NEW YORK — Leonardo DiCaprio is a fine actor. In fact, he’s one of the best around. Yet lately, he’s given the same basic performance in every movie.
Sure, he’s played a range of characters, from Howard Hughes in “The Aviator” to J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood’s new “J. Edgar.”
But there has emerged a standard Leo screen persona — tightly wound, filled with intense rage, teetering on the edge of sanity and ready to explode at the slightest provocation.
It stands to reason, then, that Hollywood has collectively determined that a tortured DiCaprio is a successful DiCaprio. We put that theory to the test by comparing the degree of severe dramatic intensity in some of DiCaprio’s prominent recent performances (the “Leo’s rage” scale, with 10 the most intense) to the overall quality of the movies.
”The Aviator” (2004)
The young Howard Hughes starts off as a fun-loving, romantic adventurer, but things rapidly turn south. When the paranoid recluse emerges, we get scenes of a crazed, mumbling Leo transformed into a twitching wreck.
Leo’s rage: 5
Film quality: 8
“The Departed” (2006)
As undercover police officer Billy Costigan Jr. in Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award-winning mob drama, DiCaprio frowns, broods and is forever spoiling for a fight when he’s not actually beating people up.
Leo’s rage: 10
Film quality: 9
“Revolutionary Road” (2008)
There are knockdown, drag-out screaming matches in Sam Mendes’ domestic drama, but Leo’s intensity is mostly manifest in the glum, droning fashion with which his Frank Wheeler trudges from a miserable office job to an increasingly unstable home life.
Leo’s rage: 6
Film quality: 5
As DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb goes deep into the labyrinthine world of dreams within dreams in Christopher Nolan’s mind-bender, his own sanity starts to fray. The confident thief turns into an emotional wreck when confronted with his memories of late wife Mal (Marion Cotillard).
Leo’s rage: 4
Film quality: 6
”J. Edgar” (2011)
Leo’s take on the FBI’s first director turns Hoover into a twisted, tormented soul, a closeted gay man shoved so far into the depths of repression that he can barely function. Alone in his dark office, listening to a precious secret recording, he’s a sad, pitiable monster.
Leo’s rage: 8
Film quality: 5