When Adrien Brody won the best actor Oscar two years ago for his haunting performance in Roman Polanski’s Holocaust drama, “The Pianist,” Hollywood wondered what the tall, lanky actor, then 29, would do next.
He’d spent more than a decade in the business, and “The Pianist” was his biggest film. Previously he’d been in such obscure indies as “Love the Hard Way,” “Bread and Roses,” “The Last Time I Committed Suicide” and “Oxygen.” A role in the Oscar-nominated 1998 war epic “The Thin Red Line” had been cut drastically during editing, and his mainstream films, including Spike Lee’s “Summer of Sam” and Barry Levinson’s “Liberty Heights,” weren’t box office hits.
Brody’s first few projects after “The Pianist” didn’t live up to his potential. They included the low-budget comedy “Dummy” (which actually had been made before “The Pianist” but was released after it), the poorly received “The Singing Detective” and “The Village,” and those annoying Diet Coke commercials.
The off-kilter romantic thriller “The Jacket,” which opens Friday, is Brody’s first opportunity since “The Pianist” to carry an entire movie on his wiry shoulders. John Maybury, the avant-garde British director of the acclaimed 1998 drama “Love Is the Devil,” helmed this gothic tale of a 1991 Gulf War veteran who, after recovering from a near-fatal gunshot wound, returns to his native Vermont suffering from amnesia. Accused of murdering a police officer, Brody’s Jack Starks is sent to a mental institution, where a physician (Kris Kristofferson) decides to try out a mind-blowing new treatment on him that includes drugs, a straitjacket and hours trapped in a body drawer in a basement morgue.
During the treatments, Starks begins to travel into the future, where he meets an embittered waitress (Keira Knightley).
Though slow out of the Oscar starting gate, Brody seems to be on a roll now. Soon after he finished “The Jacket,” he jetted to New Zealand for a starring role in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong.”