by Sarah Cook
The Scottish action hero. It seems every year we are treated with yet another vehicle for his massive muscles as he defies the odds against apocalyptic or criminal activities. Since his shirtless escapades in 300, where he kicked enemies into a pit screaming about Sparta, we’ve enjoyed his white-vest-top-clad sweaty action-man hero saving everything from the President to the World. His latest flight is with the tense Plane.
Without meaning to sound like one of those people, my favourite Butler films happen to be his early work when he was a waif of a thing skulking through the hallways of the Opera Populaire or Balmoral.
So, with that in mind, here are some early, and great, works of Butler which may tickle your fancy.
Honourable Mention: There is a Scottish romantic drama with Butler as the lead called One More Kiss (1999.) It revolves around a chef who finds his world turned upside down when his ex-girlfriend turns up with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Alas, whilst I had ever intention of watching this film, it isn’t anywhere to be found but if you get your hands on it, definitely looks great.
Mrs Brown (1997)
Judi Dench scooped up an Academy Award nomination, and won a BAFTA, for her first-ever portrayal of Queen Victoria in 1997’s Mrs Brown. Directed by John Madden, the film sees Dench and comedian Billy Connolly play Queen Victoria and her companion John Brown respectively. Following the death of Prince Albert, Brown is called to aid the Queen through her grief.
It is a studious and quiet look at both the friendship at the core and the scandal it caused, with rumours rippling through the upper classes and politicians. Judi Dench, who played Queen Victoria again in a similar story with Victoria & Abdul (2017), is great here and Connolley is exceptional.
However, this is Gerard Butler’s film debut as Archie Brown – John’s younger brother who was also in royal service to the crown. He often serves as a reminder for John to act accordingly whilst simultaneously acting as a friend to his older brother. It is a good performance in a brilliant film.
Plus, there is naked swimming in the turbulent ocean.
Dracula 2000 (2000)
Wes Craven produced this millennial take on Bram Stoker’s literary classic. As the title suggests, it takes the action to the year 2000 and not much has changed but things are a little bit more nu-metal and grungy.
So, the story goes like this: Dracula is being kept prisoner by antiques dealer Matthew – a descendent of Van Helsing in a London vault. During a raid, thieves uncover the coffin and take Drac to America where all hell breaks loose. Turns out, Matthew IS Van Helsing and has been using Dracula’s blood to stay alive. Unfortunately, that has been passed down to Matthew’s daughter Mary who quickly becomes the object of Dracula’s desires.
For a schlocky noughties horror, Dracula isn’t too bad though it is lacking in frights and gore. What it does boast is a heinously sexy Dracula played by Butler who is understandably hamming up this performance to great effect. Pushing the undetermined European accent to one side, this version of Dracula has a backstory so mind-boggling that I actually kind of love it? A two-star film that is riotously enjoyable.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Long before he voiced stoic in the animated feature series How to Train Your Dragon, Gerard Butler fought dragons alongside Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey.
Set in 2020 (because that year wasn’t apocalyptic enough,) Reign of Fire revolves around a tunnelling project in London which inadvertently awakens dormant dragons. Quickly, the fire-breathing beasts take over the globe. Leading a small group of survivors in England is Quinn, who was a young boy when the dragons rose. Soon their community is invaded by, of course, boisterous, and arrogant Americans, led by Van Zan. With their arrival comes a whole new heap of problems but perhaps a solution to their pesky pest problem.
I speak more about this film over here but with Bale and McConoughey being as serious as they can be, it is refreshing to see Gerard Butler steal the show as the plucky and quippy sidekick. He is a brilliant foil here.
Phantom of the Opera (2004)
Is Gerard Butler the best singer? No.
Does this film capture the majesty of the stage show? No.
Would I change this film in any way? Also no.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic musical has been on the West End for over 35 years and there seems to be no stopping its chandelier-smashing antics. However, nearly twenty years ago, the show was finally given the big screen treatment.
For those who do not know the story, The Phantom of the Opera follows young opera protégé Christine in the Paris Opera House where she is guided by an unseen tutor. Turns out, that man is the elusive Phantom of the Opera – a disfigured musical genius – who stays hidden in the Opera House and has fallen desperately in love with her and will do anything to earn her affection. Unfortunately for the Phantom, Christine has another man, some guy named who’s tall and handsome and not all that pleased about her latest beau. Soon it becomes a story of survival as Christine is stalked by the murderous Phantom.
The music is utterly sumptuous with songs that have transcended decades. Emmy Rossum is a magnificent Christine and Patrick Wilson is dashing as Raoul.
Gerard Butler – for all his faults – I think is a genuinely good Phantom. Certainly, his singing is no patch on the work of stage stars such as Ramin Karimloo, Killian Donnelly, and my favourite Anthony Warlow, but he does try his darn hardest. When I was a young teenager, he was all I loved, and he captured brilliant elements of the Phantom’s tortured soul for the big screen.
The final shoutout goes to Minnie Driver as Carlotta whose line delivers here still make-up my day-to-day vernacular.
Plane is out in cinemas now!
Read our review