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Wednesday, April 4, 2007 01:40 am

Marky hits the mark

Wahlberg finally gets the props he earned a decade ago

Untitled Document Stardom has finally come to Mark Wahlberg, a decade after he proved his skills as an actor. Wahlberg has come a long way since his dubious entrance into show business with Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and I’m sure he would like to forget that chapter in his life. (I would.) His current release, Shooter, is essentially a star vehicle, resting squarely on Wahlberg’s screen presence. He lends his intensity to the role of a government assassin on the run after being set up as a scapegoat. Shooter is one of those films in which no one can be trusted, and his character probably should have known better. The implausible plot is one of those movie concoctions that exist only to launch the chase. Wahlberg’s ability to shift from serious actor to action hero makes it work despite the holes. Shooter may not offer Wahlberg great challenge as an actor, but it certainly helps solidify his growing stardom. Coming on the heels of The Departed (2006), in which he was the only one of the stellar cast to be nominated for an Oscar, Wahlberg has truly arrived. His character could have easily disappeared into the background, but he made the role of the obnoxious, foul-mouthed cop a standout. Wahlberg made the jump to movies in a supporting role as a recruit in Renaissance Man (1994). Two years later he grabbed attention in his first starring role, as Reese Witherspoon’s psychotic boyfriend, in Fear. Wahlberg followed this with his searing portrayal of a porn actor in Boogie Nights (1997). Paul Thomas Anderson’s probing examination of the unseen human side of the porn industry should have catapulted Wahlberg to stardom, but it was co-stars Burt Reynolds and Julianne Moore who received the attention and Oscar nominations. Wahlberg at least became bankable without truly establishing his own screen persona. Many major features came his way, including three high-profile remakes. The Planet of the Apes (2001) was a major disappointment, but The Truth About Charlie (2002) is a bit better than Charade (1963), and The Italian Job (2003) is far superior to its empty original. To bolster his newfound stardom, Wahlberg also appeared, last year, in Invincible, a surprisingly realistic sports film, considering that it comes labeled with two ominous words: “inspirational” and “Disney.” Wahlberg’s physical prowess makes the actor the perfect choice for the role of the bartender who played pro football for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s. You believe Wahlberg as this character, just as you believe he can really play the game. His potential seems limitless.
New on DVD this Tuesday (April 10): Bobby.
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