There can be only one Vin Diesel. In the Fast and the Furious films, you know this already. A bruising action hero with an unmistakable growl, he has the look and demeanor of your normal tough guy. A massively loving, beating heart beats beneath the surface, and it’s not even all that deep. Dwayne Johnson has nothing to do with the catchphrase of the Fast and Furious franchise. “Family” is what it’s all about. When it comes to creating and highlighting families on the big screen, Diesel is clearly interested.
Here are some lesser-known Diesel roles that I wanted to explore in honor of his work (Bloodshot releases in theaters this weekend) and his overall wholesomeness. If you’re looking for the best Vin Diesel performances that have nothing to do with the Fast & Furious series, look no further.
Vin Diesel’s performance in the 1995 short film Multi-Facial is astounding. Furthermore, he is a screenwriter and director, as well. “Ethnic ambiguity” is the term used to describe Mike, an aspiring actor, as he moves from audition to audition in a long, fascinating, realistic long take. Diesel and Mike swap codes effortlessly and go out for roles that include Italian, Latino and African-American casting directors and fellow actors are baffled by the subtleties that don’t quite match up to absolute authenticity.. Despite this, Diesel’s performance is perhaps the most authentic I’ve ever seen from him, giving us glimpses inside the pained and sensitive, yearning, yet nonetheless professional soul of a young actor. His filmmaking approach is a magnificent fusion of Spike Lee and Jim Jarmusch, with a focus on finding the raw truth. Those last scenes of the short film, which you can watch right now on YouTube, are a love letter to the craft of acting, a sarcastic jab at the unfair business of acting, and a deep yet unsophisticated analysis of identity. Diesel, if you ever decide to make something like this again, I’d love to see it.
2. Saving Private Ryan
Steven Spielberg, the director of the World War II classic Saving Private Ryan, cast Diesel based on the success of Multi-Facial. Assault on the senses and fall into the depths of human feeling merge in this shoulder-grabbing representation of visceral horrors. It’s has “every decent male actor” from the 1990s, including a “more obnoxious than you’d anticipate” Matt Damon in it.. Despite this, Diesel stands out in his short role as Private Adrian Caparzo, commanding attention and garnering critical acclaim. After viewing Multi-Facial, Spielberg wrote the part of Caparzo for Diesel, and you can see how much the role plays to Diesel’s qualities of empathy and absorption. To save a tiny girl in his most difficult sequence, Diesel defies his fellow soldiers and even Tom Hanks, who yells at him and instructs him to follow instructions, to do so. It’s “the nice thing to do” to save this girl’s life, but Diesel, a paragon of quietly doing the right thing, doubles down on that. He gets shot by German snipers for his trouble, and watching Diesel transition stoically yet fast from the bullets entering his body to continuing the fight to its last possible instant is a masterclass in physical screen acting. Diesel’s work is exemplified perfectly in the last minutes of the film, when the rest of the cast gathered around him to see his death.
3. The Iron Giant
“What if a gun had a heart?” The story of The Iron Giant revolves around this basic concept, which was developed by co-writer and director Brad Bird from Ted Hughes’s children’s novel. Is infused with a plentiful emotional and tragic heart by Vin Diesel in his portrayal of the protagonist and this central dilemma. During the 1950s Cold War, Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) is a little kid who comes into contact with an iron monster in the 1999 film. With the help of Superman, Hogarth teaches the Giant how to be a good and moral human being while attempting to hide the enormous machine from his mother (Jennifer Aniston) and the cowardly government officer who is determined to locate and destroy him (Christopher McDonald). Diesel stands out among Bird’s impressive voice cast, which includes the incomparably suave Harry Connick Jr. This journey of the Giant learning to live and distinguish between right and wrong is infused with amazing sensitivity since Diesel is an excellent listener, absorber and practitioner of empathy. As a naive and iron-giant figure, Diesel is able to portray both fish-out-of-water comedy and heart-wrenching growth through his character’s collision of context. If you haven’t watched the film, I won’t give away anything about its ending or Diesel’s final comments, but I can tell you this: You’ll be inconsolably moved.
4. Pitch Black
As far as I’m concerned, you’re all afraid of me. I view that as a complement most of the time. “But you don’t have to worry about me right now.” When Diesel’s Riddick roars out this bit of dialogue in Pitch Black, it brilliantly sums up why it’s all so instantly recognizable as an instantly famous sci-fi horror. On his way to a new jail, a ship carrying Riddick crashes on a desert planet, forcing the survivors to face nasty space aliens who are only interested in killing. In order to preserve themselves and the crew, Riddick and the others create an uneasy alliance. It’s true that the crew (headed by Radha Mitchell) is frightened. The second statement, “Most days I take that as a praise,” would be taken as a compliment by most other actors, making Riddick a more conventional antihero. Diesel, on the other hand, relaxes. He adds a tone of irony and sorrow to this. Despite the fact that he is a “heavy,” he sounds resigned to the fact that he must maintain his “scary” image in order to survive. As a result, his third line, which implies the looming threat of still another one, commands our attention. Despite his ominous reputation, it adds another layer of intrigue to the rest of his performance. To its advantage, the creature design in Pitch Black is spare and austere. We might infer from the fact that he can do so much with so little material that Diesel is a formidable actor.
5. A Man Apart
Vin Diesel’s facial hair in this film is bizarre and terrible, and I’ll start there. You could describe it as a half-goatee with a little stubble peeking out at the edges. Unattractive because it’s overgrown, untidy, and odd. Moreover, I wouldn’t have it any other way around. As a paper thriller, A Man Apart reads like any other (which is to say, I am bound to like it at least a little). For the murder of Jacqueline Obrador, an undercover DEA agent (Diesel), Diesel travels outside of the law to track down the unknown killer known as “Diablo” and obtain his revenge, which he believes is his wife’s killer. He’s not interested in “on paper,” but Diesel’s half-beard tells you otherwise. F. Gary Gray (who later directed Diesel in The Fate of the Furious) and he are more interested in diving into this character’s desperation and recognizing his acts as the last line of action available, rather than just performing in a way that looks cool. I’m not a fan of Diesel as a totally “evil person,” since I think he’s too engaged in finding pockets of empathy and inclusiveness wherever he can. However, the picture benefits greatly from this tension between the performer’s instincts and the content. With his hardened regret, he gives the classic, trope-laden sequences where he intimidates witnesses, beating those who shouldn’t be beat up and growling and cursing threats to anyone needs to a genuine feeling of dread, as well as empathy, sympathy, and understanding. A YouTube commentator sums up Diesel’s work succinctly: “Everyone’s an outlaw until the outlaw shows up,” he writes. In reality, outlaws are simply outlaws.
6. Find Me Guilty
There will now be an entirely new subject matter. Sidney Lumet, an American film master, found the ease and comfort of digital cinema in the mid-2000s. What was the first time he stepped foot outside of the house? A Vin Diesel performance unlike anything he’s ever done in Find Me Guilty. It’s a winning, engaging, and exciting mix to witness Lumet and Diesel working out of their comfort zones at the same time. Jackie DiNorscio, a member of the New Jersey Lucchese crime family, is played by Diesel, who wears a wild wig and protruding belly in this film. While most of this family is charged with a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) indictment by district attorney Linus Roache, Jackie takes matters into his own hands and goes to trial on his own. He gets to show off his broad comic skills in these showpiece courtroom scenes, as Jackie himself questions witnesses and generally messes up the legal system. Diesel says, “I’m not a gangster, I’m a gagster,” and I’m totally on board. Lumet’s “everyone in focus!” wide images of him stalking the room are my favorite part of the film. You can’t help but smile at the absurdity of it all because of the way his mouth is stretched out, his articulation flattened, and his smile is infectious. The calmer, more real moments of performance are also what I enjoy the most. Knowing when to go from high-status to low-status softly and efficiently is one of Diesel’s greatest strengths as an actor. In addition, Diesel/Jackie is big about “family,” refusing to rat out his loved ones even if they damage him. From an underappreciated picture, it’s a beautiful yet heavy, unique and worthy performance.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy
The only words Vin Diesel speaks in this film are “I am Groot,” therefore can it be considered one of his best? “I am Groot,” is the obvious response. “Yes,” I’d say that. With just three phrases, Diesel manages to cut through the clutter in James Gunn’s rock-em-sockem whiz-bang superhero flick, Guardians of the Galaxy. What is a Groot? Well, it’s a huge, loving tree monster that is best friends with a ferocious raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and only says the words “I am Groot” as its entire vocabulary. If this were a lesser actor, would he or she have done this? Diesel, on the other hand, is anything but. With expertise and sensitivity, as always, he dives into the challenge of a subtext-only performance head-first. Performing as Groot was Diesel’s first acting role since the death of his buddy Paul Walker, and he describes it as “the first time I came back to dealing with human beings after dealing with death.” The fact that Groot is a character of pure love and joy does not mean he is an easy character. In fact, the only time Groot doesn’t utter “I am Groot” is one of the finest line readings in cinema history.
8. The Last Witch Hunter
Vin Diesel is a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, and he frequently plays the game. To put it simply: The Last Witch Hunter is a movie based on Diesel’s D&D character. You must see The Last Witch Hunter if you actually want to learn more about Diesel’s mentality as a performer, artist, and man with an opinion on the world. Fortunately for you, despite the fact that it has received a lot of bad reviews, it is still a terrific movie. Films including magic and wizardry, warlocks, and witches are a far cry from the “British accented fantasy jargon-dump” we’ve come to expect from Diesel, so seeing him center a fantasy work full of wizardry, magic, and witches is an unconventional match made in heaven. Even though there are some jarring CGI moments in this film’s action scenes—especially in Kaulder’s immortal witch hunter Kaulder’s silent determination as an immortal witch hunter—I enjoy watching Diesel’s silent determination and commitment as Kaulder ground these scenes with tangibility and genuine stakes. It’s clear that Diesel is having a great time filming this film, but he’s not squandering the opportunity with a self-indulgent performance. As a writer, he understands the significance of the material and its life-or-death ramifications. One of the most poignant moments in the film is when Diesel, in a final action sequence, clutches the images of his wife and daughter in order to be reborn. You can count me in if Diesel is right and a sequel to Last Witch Hunter is on the way.
9. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
It’s interesting to see Vin Diesel in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. When seen at the intended 120 frames per second rate, the film’s hyper-reality-cascading-into-the-surreal pace gives Diesel’s Sergeant Shroom and his penchant for philosophical discourse about karma and love in the midst of war’s insanity an extra-terrestrial quality. Diesel looks great in this outfit, and I have no problem with him sporting it. Indeed, I’m considering making a fan theory video in which Diesel plays Saving Private Ryan in an alternate reality where he survives World War II through the power of empathetic love and ages gracefully and spatially beyond our comprehension to appear in Iraq War to give Billy Lynn (Joe Alwyn) the advice he needs. That would be an interesting twist on the story of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. By this stage in Diesel’s career, his voice has become noticeably lower and more gravelly, yet still reassuring. He has the ability to make his “would be hard to do by any other actor” speechifying that delicious combination of sincerity without pretense when his loving, joyous smile accompanies his words. With Alwyn’s heart-wrenching closing scene, Diesel is well suited to the role of the heart-wrenching romantic. When he replies, “I love you,” and the other soldiers answer in kind, it’s just a pure expression of emotion.