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Fans of Jurassic Park Should Watch This Underrated Samuel L. Jackson Movie – TheFantasyTimes

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By Jitin Gambhir

Fans of Jurassic Park Should Watch This Underrated Samuel L. Jackson Movie



Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park featured some fantastic performances, but it’s easy to forget that one of Hollywood’s greatest actors was also part of the cast. Samuel L. Jackson’s career-defining performances in Quentin Tarantino films and as Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequel trilogy were still years away. Jackson’s role as IT expert Ray Arnold in Jurassic Park was striking because it felt like he was playing against type. But his remarkable range was demonstrated in several lower-profile films throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

One such film is The Red Violin, a Canadian historical drama directed by François Girard. The film spans three centuries and meditates on the power of music. The Red Violin in question is the work of Bussotti, an acclaimed Italian violin maker working in 17th-century Genoa. Bussotti creates the violin as a way of coping with the death of his wife and unborn child. The violin goes through many hands over the next 300 years, being played by child prodigies, gypsies, and classically trained violinists. The film culminates with the violin being auctioned off at a Canadian auction house, where its fate becomes a tug-of-war between multiple bidders.

With an international cast and a devilish twist in the tail, The Red Violin is a film that surprises and delights. Samuel L. Jackson plays Morritz, an appraiser hired to determine if the Red Violin is authentic. Initially aloof, demanding, and laser-focused on his work, Morritz is not easily likable. But Jackson imbues him with an extraordinary depth of feeling as he becomes gripped by the possibility of having discovered one of the most feted musical instruments in history.

Jackson’s performance in The Red Violin is masterful and restrained, a million miles away from his Tarantino-esque line readings. The film’s denouement is clever and restrained, leaving the viewer wondering about the consequences of Morritz’s brush with Bussotti’s masterwork.

Although much of Jackson’s career in the late 1990s is overshadowed by his performances in The Long Kiss Goodnight and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the actor was also doing far more understated work at this time. Only a year before The Red Violin’s release, he turned in a towering performance playing a schoolteacher confronting gang violence in One Eight Seven. His work on low-budget independent Eve’s Bayou the same year is now rightly lauded as a masterpiece of Southern Gothic. It goes to show that one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors had both the range and depth of feeling to tackle pretty much any role that came his way.

With so many fabulous performances to marvel at in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Parkit’s easy to forget that one of Hollywood’s greatest actors also stars in it. For Samuel L. Jacksoncareer-defining performances in a slew of Quentin Tarantino films were still on the horizon, and his work as Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequel trilogy lay the best part of a decade away.



These performances have become Jackson’s stock-in-trade, which is part of why his turn as IT expert Ray Arnold in Jurassic Park is so striking – it feels as though Jackson is playing against type. But the actor’s remarkable range was to be demonstrated in several other lower-profile films throughout the 1990s and 2000s. If you liked watching the man who played Jules in Pulp Fiction and Zeus in Die Hard With A Vengeance trading tech-speak like a Silicon Valley tech guy, Jackson’s 1998 movie The Red Violin will be a revelation. Here’s why you should watch it.

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An Impressive Historical Drama

jason_flemyng
Odeon Films/FilmFour

From director François Girard, the Canadian historical drama The Red Violin spans three centuries and is a swirling, heady meditation on the power of music – it bagged composer John Corigliano an Academy Award. The violin in question is the work of Bussotti, an acclaimed Italian violin maker working in seventeenth-century Genoa. Bussotti looks forward to starting a family with his young wife, but when he discovers that both she and his unborn child have died, he is overcome with grief and makes one final, exquisite violin, dyeing it red before putting aside his craft forever.

Over the next three hundred years, the violin goes through innumerable hands, being played variously by child prodigies in late eighteenth-century Austria, gypsies traveling the length and breadth of Europe, a wild, classically trained violinist who is prodigal in more ways than one, and a Chinese musician caught up in the tumult of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Finally, the violin is rescued from obscurity and, having been recognized for the masterpiece it is, goes on auction at a Canadian auction house, where its fate degenerates into a tug-of-war between multiple bidders.

With a remarkably wide historical perspective, some exquisite performances from an international cast, including Jason Flemyng (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Welcome to The Punch), Greta Scacchi (Brideshead Revisited, War and Peace), and Sandra Oh (Killing Eve, The Sandman), and a marvelously devilish twist in the tail, it is surprising that The Red Violin opened to mixed reviewsand did not travel well, doing only modest box office numbers beyond Canada. At the center of it all is Jackson, whose role as the modern-day expert tasked with proving the Red Violin’s authenticity embroils him in intrigues that rival those of any of its previous owners.

Related: Samuel L. Jackson and Boyd Holbrook Take Lead Roles in Gripping Death-Row Drama Last Meals

Samuel L. Jackson, the Cool Investigator

Red Violin
Odeon Films/FilmFour

Jackson plays Morritz, who is an appraiser by trade; he is hired to determine if the Red Violin is what it purports to be. Aloof, demanding, and laser-focused on his work, the character is not initially likable. But Jackson imbues him with an extraordinary depth of feeling. As the film progresses, we begin to understand the extent to which the possibility that he has discovered one of the most feted musical instruments in history has gripped him.

At one point, Girard has the camera linger on his face so that the viewer watches his expressions as the instrument’s almost unnaturally lush timbre transforms the performance of even a mediocre violinist into something sublime.

Later, in another excellent scene, Jackson watches as an audio technician who lacks his feel for music subjects the instrument to a series of acoustic tests, discovering that, as he puts it, the violin is the most perfect instrument ever made. As the wood resonates, it is as though it is in pain, and Jackson cries out in sympathy: “Stop it!” The utterance is urgent, impassioned, and yet a million miles away from the Tarantino-esque line readings for which Jackson was already famous and spoke to a restrained, masterful performance.

An Unexpected Ending

The Red Violin Samuel L. Jackson
Odeon Films/FilmFour

If director Girard lays on the symbolism a bit thick when it comes to the Red Violin’s seemingly mystical power to entrance its owners and bring them anguish – the use of tarot cards by an acquaintance of Bussotti’s wife in seventeenth-century Italy to divine her future is used as a framing device throughout – the film’s denouement is both clever and restrained. Morritz ends the film having done his job, and yet, we are led to wonder, what will be the consequences for him and those around him of his brush with Bussotti’s masterwork?

Related: Best Samuel L. Jackson Movies, Ranked

Although much of Jackson’s career in the late 1990s is overshadowed by the performances in The Long Kiss Goodnight and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace that bookends the period, the actor was also doing far more understated work at this time. Only the year before The Red Violin‘s release, he turned in a towering performance playing a schoolteacher confronting gang violence in One Eight Seven.

His work on low-budget independent Eve’s Bayou the same year is now rightly lauded as a masterpiece of Southern Gothic, going to show that one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors had both the range and the depth of feeling to tackle pretty much any role that came his way.

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