For the past almost 50 years, Robert De Niro has been one of the best actor working in movies. He’s delivered classic performance after classic performance, and in some of the best movies ever made. De Niro isn’t just one of the best actors working in Hollywood, he’s also one of the most versatile. He’s played athletes, comedians, and people who are deeply isolated in the worlds that they’ve built for themselves.
What unites all of De Niro’s greatest roles, though, is that they reckon with what it means to be a man, and not in the way someone like Kevin Costner does. Some of De Niro’s most famous characters are awful people, and he’s perhaps best known for playing criminals. Regardless of the professions of his characters, though, all of De Niro’s best characters are somewhat withdrawn, somewhat angry, and totally symptomatic of what masculinity has been in the 20th and 21st century.
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