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Can Ryan Phillippe “Reclaim” His Career?

September 21, 2014

Reclaim-poster

Like John Cusack—his costar in the new direct-to-VOD thriller Reclaim—Ryan Phillippe made the transition from teen star (Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer—which will soon be rebooted) to serious grownup actor (he was impressive as a servant with a secret in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, an LAPD officer in the Oscar-winning Crash and an FBI agent in the underrated Breach). But both have seen their careers crash and burn in recent years and ended up in… well, direct-to-VOD thrillers like Reclaim. While Cusack may be on the verge of a major comeback with his acclaimed performance as Brian Wilson in the upcoming biopic Love and Mercy, Phillippe’s still in pursuit of a professional renaissance.

That may be because Phillippe’s offscreen pursuits seriously tarnished his star, especially with female audiences. He went from hunky sex symbol to the guy who allegedly cheated on America’s Sweetheart, ex-wife Reese Witherspoon (before her DUI imbroglio triggered the need for a comeback on her own, which may soon arrive with the highly touted Oscar contender Wild). His magnetic performance as a Julian Assange-like secret-leaker in Damages should’ve done the job, but too few people saw the DirecTV series to recast his image in the popular consciousness.

Phillippe is seriously miscast in Reclaim as a bland American family man who travels with his wife (Under the Dome’s likable Rachelle Lefevre) to Haiti to adopt a young girl and sees the child taken back by the shady agency that arranged the exchange. The trouble is that slumming two-time Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook, Animal Kingdom) and Cusack are so obviously villains from the get-go that you don’t feel sorry for Phillippe and Lefevre because they seem so stupid.

With his perpetual pout and slightly sleepy speech patterns, Phillippe just isn’t cut out to play a good guy. Perhaps his next role, as a washed-up Hollywood actor who gets kidnapped and caught up in a sex scandal in Catch Hell (which Phillippe cowrote and directed), will show he can poke fun at his image and endear him to audiences again. But sadly it looks like a sub-Deliverance Southern Gothic shocker.

Phillippe’s second stab at TV, in ABC’s midseason miniseries Secrets and Lies, could prove to be his redemption. Based on an Australian drama, the mystery casts the star as the prime suspect in the death of a young boy. Considering how riveting Phillippe was as an accused murderer in The Lincoln Lawyer, this may just be the kind of killer role that can finally bring his career back to life.

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