ALL THE KING'S MEN
In his role as the initially idealistic, eventually corrupt Louisiana governor Willie Stark in All the King's Men, Sean Penn delivers a series of impassioned orations to Stark's constituency, and every time he does, the movie displays a robust, dramatic fire. A self-described "hick" preaching to those he feels have been similarly politically oppressed, Stark barks out his plans for a better future, and Penn, with a thick drawl and a timbre that rises and falls in waves, attacks these scenes with an egocentric bluster that, at first, veers dangerously close to parody - close your eyes, and he could be Jackie Gleason on a dyspeptic tirade in Smokey & the Bandit. Yet you don't laugh at him. Penn's Stark is such a powerful, daunting presence that he transcends hammy Southern caricature through the legitimate emotion in his outbursts and the intensity of his gaze, and during the governor's stump speeches, King's Men writer/director Steven Zaillian has the good sense to get out of Penn's way and let him run the show.