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One Devoted Fan Figured Out the Year Robert De Niro ‘Stopped Caring’

It’s rare for Robert De Niro to choose contemporary roles that summon the cold, raw confidence of a man willing to do what’s necessary for victory that he notably wore like a second skin in his younger years. He’s certainly found strong roles in David O Russell’s recent flicks—Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and Joy—and played characters that have been memorable for their suiting of the movie itself, such as Captain Shakespeare in Stardust and Carl Van Loon in Limitless. Plus, he starred in The Intern, which I assumed we’d all largely dismiss, but everyone keeps telling me to watch. Yet, overall, there’s a consensus among movie-goers that, at some point, De Niro “stopped caring” about the resilience of his filmography—and one fan actually used data to pinpoint the exact year he did such a thing.

In James Chapman’s theory, 2002 is the magic year—though some redditors in the original thread argue it was 1998 with Jackie Brown as the send-off—and the case is made that, at age 59, Robert De Niro officially crossed over into shrug-off territory when it came to selecting roles. Now he, like every actor (that isn’t John Cazale), has less-than-ideal movies scattered throughout his cinematic arsenal. They’re just more majority than missteps these days.

See, it’s easy to forgive 1990’s Stanley & Iris when the other two movies he made that year were Goodfellas and Awakenings. And he had notably banner years back then too. In 1993, he made three movies: Mad Dog and Glory, This Boy’s Life, and A Bronx Tale (which he also directed). The man was precise. This was an artist who made The King of Comedy one year and Once Upon a Time in America the next. He followed up The Untouchables with Midnight Run, Backdraft with Cape Fear, and Casino with Heat. At some point, you could name a favorite movie made in the ‘70s, ‘80s, or ‘90s and there was a solid chance Robert De Niro was in it.

But there’s less of that now—much less. Things like New Year’s Eve exist. Sequels to Meet the Parents exist. Whatever the hell Dirty Grandpa was exists. And they aren’t followed or forgiven with movies that make your heart implode with worry or your eyes water like it’s your first teenage break-up. Robert De Niro is one of the finest film actors who has ever lived and maybe that’s the problem. You’ll forever watch every movie knowing he could do better and aren’t sure when he will again.

For comparison, everyone’s new favorite data scientist ran the numbers on Al Pacino too.

And then he put it on an even larger scale.

And then finally felt guilty for all of it.

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