5 Great (Mostly) Forgotten Mark Ruffalo Movies

Known now as the Hulk, or at least his alter ego Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo has been working as an actor since the early 1990s, paying his dues in just about every genre. While he began turning heads at the start of the new millennium with some high profile roles in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and then The Brothers Bloom, it would be The Avengers franchise that would make him a household name. While there’s a number of famous films he’s starred in, many have disappeared under the popularity of his bigger movies. Here are 5 great (mostly) forgotten movies with Mark Ruffalo you need to see.

In The Cut (2003)

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo, Nick Dimici (In The Cut, 2003)

Ruffalo plays detective Detective Giovanni A. Malloy, assigned to a gruesome murder of a woman whose severed limb is found in the garden of high school teacher Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan). When he questions Frannie, there is an obvious attraction between the two and his aggressive sexual flirtations make her curious. Meanwhile, Frannie has seen things that suggest Malloy might be someone she saw earlier in a compromising position in the restroom of a local bar, and as the two grow closer, she thinks he might even be the killer.

Directed by Jane Campion (The Piano), In the Cut received a great deal of attention upon release for its then controversial sexual explicitness, which included one time girl-next-door heart throb Ryan barring her breasts and a moment of male oral sex that was completely visible. While these minor parts of the film overshadowed the rest, the movie was initially criticized, mostly for Campion’s direction and pacing, but the performances by Ryan and Ruffalo are very good with Ryan going against type and Ruffalo creating a very intriguing character that keeps viewers guessing. It’s a far better movie than the scores show and deserves a second look. This is a forgotten noir-ish film that really showcases Ruffalo’s dark side and his talent for subtly. Watch this movie.

My Life Without Me (2003)

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo, Sarah Polley (My Life Without Me, 2003)

Ruffalo plays Lee, a man swept up in a relationship with a woman who is everything he’s dreamt of, but who is hiding a terrible secret. Ann (Sarah Polley) is a young wife and mother, living in a trailer park with her unemployed husband and two very young daughters. Her mother (Deborah Harry) is angry at the world and her father is in prison. Ann also had terminal cancer and has two months to live, but nobody but her doctor knows. In her last weeks alive, she desires to do things she’s never experienced, one of which is to have a sexual affair with another man. That man is Lee, and her choice has profound effect.

Directed by Isabel Coixet, this drama is an emotional ride and Polley is strong in the lead, tackling this very challenging role. While Ruffalo’s part is only in support, he brings a great deal of humanity to the project, with his natural, down-to-earth approach and genuine sense of concern. Lee’s deep love for Ann feels authentic and is hard for us to watch as only we know why she pushes him away. A great performance, Ruffalo really helps make this one shine.

What Doesn’t Kill You (2008)

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo (What Doesn’t Kill You, 2008)

Ruffalo plays Brian Reilly, a tough man from the streets of South Boston, best friend to Paulie McDougan (Ethan Hawke). The two make a living as thugs and heavies, and as petty thieves, until they get caught and end up in prison. Once free, Brian spirals, trying to go straight, but he is who he is, and Paulie leads him back to the dark life. Brain’s relationship to his wife (Amanda Peet) and their two boys is strained, and his involvement with the local gang Paulie recruits them into make it hard for him to fins balance.

Directed by Brian Goodman, this thriller is a suspenseful story of a man torn by a life he wants and a life he can’t escape. All the leads are good here with Peet under-rated as Brian’s wife, but Hawke and Ruffalo carry the film, despite some flaws in the plot. Ruffalo excels as Brian who can’t get out from the shadows of his past while still feeling there are no choices before him. Moody, violent, under-seen, and very good, this is a great performance and a must-see movie with Ruffalo.

Thanks for Sharing (2012)

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth-Paltrow (Thanks for Sharing, 2012)

Ruffalo plays Adam, a sex addict struggling with his condition, attending meetings and remaining abstinent for five years. He is sponsored by Mike (Tim Robbins), a married addict who is the leader of the counseling group Adam attends. Adam sponsors Neil (Josh Gad), an addict who is out of control and lies about his progress, forced to join the group by a court order. Adam meets Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), a cancer survivor who admits right away that she doesn’t want to get involved with an addict as she’s dated one before, so Adam hides his past and it’s not long before the two find love. Now it’s just a matter of time before the truth comes out.

Directed by Stuart Blumberg, Thanks for Sharing is more than a light-weight comedy, thanks largely to Paltrow and Ruffalo (who teamed up again after playing a couple in 2003’s View From The Top). A little misunderstood on release, probably due to a marketing campaign that played up the rom-com aspect, the film is deeper than the trailer suggests and has some genuinely good moments between the lead characters. Ruffalo brings a lot of sentiment to Adam, making more of the character than just his addiction. A surprisingly honest film, given the subject matter and how most films would make it a joke, this one is worth a look.

You Can Count On Me (2000)

Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo, Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me, 2000)

Maybe not so much forgotten, but certainly fading, this film is a gem by any definition, and if you haven’t seen it, put it on your list right away. Ruffalo plays Terry Prescott, brother to Samantha (Laura Linney), siblings who as children lost their parents to a car accident. It changed their lives, and while ‘Sammie’ has become responsible and diligent, Terry has never found direction, a wanderer in search of something, anything, gone for months, even years at a time. When he comes home for a visit, he has great impact on her and her young boy (played by a young Rory Culkin), dredging up old haunts as the two try to connect again.

Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, this small masterpiece is easily Ruffalo’s best work yet, playing a tormented man who can’t conform to the expectations of real life. Emotionally gripping, the film doesn’t play it safe, itself refusing to conform to the genre standards, boldly propping up expectations and running roughshod right over them. Linney is sensational and deserves a lot of credit for making this work, but Ruffalo is a wonder. I’ve already written about how good this movie is (here), but don’t take my word. See why Ruffalo is truly on of his generations most talented actors.

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One Response

  1. Matt April 22, 2016