I’ve explained repeatedly over the last few years that nobody pushes my loathing button like Ben Mendelsohn, i.e., Ben Sweat or Ben Smoke. But no HE commenters have ever said “yowsah, agreed, thanks for pointing this out.” It’s all been on the level of “jeez, weirdo — you really have some kind of problem with this guy, huh?” All alone on Repulsion Island. But now I have a friend, an ally — SBS.com’s Cameron Williams. He’s written a 4.10 piece titled “Going Full Mendo — An Investigation Into The Rise of Australia’s Favorite Sweaty, Smoking Master of Scumbags, Ben Mendelsohn.”
Finally! Somebody saw!
“Nobody dangles a cigarette from their mouth on screen like Ben Mendelsohn,” Williams begins. “The actor defies the laws of physics to keep it hanging from his lips for an unnatural amount of time. There’s sometimes the added difficulty curve of lighting the cigarette at the same time. These are the nuances Mendelsohn brings to each performance.
“Mendelsohn has built a career playing rogues using his downtrodden, laid-back style of acting. His approach was [once] classified by comedians Tony Martin and Mick Molloy as going ‘Full Mendo’. Mendelsohn has become an in-demand actor by doing this. There have been varying degrees of Mendo over the years, but Full Mendo is the one we want. A master of ‘less is more’, his characters move low and slow to control their status in any situation, and it makes Mendelsohn a magnetic screen presence.
“Mendelsohn’s big break-out was Animal Kingdom (’10), an Australian crime drama where he played Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody, a criminal on the run from the law living in Melbourne being protected by his crime family. Pope is one of the definitive scumbags of Mendelsohn’s career who turned the word ‘mate’ into a terrifying acceptance of criminal collusion. Mendelsohn also flipped the perception of what the criminal underworld in Australia looks like. Forget the stereotypical suits — Aussie gangsters do it in boardshorts, thongs and a stained t-shirt.
“Mendelsohn played a sleazy corporate type in The Dark Knight Rises, which was a little Half Mendo, but he was back to his sweaty best in The Place Beyond the Pines and Killing Them Softly.
“Starred Up is where Mendelsohn solidified himself, in all his Full Mendo glory, as one of the great modern actors and one of Australia’s best dramatic exports. Starred Up tells the story of a teenager (Jack O’Connell) who is deemed too violent for the juvenile prison system, so he’s moved to an adult facility where his estranged father (Mendelsohn) is serving a sentence, while running a standover gang with a lot of power. Mendelsohn elevates all tools in his Full Mendo arsenal to create one of the best performances of his career to-date.
“Netflix’s Bloodline was up next where he played Danny Rayburn, the black-sheep brother of a wealthy family living in the Florida. Mendelsohn is coated in sweat and constantly surrounded by cigarette smoke in this miniseris — a big tick in the Full Mendo department. The performances was rewarded with an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2016.
“Full Mendo has now gone mainstream with a villainous appearance in the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, where he was paired with Darth Vader.
“Even Steven Spielberg is a Full Mendo fan, casting him in his big screen adaption of the popular novel, Ready Player One. Mendelsohn will play the Sheriff of Nottingham in the upcoming Robin Hood reboot, and he’ll be seen later this year in Darkest Hour, playing King George VI in a dramatisation of Winston Churchill’s showdown with Adolf Hitler during World War II.”
A sweaty, chain-smoking King of England with a hangdog manner and a constantly glowering expression…can’t wait.
Mendelsohn attempted to play a half-normal, non-repulsive character in 2015’s Mississippi Grind (costarring with Ryan Reynolds), but I didn’t believe him.