The son of a famous underground filmmaker, Robert Downey Jr. started out playing a series of smartass, wisecracking comic sidekicks and villains. There were glimmers of some greater ambition from time to time, but he emerged fully-formed, and knocked all his detractors for a loop, with his astonishing, Oscar-nominated lead performance in Chaplin (1992). There were many stays in rehab and a few arrests, and even some jail time, but he always came back. And no matter how bad the material, he was always the best thing in it. (See Mike Figgis' One Night Stand for a prime example.) Last year was his year, with two highly acclaimed hits, Iron Man and Tropic Thunder, and a second Oscar nomination. His new film The Soloist is being released this week. By now he has firmly established his reputation as one of the greatest actors alive, but what about all those years between Oscar nominations? The great work is there, but the movies themselves may have been mistimed or badly advertised and therefore failed to find the proper critical reception or audiences. Here's a look back at Downey's most underrated, underappreciated or overlooked films.

1. Two Girls and a Guy (1998)
Maverick filmmaker James Toback wrote this for Downey (with whom he had worked once before), and I can't think of a more mind-blowing one-man show on film. He plays actor/musician Blake, who arrives home to his spacious New York loft to find both his girlfriends (Heather Graham and Natasha Gregson Wagner) waiting for him. The catch is that neither girl knew about the other. So for 90 minutes, Blake attempts to talk, sing, joke, and charm his way out of trouble. It's a virtuoso work if there ever was one, but the reviews were mixed and the film faded away too quickly. Months later, Roberto Benigni won the Best Actor Oscar.

categories Cinematical