Total Recall

Total Recall: David Morse's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Drive Angry star.

by | February 25, 2011 | Comments

David Morse

He may not be a household name, but David Morse is one of America’s most recognizable actors, thanks to a 30-year career that has taken him from the stage (including an Obie-winning performance in How I Learned to Drive) to the TV screen (where his résumé includes a six-year run on St. Elsewhere) and more than 40 films. This weekend, Morse will appear as Nicolas Cage’s shotgun-toting buddy in Drive Angry, which naturally got us thinking about the many highlights in one of Hollywood’s preeminent “that guy” filmographies. From supporting roles to starring turns, here’s the best of David Morse!


69%

10. Disturbia

Offering a modern spin on Rear Window, D.J. Caruso’s Disturbia traces the fallout after a high school student with a chip on his shoulder (Shia LaBeouf) attacks one of his teachers, is sentenced to house arrest — and develops a suspicion that his creepy neighbor is secretly a serial killer. More than capable of playing sympathetic characters, but just as comfortable exuding an air of effortless menace, Morse was the perfect guy to play the darkly ambiguous Robert Turner — and Disturbia made for a perfectly entertaining spring thriller according to critics like Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote, “Caruso, a very visual director, serves up some surprises and scares, and he’s paced his movie briskly. You’re out of this disturbing suburbia before you know it, shaken and even stirred.”


70%

9. The Long Kiss Goodnight

Renny Harlin movies aren’t exactly known for their character development, and 1996’s Shane Black-scripted The Long Kiss Goodnight is no different — in a movie this obsessed with rapid-fire quips, explosions, and piled-up corpses, you root for the good guys and cheer for the disposal of cartoon villains. Case in point: David Morse’s Luke, a.k.a. Daedalus, an arms-dealing heavy who makes things difficult for the amnesiac CIA assassin played by Geena Davis — first he’s nasty, then he’s dead. But if Goodnight isn’t exactly thoughtful, or even particularly memorable, plenty of critics thought it was good, dumb fun — like Michael Dequina of The Movie Report, who asked, “Who can resist the sight of Davis tossing her daughter from a hole in her house into the nearby treehouse or chasing after a car… while ice skating?”


74%

8. The Indian Runner

Sean Penn marked his directorial debut with this 1991 drama, which he was inspired to write by Bruce Springsteen’s “Highway Patrolman.” Like the song — and the album it’s from, 1982’s Nebraska — it tells a tale of hard times and hard choices, strained family obligations and fraternal betrayal, and the seemingly arbitrary way life can erode even the noblest hearts and best intentions. At its center is the conflict between an upstanding deputy sheriff (David Morse) and his ne’er-do-well brother (Viggo Mortensen), recently returned to town to wreak havoc on the lives of his loved ones. It’s familiar stuff, to be sure, and some critics felt Penn’s undisciplined approach prevented The Indian Runner from achieving its full potential — but Roger Ebert was among the majority when he wrote, “It’s impressive, how thoughtfully Penn handles this material. The good brother isn’t a straight arrow, and the bad brother isn’t romanticized as a rebel without a cause, and there are no easy solutions or neat little happy endings for this story. It’s as intractable as life itself.”


74%

7. The Slaughter Rule

Whenever you see David Morse on the screen, you know you’re in good hands, but he’d probably be among the first to admit that a lot of his film roles haven’t given him a chance to display much of his range. It was all the more gratifying, then, to see Morse in The Slaughter Rule, a Sundance-approved drama about a troubled high school football player (Ryan Gosling) whose friendship with a semi-pro coach (Morse) forces both men to deal with suppressed emotions — not to mention the whispers of small-town life. “The film’s powerful meditation on masculinity gets much of its credibility and punch from the two leads,” wrote the AV Club’s Scott Tobias, adding “especially Morse, a reliable character actor who sinks his teeth into a role with heavy physical and psychological demands.”


75%

6. The Crossing Guard

Written and directed by Sean Penn, The Crossing Guard gave Morse one of his meatier film roles: John Booth, a drunk driver who comes home from prison to find that even though he’s done his time, he still has to face the grief-consumed Freddy Gale (Jack Nicholson), whose daughter he killed behind the wheel. Unsurprisingly, Freddy wants to murder John; what lends Crossing unexpected poignancy is the fact that John wants him to. It’s obviously a very dark, sad film, and a number of critics felt that Penn didn’t bring enough sensitivity to the material — but most critics’ thoughts echoed those of Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, who admitted it was a “self-conscious anthem to macho despair” while praising Penn’s handling of the cast: “He coaxes a soul-torn grief out of Nicholson that’s shocking to behold, and Morse, who suggests a burlier version of Jon Voight, has a gentle-giant melancholy that borders on grace.”

74%

5. The Negotiator

The cop thriller The Negotiator is primarily a showcase for the dramatic chops of Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey, but give director F. Gary Gray credit for refusing to skimp on the supporting cast — he surrounded his leads with talent, including J.T. Walsh, Paul Giamatti, John Spencer, and (of course) David Morse. Starring Jackson as a police negotiator framed for embezzlement, and Spacey as the other negotiator who gets called in when Jackson’s character takes hostages in a desperate bid to clear his name, this wasn’t one of the year’s bigger hits at the box office — but it did impress critics like Ron Wells of Film Threat, who chuckled, “I’m glad Warner Bros. has gone back to making movies instead of theme park rides.”


78%

4. The Green Mile

Like the Stephen King story that inspired it, Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile is a resolutely tender film. It’s underscored with an appropriate level of tension and dread, given its death row setting, not to mention the presence of nefarious characters like the psychotic prison guard Percy Wetmore (Doug Hutchison) — but to a large extent, it’s a story about finding grace where you least expect it, and this is partly exemplified through David Morse’s character, the guard Brutus “Brutal” Howell, whose violent nickname and imposing physical size belie his compassion and intelligence. The Green Mile is pretty big, too, and its 188-minute length scared off a few viewers, but most critics felt it was worth the time — including Joe Baltake of the Sacramento Bee, who wrote, “Superior craft is something we’ve come to expect from modern movies, but not soul. It’s the soul of this movie that’s so heartening.”


78%

3. Mother and Child

Writer-director Rodrigo Garcia Barcha followed his Sixth Sense-ish thriller Passengers with this quiet character study, which traces the impact of adoption through the stories of three women (played by Annette Bening, Naomi Watts, and Kerry Washington) and their families. In a supporting role, Morse joined an ensemble cast that included Jimmy Smits, Amy Brenneman, and Samuel L. Jackson — a tremendously talented group whose subtle work helped critics look past Mother and Child‘s occasionally bumpy script. “The film reminds us that character, not plot, is what binds us to a story,” observed Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Cutting between scenes of each in her unique environment, the movie tantalizes us.”


89%

2. 12 Monkeys

Even in a filmography dotted with supporting roles, Morse’s appearance in 12 Monkeys isn’t one of his bigger parts; in fact, ReelViews’ James Berardinelli dismissed it as “hardly worth mentioning.” In terms of sheer screen time, James has a point — but it’s also worth noting that Morse’s character, Dr. Peters, is responsible for setting in motion the events that drive the entire storyline. Either way, 12 Monkeys was director Terry Gilliam’s biggest box office hit — and a critical high point to boot. Janet Maslin of the New York Times, for one, thought it contained some of his best work: “There’s always overripe method to his madness,” observed Maslin, “but in the new 12 Monkeys Mr. Gilliam’s methods are uncommonly wrenching and strong.”


97%

1. The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is essentially Jeremy Renner’s show, but scattered throughout his cinematic coming-out party are brief appearances by a number of familiar faces, including Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, and — as Colonel Reed, a fellow soldier who can’t help but be impressed by Renner’s bravado during a confrontation with an IED-planting sniper — the one and only David Morse. Commercially speaking, Locker suffered roughly the same dismal fate as pretty much every movie about the ongoing war in Iraq, but what it lacked in box office receipts, it made up in acclaim — including six Academy Awards (among them Best Picture and a history-making Best Director for Kathryn Bigelow) and raves from critics like Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who observed, “Like all the best war movies — no matter what war, what era — The Hurt Locker goes to the core of human nature.”


In case you were wondering, here are Morse’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:

1. The Green Mile — 93%
2. Dancer in the Dark — 90%
3. The Rock — 85%
4. 12 Monkeys — 84%
5. The Hurt Locker — 83%
6. The Indian Runner — 78%
7. Mother and Child — 77%
8. The Negotiator — 76%
9. Disturbia — 75%
10. Contact — 74%


Take a look through Morse’s complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don’t forget to check out the reviews for Drive Angry.

 

Tag Cloud

sopranos Lifetime Christmas movies 72 Emmy Awards talk show hist History Avengers Family dceu RT21 CMT dark HBO Max Adult Swim Country crossover prank Oscars art house Instagram Live Hulu Music TIFF streaming movies unscripted PBS pirates of the caribbean adaptation thriller sag awards Spike crime Acorn TV game of thrones Universal Pictures criterion finale X-Men Action rt archives superhero series Marathons DC streaming service spider-man japanese new york facebook 4/20 chucky OWN what to watch Classic Film Starz Image Comics ITV latino cancelled television Christmas disaster golden globes Freeform fast and furious blockbuster cancelled TV shows mob doctor who Fall TV diversity Stephen King cops Mary poppins name the review boxing Lucasfilm universal monsters joker romantic comedy medical drama Broadway supernatural TCA 2017 Nominations jamie lee curtis wonder woman Sundance Now indiana jones blockbusters boxoffice saw king kong Rom-Com TBS movie Discovery Channel Walt Disney Pictures DC Universe comics documentaries miniseries 99% based on movie documentary 007 live action 21st Century Fox new star wars movies black comedy 73rd Emmy Awards television screenings Certified Fresh Tomatazos Awards Tour Black History Month Mindy Kaling rom-coms Lionsgate IFC Films venice USA revenge FX on Hulu strong female leads Marvel Television VICE franchise biography emmy awards transformers Arrowverse Cartoon Network BET dreamworks stop motion Trophy Talk serial killer halloween National Geographic tv talk MCU 90s TV renewals 2020 BBC Rock Travel Channel Watching Series classics gangster rt labs critics edition dragons PaleyFest Television Critics Association 24 frames Animation video on demand Heroines A&E Tumblr FXX Academy Awards Anna Paquin Marvel LGBT jurassic park 2018 Alien concert kong Pacific Islander Photos Apple Holiday cancelled TV series scary Elton John sitcom Polls and Games ABC Signature USA Network hidden camera Cosplay President 20th Century Fox crime drama Superheroe reboot nfl Nat Geo archives mission: impossible Comics on TV SundanceTV crime thriller Dark Horse Comics Comic Book hispanic heritage month Reality Competition E! Pop TV Ovation 45 screen actors guild vs. Tubi DC Comics news women dc cooking cars GLAAD CNN Spectrum Originals docudrama mutant worst Film Grammys Women's History Month mockumentary cancelled NYCC trailers Schedule dogs TV One Epix TV movies Masterpiece adenture Podcast Calendar Fox Searchlight a nightmare on elm street Exclusive Video kids elevated horror Wes Anderson The Purge New York Comic Con Pride Month Election cinemax fresh historical drama Paramount Plus The Witch laika Trivia twilight IMDb TV deadpool YouTube BAFTA Neflix The Walking Dead spanish language psycho A24 festival harry potter christmas movies Britbox critics Winter TV child's play remakes DGA Bravo slashers japan ESPN justice league Premiere Dates FX award winner war Superheroes Apple TV Plus comic halloween tv PlayStation versus Rocky book 71st Emmy Awards spanish HBO WarnerMedia black social media Toys Crunchyroll green book Summer Fargo Drama BBC One blaxploitation 2019 new zealand independent Chernobyl asian-american Spring TV Pet Sematary GIFs game show TCA know your critic anime Western TruTV Pirates ID discovery scorecard scene in color animated The Arrangement spain SDCC Biopics worst movies ghosts zombies Funimation Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TNT Hallmark El Rey Sci-Fi Shondaland Nickelodeon Apple TV+ 2016 Emmys GoT Fantasy Amazon heist movie rt labs vampires Teen canceled TV shows Pop Comic-Con@Home 2021 Kids & Family OneApp Amazon Prime Video Awards movies BET Awards police drama video Emmy Nominations Vudu ViacomCBS Mary Tyler Moore Lifetime superman Rocketman Video Games live event Box Office Infographic Interview festivals action-comedy king arthur Amazon Prime CBS Extras Sundance TV Mary Poppins Returns mcc Binge Guide Holidays teaser Ellie Kemper golden globe awards Food Network Crackle book adaptation werewolf APB 1990s Opinion critic resources cults debate films monster movies breaking bad Hear Us Out slasher 2017 godzilla Comedy YouTube Premium spinoff comic book movies biopic Reality feel good richard e. Grant FOX comic books suspense Mystery zombie stoner See It Skip It Brie Larson Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt TV Land renewed TV shows Cannes rotten young adult scary movies RT History Valentine's Day binge Syfy reviews Television Academy Trailer technology robots Warner Bros. zero dark thirty spy thriller Sony Pictures singing competition aliens true crime TCM First Reviews nbcuniversal Set visit Amazon Studios Legendary casting Logo sports football Peacock stand-up comedy The Walt Disney Company TLC nature Ghostbusters marvel comics CBS All Access kaiju Disney+ Disney Plus Paramount Network Universal die hard period drama Turner french Tokyo Olympics Hallmark Christmas movies south america toronto sequels Horror Endgame comic book movie telelvision best Disney obituary cats dramedy adventure WGN Thanksgiving ABC Family royal family Columbia Pictures satire Character Guide ABC Captain marvel Shudder Disney Channel international hollywood indie Writers Guild of America legend VH1 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2021 all-time cartoon Best and Worst The CW parents BBC America batman E3 science fiction Black Mirror children's TV travel anthology Esquire canceled lord of the rings Sundance DirecTV basketball NBC natural history TCA Awards VOD sequel composers Comedy Central comiccon razzies Marvel Studios Red Carpet target Winners Baby Yoda 93rd Oscars TV SXSW HBO Go olympics First Look Disney Plus hispanic marvel cinematic universe Pixar popular Star Wars Quiz high school Turner Classic Movies italian romance genre Star Trek free movies Tarantino australia directors foreign spider-verse Creative Arts Emmys politics james bond ratings Mudbound Musical TCA Winter 2020 Fox News YA San Diego Comic-Con aapi LGBTQ MSNBC 2015 Disney streaming service Film Festival theme song Martial Arts psychological thriller AMC space rotten movies we love dexter CW Seed witnail Song of Ice and Fire Netflix The Academy streaming posters Netflix Christmas movies MTV toy story Showtime Countdown IFC Musicals Year in Review Super Bowl quibi AMC Plus NBA Paramount YouTube Red Sneak Peek docuseries American Society of Cinematographers comedies political drama