Eric Roberts – James Munroe
Roberts has been one of the most versatile yet under-appreciated, male actors of the past 20 years. He actually has significant acting skills, but has been known to overact when the opportunity presents itself – which makes him the perfect villain for The Expendables. He plays James Munroe, an ex-C.I.A. agent that has less than honorable motives.
Roberts started his career by studying drama at London’s acclaimed Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts at the young age of 17. After a handful of mildly successful films in the ’70s, Roberts was in a horrible crash in 1981 which put him in a coma for 3 days and significantly altered his appearance. Instead of the leading man roles, he started gravitating towards co-starring roles and through a series of bad choices (read: crappy films) found himself settling for paychecks instead of kudos.
Roberts was basically re-introduced to mainstream audience as Thompson, the head of The Company on the hit NBC show Heroes. One again, he proved himself to be a solid actor and was easily believable as the guy who’s loyalties you weren’t sure about. We compiled a list of our top 5 films that we believe qualify Eric Roberts to be in The Expendables:
#5 – The Specialist
Even though The Specialist isn’t considered to be one of the best films ever made (although I enjoyed it), Roberts gave a fine villainous performance as Tomas Leon, a mobster who has Sharon Stone’s father killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although the film ultimately pits Sylvester Stallone against James Woods, it’s Robert’s actions that are ultimately the catalyst for the action – that and the fact that Woods kills a little girl with a bomb at the beginning. That probably had something to do with it too.
#4 – By the Sword
In 1991, Roberts played opposite F. Murray Abraham in a little-known action/drama set at a prestigious fencing academy. It was a shame that not many people knew about this film because Roberts does a good job of portraying Alex Villard, who runs the academy with a “win at all costs” mentality. F. Murray Abraham is Max Suba, a former fencing champion who is out of practice but takes the opposite approach to fencing. The movie ends with a climatic and exciting duel between Villard and Suba.
#3 – Best of the Best 2
I literally just watched this film last night and I forgot how much I enjoy it. While the majority of the karate action comes from Phillip Rhee, Roberts does a good job of holding his own in the martial arts world. Slender and decently built, Roberts has the look of a martial arts expert but this is one of those movies where he has a tendency to overact.
#2 – Runaway Train
Some consider this to be Robert’s breakout role, in which he plays opposite Jon Voight as two ex-criminals who stowaway on a freight train in the middle of winter in Alaska. The two find themselves in a chilling (heh) situation when the engineer dies of a heart attack leaving just them and a female railroad worker trapped on the out of control train. While there aren’t that many action scenes involving Roberts, it was his performance in the film which impressed many viewers.
#1 – Best of the Best
Alex Grady is a father and a martial expert chosen to come out of retirement after a shoulder injury to represent America in an international taekwondo tournament against Korea. Roberts actually does a great acting job and we get to struggle with his personal demons alongside him. The greatest moment for me is the final fight in the movie, where Grady re-injures his arm and must choose whether to quit and go home or fight on through the pain. He ends up choosing the latter and defeats his opponent with one-arm tied to his body. Bad. Ass.
These are just some of the reasons that both Dolph Lundgren and Eric Roberts deserve to play a role in The Expendables. With such long and vast histories in action films, what other examples can you think of?
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