‘The Hurt Locker’
Hollywood has been struggling to turn Jeremy Renner into a movie star, but it doesn’t seem to take. He’s been Marvel’s Hawkeye thrice so far, appeared in two “Mission: Impossible”s and even tried to become Jason Bourne’s replacement. He’s been great in them, steely and driven. But he’s not a movie star; he’s too remote for that. He’s a character actor, and a brilliant one. Some of us have been championing him since his turn in the low-budget “Dahmer,” from 2002. Recently he added tension to two unusually squirmy episodes of “Louie.” And of course, he was thrilling in Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar-winner “The Hurt Locker,” the movie that finally convinced execs to take a chance on him, with so far so-so results.
Of course, what Renner was really doing in “The Hurt Locker” was a twist on an old type: the reckless hero who doesn’t play by the rules. As a rock star IED disposer in the Iraq War, he’s playing a character who could easily have slipped into Bigelow’s “Point Break.” But Renner makes his cockiness playful; even when things get rough he cracks a grin, one that erodes as the film wears on into something more ambivalent. Renner’s thoughts are always private, but in a way that makes you lean in, tempting you to figure out a guy who won’t let you figure him out. That doesn’t work when you’re the head of blockbusters; Tom Cruise always lets you in. But it definitely works when you’re in offbeat fare, or when you’re the dude who knows how to shoot a mean bow from an arrow.