Anthony Mackie stars in Man on a Ledge, a thriller opening today to lackluster reviews. In the movie, Sam Worthington stars as a prison escapee willing to gamble his life in a daredevil attempt to distract from a plot to nab the jewel that will prove his innocence by… you guessed it: standing on a ledge. It is just this type of predictability that has led CBS News to call the film “a limp high-wire act.”
Man on a Ledge might not set millions of hearts racing as was likely intended, but it is still an exciting career move for an acting veteran who has steadily worked since his motion picture debut in 8 Mile (2002). Mackie has remained on the short list of black actors getting prominent billing since playing the villain in Eminem’s fictionalized biopic — appearing frequently in high profile films such as 2004’s The Manchurian Candidate — but has yet to make it to leading man status.
With well over a dozen big-budget pictures under his belt, he seems more than ready to take over the mantle of Denzel Washington or Will Smith — or at least join their ranks. Will he ever make the cut?
“I think Anthony Mackie could be the next Denzel Washington if given the right material that will showcase him in a different light,” Wilson Morales, owner and editor of BlackFilm.com told theGrio.
“Denzel played great supporting parts before Spike Lee started giving him lead roles. It took a few years before Jamie Foxx was given the right material,” Morales noted. “After doing a number of comedies, Foxx turned heads in Any Given Sunday before he played the lead role in Ray, which led to an Oscar for best actor.”
With his many meaty (if minor) roles, it should only be a matter of time before Mackie lands that arresting part that will catapult him upward. But given Hollywood’s money game, Mackie’s well-wrought path might not be enough to launch him into Denzel’s stratosphere, even if he deserves it.
“There’s a lot of pressure when one is a leading actor,” Morales explained. “In Hollywood, not in independent film, one is expected to bring in an audience that will translate into box office hits.
“While Anthony brings credibility to films, producers haven’t made up their minds about whether he can make money in his own film as a lead,” the African-American film industry expert concluded.
But Mackie is still on a great trajectory to be considered a strong box office draw. “He’s been in two films that have won best picture, Million Dollar Baby and The Hurt Locker,” Morales said. “He’s worked with big name directors — such as Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood — and still has had time to work with newcomers, like Tanya Hamilton, director of the 2010 indy flick Night Catches Us. He’s also not afraid to take on smaller roles, if he can make a mark in the film as he did in Notorious and Real Steel.”
So, we can’t knock Mackie’s hustle — or his bravery in calling out Black Hollywood for the lack of initiative displayed by its leaders. In an interview with theGrio last year, Mackie said: “I think right now [blacks] are being kinda lazy on our game.
“There are enough brothers with distribution deals and production deals where we should be making our own movies,” he asserted.
Mackie is the kind of talent, with the proven track record, that Hollywood producers — of every color — should be willing to bet on. The question remains whether those with the power to greenlight blockbusters will put their dollars and sense behind his leading man potential.