In the thriller “The Book of Eli” (which reaches theaters Friday), Denzel Washington portrays a mysterious man walking the earth’s charred landscape burdened with a heavy responsibility. He carries the last remaining Bible -- as well as some heavy-duty emotional baggage and no small amount of physical scar tissue. The character’s thousand-yard gaze, meanwhile, smolders behind massive wrap-around sunglasses; handy with a machete, he abides.
Viewed within Hollywood’s prescribed career arc for actors of his stature, there was a certain inevitability to Washington taking on the role.
As evidenced by films like “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” or “The Road” -- but especially Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld” -- nothing says A-list action hero quite like a trip down the post-apocalyptic byways. That is, the kind of places where a rugged individual steels himself for the worst, cocks the hammer of his gun and faces down his deepest fears with stoic determination (usually resulting in an orgy of human carnage and at least two or three violent set pieces along the way).
Good acting is reacting. And there’s there’s plenty to react to during a long slog across hell. Just don’t forget certain key pieces of wardrobe: Fingerless gloves, patchwork leather clothing, sawed-off shotguns and trench coats seem to remain the height of fashion after the fabric of society unravels.
So, without further ado, click here for a purely superficial analysis of A-listers who have faced down the aftermath of Armageddon.
-- Chris Lee
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Photo of Denzel Washington in "Book of Eli" by David Lee / Warner Bros.