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When actors go bad

By Kendis Gibson
CNN Headline News

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Tom Cruise
Denzel Washington

(CNN) -- Moviegoers this week are seeing Tom Cruise like they've never seen him before.

The Hollywood heartthrob has ditched his much-cultivated pretty-boy looks and celebrity-perfect hair for his latest role in "Collateral."

But the real surprise is that Cruise is playing a bad guy.

He plays Vincent, a hit man, who takes a cab driver hostage as he makes his rounds engaging in contract killings during one night in Los Angeles. It's definitely not the Tom we saw in "Jerry Maguire" or "The Last Samurai."

In an interview with the USA Today, Cruise called the character a "tragic person. He's created his own destiny. I don't think he's a guy who's happy with who he is."

Who is he? He's a guy who goes on an intense shooting rampage, blowing people away and cracking jokes as their bodies hit the ground.

Many critics agree Cruise's departure from his stereotype could do wonders for his career, just like it has for many big-name Hollywood good guys gone bad.

Forget Denzel Washington's gripping performances in "Malcolm X," the "Hurricane," or even "Cry Freedom," each of which earned him Academy Award nominations -- it wasn't until he played a bad guy, corrupt cop Alonzo Harris in 2001's "Training Day," that the actor finally took home a leading actor Oscar.

Tom Hanks' evil transformation into a hit man with conscience in 2002's "Road to Perdition," didn't earn him another Oscar nomination, but the film did surprisingly make more than $100 million during an overcrowded summer filled with blockbusters.

Harrison Ford's bad turn earned his film, "What Lies Beneath" in 2000 critical acclaim, and rang up more than $155 million in box office receipts.


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