annuls of history, cinema has taught us that a hero will arrive to save the day. Well, it’s safe to say that we’re in a time of need, living life not a quarter of a mile at a time, but entire days, and so the power of escapism into the world of film as important as its ever been.
So with Wonder Woman ’84 isolated on Themyscira for a bit, and Bond asked to stay holed-up moping over what happened at the end of Spectre, it’s time for a new kind of superhero to emerge from the delays and cancellations.
Here at HeyUGuys it got us thinking about what Vin Diesel’s best roles are, and this is the ‘family’ we’ve come up with.
Groot – Guardians of the Galaxy
When Vin Diesel was cast as the limited vocabulary lumber in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy gamble, anybody doubting what he’d bring to the role clearly hadn’t wiped the tears from their eyes once the credits kicked in on Brad Bird’s magnificent adaptation of The Iron Giant.
So often criticised for his perceived limitations, Diesel puts that iconic monosyllabic cadence to wonderful use in his voiceover work. Imbuing each reading of “I am Groot” with a different inflection, before arguably delivering one of the biggest emotional wallops in the entire MCU with the “We are Groot” line during the Guardians finale.
Private Caparzo – Saving Private Ryan
It’s easy to forget that Vin Diesel was one of Tom Hanks’ merry men in Steven Spielberg’s World War II epic. His likeable grunt, Private Carpazo, is underplayed to the point of blending into the background. Offering up the odd put-down to Jeremy Davies rabbit-in-a-headlight rookie, he might be your archetypal FUBAR spouting soldier, but he plays a pivotal part in hammering home the perilous nature of their Matt Damon retrieval mission, because !SPOILER! he’s the first of the established post-Omaha group to be killed-in-action.
It’s a noble exit for Vin, as he attempts to rescue a French girl who reminds him of his niece, only to be taken town by a clock-tower sniper. The impact of the moment is made all the more unbearable as this giant figure holds out a note to his family, all while helplessly laying in the target sights of the Nazi-soldier.
Dominic Toretto – The Fast and the Furious
They’d be no such Saving Private Ryan demise for the contractually impervious to punches Dominic Toretto, who has evolved from a criminal who can do a decent doughnut in an empty car-park, to full on superhero over the course of nine movies.
Sadly, Vin Diesel’s most iconic role is probably the least enjoyable of this bunch. The good stuff can be found in the early movies, before the posturing and over-reliance on the F-word came into play. When things were more Point Break than pantomime, there was a real swagger to Toretto. A charisma that was as much a part of what Diesel brought to the role as his chemistry with the late Paul Walker generated. The latter instalments, while ludicrous fun, have made him a little too po-faced and static, giving character to the cars rather than the cast.
Richard B. Riddick – Pitch Black
Pitch Black was the film that introduced audiences to Vin Diesel. Much like its breakout star, David Twohy’s ripped science-fiction thriller doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. The premise is simple: a group of mismatched characters are marooned on a planet of nocturnal beasties, just as the sun sets…..for a month. So far, so Aliens.
It’s Diesel’s anti-hero that sets the film apart from your standard direct-to-DVD science-fiction fare. Sculpted in the mould of his fore-bearers – Schwarzenegger’s silent shape from The Terminator is an obvious influence – it’s the frisson of excitement from not knowing exactly what drives Riddick, or which direction his moral compass is going to point, that keeps you watching.
The success of the film, coupled with Vin Diesel’s passion for the part, led to a bloated sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, which failed because it was the exact opposite of what made the character so intriguing in the first place: the mystery and ambiguity. 2013’s Riddick ended up being a retread of Pitch Black, but it’s testament to Diesel’s embodiment of the character that audiences wanted to see him again over a decade later.
Xander Cage – xXx
Another of Diesel’s alter-egos to take a long hiatus is possibly his most fun persona to date. That of extreme sports super-spy and the silver-service tray surfing Xander Cage from the xXx franchise.
The Fast series of films might have evolved from adult crime movies to a $200m Mario Kart adaptation, but the xXx franchise set out to be a different kind of silly from the start. You had Samuel L. Jackson doing his Nick Fury thing before that was even a thing, coupled with Vin Diesel being an energy-drink James Bond.
It’s definitely a film of its time, which might go some way to explaining why 2017’s Return of Xander Cage was only notable for its Neymar cameo.
As for where Bloodshot‘s Ray Garrison sits amongst this group of men, and space trees, is for you to decide.
Bloodshot is out on Digital Download today.