Wednesday, July 24, 2013

RIP Dennis Farina



  Yesterday the world lost a talented actor, Dennis Farina.

  Farina was one of those guys with a recognizable face and voice, even if you couldn’t always remember where you’d seen him before.  I suppose he’s what you’d call a character actor, though he had some leading roles on television, most notably in Crime Story and Law & Order

  I used to be a L&O fan, though I’ll admit that I lost interest long before it left the air.  And I’ll also admit that even though I enjoyed Farina’s work, I was never as fond of him on L&O as I was Jerry Orbach.  Still, I thought he brought something interesting to the show—a sort of presence that not everyone has. Really, his overall demeanor was always interesting to me, somewhere between menacing and debonair, like you never knew if he was going to invite you over to the club or break your kneecaps.  I always figured that came in handy back in his previous life, when he began his professional career as a cop.

And, while we’re on the subject of his previous career, I’ve always found that interesting, too.  Sure, lots of people change careers, and plenty of them even do it in their middle-aged years like he did.  But let’s be honest; not too many folks make the change from being an actual law enforcement officer to playing one on TV.  I think it’s kind of cool.

But although Farina spent a lot of time working in television—even an episode of my beloved Hardcastle and McCormick back in the day—it is a movie role that has most endeared him to me:  Jimmy Serrano from Midnight RunMidnight Run is a quirky little movie from back in the 80s about an ex-cop turned bounty hunter (Robert DeNiro) who needs to get a former mob accountant (Charles Grodin) back where he belongs before the bail bondsman loses the big bucks he put up on the guy.  It’s literally laugh out loud funny many times throughout the movie, and it’s even better when it’s more subtle.  Of course, it’s likely no surprise to anyone who knows me that the thing I like best about the film is the friendship that develops between the two main characters, even against all odds.  I am a sucker for a good buddy show.

And where does Farina come in?  Well, Grodin’s an accountant for the mob, right?  And Farina has that whole menacing vibe going on that I mentioned; trust me when I say he’s a believable mobster.   Of course, he’s got some bozo henchmen working for him (wouldn’t be much of a comedy if everyone was actually ending up dead all the time), and seeing him at his wit’s end with the hired help is very funny to me.  And, the scene in the airport where he’s making an exchange with the bounty hunter—wonderful.  I’d think it’s hard to hold your own in a scene with Robert DeNiro, but Farina delivers like a pro.  If you haven’t seen Midnight Run before now, you should do yourself a favor and check it out.  Like I said, it wins for me on every level, but Farina’s portrayal of Jimmy Serrano really is top notch.

So, farewell, Jimmy, and thanks Mr. Farina, for bringing him to us.  May you rest in peace.