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Under the Radar: Dermot Mulroney

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Jan 23, 2012 | 12:02pm EST

What is it that makes a man a badass? Is it the make of his car? Is it the clothing he wears? No, more likely the prestigious badass moniker is bestowed on the basis of a man’s actions. With that in mind I ask you, what could possibly higher on the badass meter than battling a pack of hungry wolves mano y wolf…o? That is the gauntlet of mandom lain before Liam Neeson and his band of wayward travelers in Joe Carnahan’s The Grey. While Neeson is the undisputed alpha badass of the team, one face we hope you won’t let go overlooked is that of Dermot Mulroney. Dylan McDermott? No, Dermot Mulroney. But we do understand your confusion so here are some standout titles featuring Mulroney that will hopefully help you forever create the appropriate distinction.

Young Guns

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The story of Billy the Kid and his gang is given the full '80s treatment in Christopher Cain’s Young Guns. Billy (played by decade mainstay Emilio Estevez) is the latest addition to a group of former outlaws learning the ways of honest, upstanding citizenship under the tutelage of the kindly Mr. Tunstall (Terence Stamp), but a greedy land owner violently disrupts their way of life and sends the young team on a quest for vengeance. Mulroney plays “Dirty” Steve Stephens, the loveable goofball of the group and one of the two resident cutups,. His performance during the peyote scene is six different kinds of hilarious.

The Family Stone

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Though not a huge fan of romantic comedies by and large, I do appreciate those that feature strong performances and weighty emotional subtext. When I saw 2005’s The Family Stone, I was taken aback by just how moving it was and how far the drama extended beyond the principal love story. Mulroney plays a young man bringing his new girlfriend to his family’s Christmas get-together. Unfortunately for her, the Stones rank among the world’s foremost dysfunctional clan. Mulroney does an outstanding job playing the emotionally centered sibling around which all the hysterical crazy revolves.

Survival Quest 

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This film makes the list not necessarily for its exemplary quality. Not that 1988’s Survival Quest is a terrible movie, it’s just unrepentantly cheesy. But then, what should one expect from Don Coscarelli, the director of The Beastmaster? The reason Survival Quest earns a spot on this list is how perfectly the film would work as the opening act of a double feature with The Grey. It’s a movie about a group of people who go into the woods to be closer to nature, only to have a bloodthirsty paramilitary troupe attempt to track and kill them all. Mulroney, much like in The Grey, must use his wits and his newly acquired wilderness skills to survive being hunted. Get this, his character’s name in Surivival Quest…is Gray!

Friends 

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Yes, I know this isn’t a movie so it may seem a bit like cheating. But Friends, the TV series about six chums living in New York that ran from 1994-2004, is one of the best ensemble comedies of all time. Mulroney appeared on the show in a three-episode stint during their 9th season. He played Gavin, the guy who filled in for Rachel at her office while she was on maternity leave. The great thing about Mulroney’s performance is that he starts off as such a rude, obnoxious jerk constantly at odds with Rachel, and then slowly evolves to be wonderfully charming and someone she even considers dating. It’s an impressive transformation considering how masterfully he executes the turnabout within just three episodes.

My Best Friend’s Wedding

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Ok, here again I am defying my own proclivities and choosing another rom-com for the list. In my defense, in the annals of romantic comedy 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding is considered to be something of a classic. It’s the story of a woman whose best friend of many years, someone for whom she has always harbored feelings, is getting married to another, seemingly perfect, woman (Cameron Diaz). Our heroine, played by Julia Roberts, must then enlist the aid of another of her male friends, who happens to be gay, to try and break up her true love’s wedding. Mulroney plays the aforementioned true love and does so with such genuine amiability and sizzle that it becomes easy to understand why both Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz fell for him. Huh, maybe I’m falling for him. Could you really blame me?

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