Vin Diesel Needs a Reality Check

Prior to Pitch Black, Vin Diesel was a nobody. After The Fast and the Furious and XXX, he was an action hero superstar, quickly filling the slot of such greats as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steve Seigal, and Sylvester Stallone. True, they were once the best at what they did, but now that they are getting too old to play the part, it has opened the doors for a new generation of action heroes.

Vin Diesel’s multi-ethnic hard body, bald head, and deep raspy voice makes up one Adonis hot enough to melt the most frigid female. Why, oh why, would someone with everything going for him insist on flushing his career down the toilet before the new has had a chance to wear off? I like to think it’s bad management, but then again, I can’t help but think even a blind Riddick could see that on a business management level, Diesel’s biggest successes have come with his action hero roles. The latest Diesel fiasco, The Pacifier, doesn’t rate an empty popcorn bag and a flat soda.

The Boiler Room, Knockaround Guys, The Chronicles of Riddick, and A Man Apart were all less than successful and left Diesel looking like a second rate bouncer rather than a highly paid actor. Oh wait, that was his previous career.

Vin Diesel seems to be kissing his own career bye-bye. I can picture his management team on their knees begging him to do 2Fast, 2Furious and Vin standing on his soapbox saying, “It’s not about the money. It’s about my art!” He’s got aspiration as a Shakesperean actor, but it wasn’t his great acting ability that got him where he is. It is his muscles, attitude, and good looks. But from the outside looking in, it appears the second he made it to the big time; he decided to remake himself into someone else and expected his fans to follow him. Rumor had it Miramax was considering him for a Guys and Dolls remake starring opposite of Nicole Kidman. It was enough to make a middle-aged groupie puke. Fortunately that deal fell through. Instead, moviegoers were treated to this second rate attempt at family humor titled The Pacifier.

It reminds me of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s career in fast forward. Only Arnold waited until his career was established before pulling the switcharoo to comedy, and he always went back to what his fans wanted, what they needed. Diesel seems to be running from what works. Look at the multi-million dollar deals he passed up to do 2Fast, 2Furious, and the sequel to XXX. Instead, he takes on roles in mediocre movies that end up making his true fans look foolish as they drag friends to one bad movie after another. Schwarzenegger could afford a few flops over his 30-year career. Vin Diesel is too new at the game. If he doesn’t wise up and give fans what they want instead of what he wants to do, he is going to end up needing to build a new fan-base.

I wish he would do us all a favor and settle in for the ride as a great American action hero. There are dozens of charismatic male leads out there, but not all of them can do what Diesel can do best. He is a natural to play the luscious bad boy hero whose just a little too tough, a little too muscular, and drop dead sexy doing something so mundane as asking someone to pass the lugnuts. Leave the serious acting to those who don’t have the whole package needed to play the action hero roles.

Keanu Reeves and Will Smith are two rising action hero actors, who do a bang up job of drawing huge audiences. Reeves plays the quite, intense good guy. No moral dilemmas with him. The audience knows he will do the right thing. Smith plays strong but often goofy roles, and he’s a natural at blending those to strengths into memorable characters. That leaves an opening Vin Diesel is uniquely qualified to fill. Vin Diesel has it in him to successfully pull off the bad boy hero. When he plays the hero, the fans are always left wondering if he will stay on the right side of the law. Will he do what is morally correct? Will he even make time for a love interest?

If I had one bit of advice for the middle-aged hunk, it would be to spend what time he has left before old age kicks in and be what the public wants. They want and need a rebel action hero who keeps them on the edges of their seats. Then in ten years or so, after he’s made more money than most can imagine spending in a lifetime, he can attempt to break out of the mold. Look what it did for Schwarzenegger. Playing toSchwarzenegger his audience got him the governor’s seat in California, and he never had the sex appeal Vin Diesel possesses.

Vin Diesel has a lot to offer the movie-going public, but it will require he step back and look at his career from the perspective of the audience, not just any audience, but his audience. In the long run, it will be a lot easier to draw the same fans back to the theater time after time with good action performances than to continue creating a new audience each time he tries to step out of the box and do something different. In the meantime, we, the loyal fans of the great Vin Diesel will sit back, be patient, and try to give him the space he needs to find out what we already know, that we love his bad boy image.

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