Welcome to “Unsung Hero,” a new feature we’re starting up to bring attention to actors, directors and other folks behind our favorite films who might not be in the spotlight as much as they deserve. With The Purge: Anarchy in theaters now, we’re giving the inaugural installment to Frank Grillo.
The guy’s been around for a while having had a run on Guiding Light back in the late 90s and appearing in movies like The Sweetest Thing and Minority Report. But even with snagging more substantial roles in films like Warrior, End of Watch and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Grillo isn’t exactly a household name just yet, so we’re going to do our part to change that. Hit the jump for more.
Who He Is:
Grillo grew up in upstate New York. Prior to catching the acting bug, he was more focused on sports. However, even when Grillo hit the point when he was debating between the two careers, his parents wound up sending him to NYU for business school. Grillo did spend some time working on Wall Street, but eventually, a casting agent came calling, Grillo scored a part in a beer ad and continued to book more and more commercial gigs afterwards. (via All Movie Guide)
Where You’ve Seen Him:
Grillo took a handful of small parts on shows, but it was the role of Hart Jessup on Guiding Light that really upped his profile. After that show wrapped Grillo appeared on the short-lived NBC comedy Battery Park, and then made his way over to guest roles on The Shield, Prison Break, and Spike TV’s The Kill Point.
On the film front, Grillo really caught my eye in Darren Lynn Bousman’s remake of Mother’s Day. (Yes, it’s good. Check it out.) My Soul to Take didn’t work out for anyone involved, but after that, Grillo popped up in Gavin O’Connor‘s Academy Award nominated movie, Warrior. After that, Grillo starred in The Grey alongside Liam Neeson, appeared in David Ayer’s End of Watch, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and then led one of the storylines in the 2013 release, Disconnect.
Even if you happened to have missed all of that, odds care you caught Grillo in one of his more recent releases, Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Brock Rumlow.
Why He Deserves Your Attention:
The Grey (2012): Sure, the plane crash survivors had a pack of wolves chasing after them, but another reason their mission to make it back to society was so unnerving was because they had a hothead like Grillo’s Diaz threatening to topple Ottway’s (Neeson) plan to make it home safely. But Grillo doesn’t let you write the character off that quickly. Even though his behavior might make you think that Diaz is just a bad seed through and through, you also can’t help but to recognize the fact that he’s a capable fighter and while he’s a total jerk, the guys can’t really do without him. On top of that, after roughly 60 minutes of despising Diaz, Grillo still manages to do a bit of a turnaround and make you feel sympathy for the guy, but it’s in a way that’s totally in line with everything he’s already established about the character.
Mother’s Day (2012): Grillo also has you going back and forth with his character in that Mother’s Day remake. One of the best parts about that film is there’s two things going on – you’ve got the traditional home invasion component, but then there’s a little relationship drama in there. Who was taking the money? Was it Grillo’s character? He seems like the likely culprit, but when Grillo says he didn’t do it, he does so with such conviction that we’re inclined to believe him.
Disconnect (2013): It’s also well worth checking out Grillo’s work in the 2013 limited release, Disconnect. That one does try a little too hard to push its message, but stellar performances keep it engaging from start to finish, and Grillo’s in particular is a standout. In the movie, his character’s got two things going on: a heated assignment at work and a pretty devastating problem with his son at home. Not only does Grillo handle both incredibly well, but he does so in a way that one informs the other, creating a strikingly multidimensional character.
Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014): As someone who didn’t know much about Brock Rumlow prior to catching Captain America: The Winter Solider, Grillo really did sell both sides of that character well. Prior to the reveal that he’s a full-blown villain, I bought him as a noble S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. And then once Rumlow reveals his true colors, Grillo excels in the fight sequences. Even right next to Marvel heavyweights like Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Sebastian Stan, you’re still drawn to Grillo. Rumlow is far from front and center, but Grillo gives the character this magnetizing on-screen presence that ensures you always know he’s there.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014): Now for his new release, The Purge: Anarchy. Ethan Hawke made for a solid leading man in The Purge, but the sequel is a completely different story. Whereas the first film took place entirely in a house with a family that had no intention of participating in The Purge, Grillo leads The Purge: Anarchy as a guy who deliberately steps out onto the streets determined to make a kill. However, while on his way to release the beast, he runs into some defenseless poor souls stuck outside about to be purged themselves, and rather than continue making his way towards his target, he opts to help them out.
There really is no bigger thrill than seeing Grillo whip out a gun and decimate an entire crew of thugs. He’s the life force behind this film, and it’s not just because he’s one of the main characters. The Purge: Anarchy is about this group trying to survive the night. It’s not going to work if you don’t believe they can do it, but you do because of Frank Grillo. First off, he looks like he can save the day. He’s a strong guy, looks damn good brandishing some firearms and also infuses Leo with an air of confidence and determination that makes you believe he can handle it. Just like that game room scene in The Purge, it’s exhilarating to see a capable hero take out a bad guy with all the fight and resolve in the world, and that’s exactly what Grillo does throughout this entire film.
Where You Can See Him Next:
Grillo just scored the lead role in the highly anticipated American remake of The Raid. He told us that one won’t go into production until January 2015, so we’ll have to wait a little bit for it, but if you want more Grillo much sooner, you can catch him on DirecTV’s Kingdom, which is set to premiere on October 8th at 9pm ET/PT. Then, of course, there’s the chance Grillo could pop up in more Captain America. In fact, he told us that he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Brock Rumlow will make his way into the next Captain America installment.
Grillo’s a guy who can do a lot with a little. Whether he’s a supporting part in the shadow of superheroes or working with a straightforward role, Grillo breathes life into his characters in a way that makes them feel as though they’re not just the characters from a script, but that they’re his own.