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Taking Another Look: 15 Overlooked Film Duos in Cinema

Updated on February 11, 2011

For film duos, success often depended on numerous circumstances from plot, scenery and the two lead's chemistry. The whole film was sunk if even one portion didn't fit. Not all film duos have been widely recognized for their film work due to various reasons including an unbalanced emphasis on one actor or actress and a weak storyline.

In a response to a previous article about higher profile film partnerships, the need to focus on the other end of film spectrum was needed. Not all film partnerships have garnered enormous praise from critics and audiences alike. Some just slide under the radar waiting to be discovered once again. Here are 15 overlooked film partnerships awaiting re-examination. Decide whether the recognition is worth the effort, or not.

Scent of a Woman (1992)- The film that earned Al Pacino his one and only Oscar for his role as Lt. Colonel Frank Slade. What people had forgotten was that Chris O'Donnell's Charlie, as a high school student in over his head with everything, helped balance the film as well. Pacino and O'Donnell made the mismatched duo work to their advantage. The premise was simply two people lost in their respective lives and found each other to lean on while vacationing in New York City. Pacino's character taught O'Donnell some valuable life lessons about trust, loyalty and never sacrificing your beliefs in order to protect yourself. Woman had a lot of memorable moments to choose from. The most pivotal scene occurred towards the latter half of the film when Pacino walked into Charlie's school to stand up for him when no one else did. It was downright entertaining watching Pacino chew out Charlie's self righteous headmaster and put him in his place. When the auditorium cheered, the audience couldn't help but cheer along with them.

Primal Fear (1996)- Fear was better known as the film that launched Edward Norton's career. It gave Norton his first Oscar nomination and proved that Richard Gere was still cool as a slick defense attorney. Norton was downright disturbing as an initially naive murder defendant whose personality changed radically within the span of a second. One minute he was an innocent child that evolved into a calculated psychopath. Despite being oveshadowed by Norton's tour de force performance, Gere held his own as the playboy lawyer who realized he could no longer turn a blind eye to humanity's dark side. He finally opened his eyes to the evil inside his client and was just as scared as the audience. Disturbing indeed.

Spy Game (2001)- The film's story itself didn't reinvest the wheel or anything. The main prize was the comraderie between the film's leads. Robert Redford and Brad Pitt portrayed spies at different ends of the age, job and cultural spectrum. Both actors were infamously known for their sex symbol status. It was nice to see Redford's veteran spy guiding Pitt to being all that he can be. The irony was that Pitt ended up schooling Redford in being the best person he can be. Class dismissed.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)- The cinematic partnership that's usually associated with Katharine Hepburn was her on-screen/off-screen partnership with Spencer Tracy. Many audience have overlooked her four film partnership with Cary Grant. When this Baby was first released, it was considered to be the ultimate cinematic misfire due to the silliness of the plot. Hepburn's career was in complete jeopardy. The film wasn't considered a classic until many years later. The comedic chemistry between Hepburn and Grant kept the laughs coming even at their own joint expense. Their partnership served them best years later in The Philadelphia Story, which became one of Hepburn's signature films.

Unfaithful (2002)- In terms of romantic partnerships, Richard Gere's partnership with Julia Roberts usually garnered more attention than his with Diane Lane. Surprisingly, Gere had only worked with Roberts in two films while he did three with Lane. For their second film Unfaithful, Lane owned the film as a cheating wife exploring her sexual identity beyond her conventional marriage. Gere's supporting role as the cukolded husband had little to do except be naive to his wife's betrayal. Lane was given the better material because she was battling the dilemma whether to betray her husband or to follow her misguided instincts. Despite Gere's chemistry with Lane, this partnership was unbalanced from the very start. When the truth came out, Gere's character had the opportunity to express his anger, except the execution was poor. The last thirty minutes of the film defied logic and made the audience not root for the pair. Unfortunately, the ending didn't change the fact that Gere and Lane still work well together. Their chemistry will continue to serve them in future films.

Kill Bill Volume 2 (2004)- This revenge flick follow-up carried more of a emotional wallop than the first volume did. Even though it was Uma Thurman's film, her scenes with the late David Carradine were the heart of the story. The Bride's relationship with Bill was full of love, betrayal and recognition that the end was near. The final confrontation between Thurman and Carradine was the ultimate payoff in revenge. After all, Bill was responsible for setting everything in motion. There was no way around it except for one of them to die. You can do the math as to which one that is.

Pulp Fiction (1994)- This film was always considered to be either Tarantino's breakthrough movie and Travolta's comeback piece. The real knockout Fiction delivered was the genius pairing of Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as tough talking hitmen trying to do their job. Travolta and Jackson complimented each other when they confronted people welching on paying their boss. Travolta had a reserved cool, while Jackson was all fire and noise. What one character lacked, the other one made up for in spades. It was enjoyable to watch the two actors solve their problems with their guns and some tough words. No fiction involved with this film partnership.

Good Will Hunting (1997)- The film that garnered Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Oscars, as well as a piece of the Hollywood fame pie. It also gave a window into an enduring friendship that's lasted much longer than the former phenomemon known as "Bennifer." Damon and Affleck's friendship in the film endured even when the charaters were going in different directions. Unfortunately, the duo's cinematic partnership was usually overlooked based on the fact that Affleck only had a smaller part in the film. The duo that had a much larger profile and Robin Williams' interaction with Damon, which also earned Williams an Oscar. When you watch the film, focus on the real life comraderie between Damon and Affleck instead of the critical praise worthy material. It'll be worth the effort.

Indiana Jones and the The Last Crusader (1989)- Overlooked as a franchise film, not many noticed the sheer comedy of Indiana Jones battling villains and his father. Sean Connery was initially hesitant to play Henry Jones because he thought no one would believe he was Harrison Ford's father. Despite being close to Ford in age, Connery was proven wrong because the actors' chemistry was pretty convincing. Ford and Connery acted like father and son even though they spoke with different accents.

Wolf (1994)- This film was usually overlooked because the focus was more on physical tranformation than the emotional kind. The ultimate jewel of the film was Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer with their dance around each other's affections. Nicholson's Will Randall went through a big character transformation after getten bitten by a werewolf. Randall lost his meek personality and took control of his life. He maintained his power position at a publishing firm and and started dating the ultra-confident Pfeiffer. The wolf in Randall allowed him to metaphorically bite back every time Pfeiffer playfully rejected him until she couldn't do it anymore. Once the two gave into each other, the sparks were off the charts in the best possible way. When the danger increased, the audience's interest went up as well until the end credits.

All the President's Men (1976)- Ironically, both Redford and Dustin Hoffman were both up for the role of Benjamin Braddock in 1968's The Graduate. The film focused more on the real life Watergate scandal and put the duo's partnership on the backburner. Redford and Hoffman balanced each other as two reporters working together to break a complicated story and still maintain their careers. The urgency and the risk of unemployment constantly loomed throughout until the final payoff of publishing their story together. They didn't count on living in journalism infamy as the reporters who exposed Nixon. This film allowed Redford and Hoffman to jointly tell the story together without either one overshadowing the other.

Romancing the Stone (1984)- Stone was basically labeled as a more whimsical version of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Michael Douglas played Jack Colton as an explore without scruples in search of lost treasure. What he didn't expect was to find Kathleen Turner's Joan Wilder, a romance writer searchig for adventure and her missing sister. The ultimate film treasure was the spitfire rapport between Douglas and Turner, which obviously indicated their chemistry went beyond the screen as well. Both actors gave as good as they got, even when they realized they were in madly in love with each other. The film's conclusion was cliche but a well deserved ending for the pair.

Bad Influence (1990)- This movie wasn't really much of a film, except for the pairing of James Spader and Rob Lowe. Both actors tackled the extremes of yuppie greed. Spader took a huge risk in handing over his usual dark yuppie persona over to Lowe. In exchange, he played a mild mannered aspiring yuppie looking for success and excitement. Lowe appeared at the right time and forced Spader to explore the reality of his sheltered life. Sadly, the film rapport was unbalanced because both actors seemed awkward outside their acting comfort zones. Spader only excelled when streaks of his bad guy persona unexpectedly appeared as he fought Lowe for control of his life. The film's ending was pretty much expected from the very beginning, but it was still interesting to watch it unfold.

We're No Angels (1989)- The movie was pretty much forgettable except for the pairing of Robert De Niro and Sean Penn as escaped convicts. Despite a questionable script, both actors appeared to be fond of each other. A youthful Penn revered De Niro's veteran prisoner as a father figure and used his guidance to carve out his own path. The film's funniest scenes occurred when the two were on the brink of capture. Hopefully, these two will be paired up in a film with stronger content than this. Fingers crossed.

Brian's Song (1971)- This film had the strength of being a true story of an enduring friendship even in illness. James Caan and Billy Dee Williams portrayed a friendship of two athletes who supported each other no matter what. The ending tugged at everyone's heartstrings as the friendship faced the ultimate test when all hope was gone. Have a box of tissues nearby when watching this movie. It's an order.

Ultimately, not every film duo was a successful one. Sometimes pairing two actors together can lead to horrific results. (Ishtar anyone?) As the old saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Movie goers determine which film duos works and which ones need to be forgotten. You decide which pair can find work together or go their separate ways for good. Choose wisely.

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    • christine almaraz profile image

      christine almaraz 8 years ago from colorado springs

      Great hub. Very well written.