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Why Won’t Movies Let Taylor Kitsch Flex the Riggins Charm?

The year 2012 has not turned out the way Taylor Kitsch — or his devoted fans — wanted it to. It was supposed to be the Friday Night Lights star's breakout year: three high-profile movies, with major directors, all right in a row. He was supposed to become an honest-to-God movie star. But Battleship was a critical and box office bust; John Carter was a $300 million movie about a Confederate soldier who goes to Mars and battles aliens and so, it follows, a critical and box office bust. The Taylor Kitsch Movement did not exactly spread like wildfire from there.

Still the believers held on, pinning our hopes on Savages, the Oliver Stone movie opening today in which Kitsch plays an Iraq veteran turned pot grower. This was Tim Riggins's chance! He'd finally be free of all the CGI alien ships and creepy (adorable) Calots and get to charm the audiences as himself. Maybe he'd get a few shirtless scenes in. Surely, the rest of the world could pick up on his dopey, mumbley appeal in a movie about growing weed.

As Kitsch loyalists, we hate to break this to you, but that's probably not going to happen. The good news is that Savages is getting mostly positive reviews (New York's David Edelstein: "Oliver Stone is back in his element") and that Kitsch might benefit by association. The bad news is that our beloved Riggs only gets the most perfunctory of mentions in almost every write-up: "Taylor Kitsch is in this movie," more or less. Critics are just ignoring poor Kitsch at this point. To be fair, there are flashier performances — from Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro, and John Travolta, among others — to discuss, and as A.O. Scott put it in the New York Times, "The thing about spending time with potheads is that if you’re not stoned yourself, it can get kind of dull." Kitsch's Chon (soft "ch") spends most of the movie waving a gun in someone's face; there's only so much you can say. But for the Riggins enthusiasts in search of vindication, hoping that Savages might propel him to brand name status — or at least wash away the disappointments of his last two outings — well, maybe Lone Survivor will finally get made?

Or maybe Kitsch will make his way back towards the roles that let him be Taylor Kitsch. Consider Riggins: He was an angry lunkhead, sure, but he was memorable for his wisecracks, his confused, goofy faces, and most importantly (cue Explosions in the Sky) his heart. Kitsch's all-action post-Friday Night Light run left no room for the jokes and smirks that make him likable, or make him different from the thousand other former Diesel models milling around Hollywood. The bang-em-up approach isn't really catching on anyway, so why not let Taylor Kitsch lighten up a little? Or take a page from the Channing Tatum playbook and put him in the Magic Mike musical. We're good with either strategy. We just want the Riggins light to shine again.

Photo: NBC