It’s sometimes easy to forget that, amid all the legal troubles, performance art, memes, “Transformers” movies and headlines about his antics, Shia LaBeouf is a darn good actor.
LaBeouf, an Emmy Award-winning former child star who broke out in the Disney Channel show “Even Stevens,” has had a varied career onscreen. He’s had major roles in huge blockbusters – not only “Transformers” but also “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” opposite Harrison Ford – and interesting roles in smaller fare.
He’s also shown extreme commitment to the job: LaBeouf pulled a tooth to play a World War II tank gunner with Brad Pitt in director David Ayer’s drama “Fury,” and got a very large chest tattoo – with his character’s name, Creeper – for Ayer’s new gangland crime story “The Tax Collector” (available Friday on streaming and video on demand platforms).
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In the film, Creeper is the hardcore half of a pair of L.A. gangsters – alongside family man David (Bobby Soto) – who collect payments for their boss. Their violent life gets a little more bloody when a drug lord (Jose Conejo Martin) from a Mexican cartel shows up to ignite a turf war.
While “Tax Collector” isn’t the best LaBeouf movie, it’s not exactly the ghastly “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” either. In honor of his latest, here are the five essential roles in LaBeouf’s filmography.
‘American Honey’ (2016)
A Jury Prize winner at Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Andrea Arnold’s road-trip drama cast LaBeouf as Jake, a member of a magazine-sales group traveling through the Midwest that picks up Oklahoma teen runaway Star (Sasha Lane). LaBeouf shows a range of emotions, from affection to rage, as the Star’s protective love interest.
‘Borg vs. McEnroe’ (2018)
The sports drama, an opening-night selection of Toronto International Film Festival, centers on the rivalry between tennis champs Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (LaBeouf). Borg is presented as a stoic machine while McEnroe is the hotheaded player who argues with refs, with curls and a headband to match the real “Johnny Mac.”
In one of his earliest films, LaBeouf stars as a Texas youngster from a family where the men have been cursed for generations and a stint at a juvenile detention camp in the desert gives him a chance to make things right. What seems like a pretty kiddie Disney affair is a rather clever adventure ensemble comedy in which LaBeouf showcases an undeniable charm.
‘Honey Boy’ (2019)
Director Alma Har’el’s drama features a quasi-autobiographical screenplay written by LaBeouf based on his childhood and relationship with his father. Noah Jupe and Lucas Hedges play teen and adult versions, respectively, of a young actor who weathers a rough childhood, and LaBeouf is fantastic as the boy’s erratic father, a former rodeo clown who’s a tough, unstable presence in his son’s life.
‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ (2019)
LaBeouf’s last year was one for the books, and in this feel-good adventure, he plays a good-hearted thief who runs afoul of North Carolina crabbers; befriends Zak, a young man with Down syndrome (Zack Gottsagen) with dreams of being a professional wrestler; and brings into their little gang the woman (Dakota Johnson) assigned to bring Zak back to the assisted living facility he escaped. It’s hard not to love LaBeouf in this touching fable.