Oscar winner J.K. Simmons is way underused in 'Terminator Genisys'
"Terminator Genisys" (now in theaters) doesn't disappoint when it comes to incredible action sequences and dry, robot-like humor from an aged but not obsolete Terminator, played, for the first time in 12 years, by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But what the film fails miserably at is using the most talented actor in the cast.
J.K. Simmons has been known best for years as a scene-stealing character actor from movies like 2007's indie hit "Juno" or playing the cigar-chomping editor of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson, in the Tobey Maguire-era "Spider-Man" movies.
Sony Pictures Classics/"Whiplash"
Sony Pictures Classics/"Whiplash"
Simmons is great in the movie, but he gets about five minutes of total screen time.
Why hire a talent like Simmons if you're going to underuse him?
Simmons plays a doofy cop named O'Brien who's convinced there are soldiers from the future living among us. This is because back in 1984 he and his partner attempted to arrest a soldier from the future named Kyle Reese, but were interrupted when a Terminator stepped in, killing O'Brien's partner before trying to kill him and Reese.
If you're not into "Terminator" lore, here's a quick refresher.
In "The Terminator" (1984) the future is a postapocalyptic wasteland controlled by machines. The humans left have teamed to fight the machines, led by John Connor. Kyle Reese (played by Michael Biehn) goes back in time on the orders of Connor to protect his mother, Sarah (Linda Hamilton), from a Terminator (Schwarzenegger) who has also gone back in time to kill her. Basically, if the mother is killed, the machines don't have to worry about dealing with John.
"Terminator Genisys" plays on the original film's plot. The Terminator has been sent back in time. Connor has Reese (this time played by Jai Courtney) go after him. But things have changed, and the past is altered compared to what we remember from the original movie.
Getting back to O'Brien. Now having witnessed a Terminator in action and believing Reese's story that he is from the future, we now fast-forward to 2017 where O'Brien once more (now played by Simmons) crosses paths with Reese.
In the present, Reese has time-traveled with a young Sarah Connor ("Game of Thrones" star Emilia Clarke) in hopes to destroy the company that is responsible for the Armageddon, Skynet.
Perhaps we could have gotten more Simmons time if the film didn't have to get into the multiple time travels. Regardless, this is the only part of the film where Simmons appears.
As the scenes in this section of the film progress - a hospital where Reese and Connor are questioned by the police - Simmons is roaming around saying funny one-liners, and when danger arrives for the pair he helps them escape.
Frankly, an unknown could have played the role.
It was probably a nice check for Simmons and an entertaining couple of days' work. But for fans of his work, don't expect getting anything close to what he's capable of.
But Simmons does have meatier projects lined up, with eight projects through 2016, including "The Accountant," which stars Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick. As well as the latest King Kong reboot, "Kong: Skull Island."
Let's hope he shows up on screen longer than just a couple of minutes.
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