The Curious Case of Ving Rhames

Let me begin by saying that I would never want to run into Ving Rhames in a dark alley. That out of the way, Ving Rhames has to have one of the most complicated filmographies in the history of cinema. He's been the toughest, mad dog killer type, cross-dressing, homosexual, manhood violated so & so in Hollywood. This is not a knock against his talent, because I dig dude as an actor, but some of his roles push the boundaries of Black manhood past where most brothers are comfortable.

I guess that's what he's goes for when choosing a role, something unconventional, a role that shows his diversity and more important displays his full range of talent honed at New York City's School of Performing Arts and later at Juliard. Yeah, that has to be what led him to star in Holiday Heart as a gay drag queen fresh off of Entrapment and Mission: Impossible II. This was right before he played "Melvin", the reformed ex-con with two strikes in Baby Boy, but six years after his breakthrough role as "Marcellus Wallace" in Quentin Tatrentino's Pulp Fiction.

Ohhhhhh, "Marcellus Wallace" the feared gangster that threw someone off of a balcony for giving his wife a foot massage, but later is raped on a pommel horse. A pommel horse? It's one of those moments, coupled with Tarentino's penchant for saying "the N-word" more than I do these days that make you wonder if he's harboring racial angst towards Black men. However, this role made Rhames a quasi-star and led him to the Mission: Impossible franchise, Rosewood, Con Air, and Out of Sight.

These films preceded the Showtime movie Holiday Heart where he plays a grieving gay man that befriends Alfre Woodard's drug addicted character. I've never really seen the movie, though it's on BET every other day, I know I've flipped past it over the years wondering why he took the role. In Baby Boy he was that thug ass nigga that drank all the kool-aid, cooked breakfast butt naked, choked Jody out and perfected the African squat squat. Like two sides to a coin, he's alternated being the toughest guy on camera to being softer than terrycloth, a balance he displayed as a closeted (at first) fireman in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

They say work is in short supply for Black actors, but looking at Ving Rhames resumè, there's plenty of work if you're willing to take a chance at stretching the limits of sexuality or just being in a bad movie. He's had some hidden gems like Animal, in which he plays a reformed criminal looking to set his life straight in an effort to save his son from traveling the same road. But for every decent movie that he appears in, there's a Day of the Dead that he should've passed on or the ill-advised "Kojak" remake on USA, but I guess a check is a check…ask Samuel L. Jackson!

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