Rock-solid performance

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 2008, 12:00am

Robert Downey Jr shines like a diamond in an otherwise rough movie

While few would consider Robert Downey Jr to be Hollywood's finest actor, it's hard to deny the man's effortless charm onscreen - a quality enhanced by his off-screen fiascos over the years.

In Iron Man, the latest superhero movie based on a Marvel Comics character, Downey has found his perfect role as Tony Stark, an inventor-cum-playboy billionaire who seems to care little about the world.

The movie opens as Stark is driven in a heavily armed military vehicle across the barren landscape of Afghanistan, joking with and showing off to a group of US soldiers.

Downey revels in scenes like that. This is a man who, in movies such as Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and Zodiac, has been delivering lines like no one has ever done before, turning flippancy and smugness into an art form.

The military unit comes under attack, and Stark is injured - a piece of shrapnel gets embedded near his heart. He is then captured by a terrorist group that demands he build them a super weapon.

In the terrorists' workshop, Stark and another captured scientist defy their captors to create a bullet-proof iron suit that can fire missiles, project streams of fire and fly, then use it to escape.

Things begin to get serious after the escape. Stark, who made his fortune creating weapons of mass destruction, discovers his conscience, announces his company will no longer manufacture arms, and begins hone his iron suit so that he can save the world.

This is the stuff 10-year-old boys dream of. For this movie to be a success, it needed to be as playful as possible.

Director Jon Favreau finds the right man for the job in Downey, who electrifies the movie with his natural wit and remains a source of fun throughout the film.

Downey is mesmerising on camera - even the spectacular special effects and explosive action sequences which are normally the highlights of a superhero movie pale before his glittering eyes. It's no real surprise that the movie loses pace when Downey hides in the iron suit to fight the bad guys.

It follows, therefore, that the climactic fight between Iron Man and his arch-enemy Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) feels routine rather than the highlight you expect.

You may find yourself hoping the fighting ends quickly just for another chance to see Downey continue his flirtatious banter with Virgina Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) his secretary and love interest.

Iron Man is a Robert Downey Jr vehicle rather than a superhero movie. This guy can single-handedly carry any movie across the finishing line.

Iron Man is now showing