Picking at the bloated carcass of geek culture...occasionally!!!

Monday’s “That Guy:” David Paymer

In Movies, That Guys on September 14, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I apologize again for the slowdown in productivity on this blog in general and this category in particular.  I will be attempting to get back near my daily output but only time will tell if I will be successful in that pursuit.  This week’s “that guy” is an excellent choice, if I do say so myself.  After getting killed by Jonathan Banks a few weeks ago, I’ve been feeling down in the dumps about my ability to bring any insight into this topic.  I mean, I found myself struggling to remember Bill Paxton’s name the other day.  That’s when I knew I had hit rock bottom.  So, besides my student teaching, I have been hitting the obscure films from my past regimen.  I just finished a Dabney Coleman doubleheader, for instance, with The Man with One Red Shoe and Cloak & Dagger.  But this all has nothing to do with my choice for this week.  This week came to mind as I was bouncing actors off of projects, linking Michael Rooker from Tombstone to Michael Rooker in Slither to Gregg Henry in Slither to Gregg Henry in Payback to my “that guy” from Payback, David Paymer.

I would pay money to see this guy as an action movie star.  How transcendingly awesome would that be?

I would pay money to see this guy as an action movie star. How transcendingly awesome would that be?

Paymer is excellent at being some version of the same character.  First of all, he is the embodiment of the neurotic east coast Jewish cliche.  I can think of no one, Woody Allen included, that does it better.  He seems to excel in these roles, however, adding a degree of depth that a lesser actor would easily not include.  I do find that this is the one element he has never even attempted to take out of his roles.  He is typecast by his sheer natural talent for it.

Other elements of his work are more interchangeable, however.  First he does smart and competent pretty well.  The first thing I remember him from, City Slickers, allows him to very believably show himself as a success.  In Redbelt, as well, he comes across as the kind of guy in the know.  Someone who knows the rules of getting by by keeping his head down, not pissing off the wrong guy, and backing the right person.  Whether in Nixon, Amistad, City Hall, or The American President, he is the type of guy working behind the scenes, reacting as things bigger than him continue to happen.

Paymer also does pathetic very well.  The best example I can think of his role in Payback as the small timer continually getting between Mel Gibson’s Porter and a series of dangerous, motivated people.  A true bottom feeder, his role of Arthur in that movie is so sleazily pitiful that he really makes that movie for me in every scene he finds himself in.  Or, in Mr. Saturday Night, he seems so sad as the guy keeping the wheels on the cart as his brother steals his spotlight.  Or how about in Ocean’s Thirteen, when he is the neurotic (what a surprise) hotel reviewer whom gets abused by the gang to give Pacino’s (Whooa, I own a casino) place a shitty review.  He just seems so horribly uncomfortable and utterly powerless to escape the torment.  He does it so well.

So, like one of those excellent journeyman “that guys,” David Paymer does a very narrow type of acting really better than anyone.  I look forward to seeing him do what he does so well in the near future.  With the depth of his work, I know I will not be waiting long.

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  1. Game over man. Game over.

  2. Don’t forget he played a Mafia Boss in Line of Fire … Definetely a different twist.

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