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Dennis Farina: A Lot More Than Law & Order

Submitted by on July 23, 2013 – 9:02 amNo Comment

Dennis Farina, the instantly-recognizably Hollywood supporting actor, died suddenly yesterday of a blood clot at age 69. I am surprised to see most obituaries for him leading with his brief stint on Law & Order, as the prolific actor had any number of more memorable performances.

Farina, once a real-life Chicago police officer, did indeed play many detectives, patrolmen, and others in uniform throughout his storied career. But his appearance on Law & Order came as the show struggled to replace the iconic Jerry Orbach and shuffle much of its longtime cast, and just a few years before the series would be cancelled altogether.

Farina’s masterpiece is probably one of his performances on the other side of the law: his commanding turn as Cousin Avi in Guy Ritchie‘s Snatch. His one-line take down of an incompetent colleague is classic:

To point out that the role is foul-mouthed would almost be redundant. It wouldn’t be a real Farina role without cursing.

Farina also turned in memorable criminal performances in movies like Get Shorty and Midnight Run.

But Farina showed range in dramatic roles like a strategically-minded army officer at the Normandy invasion in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan; and his performance as a flashy expat wine snob in Bottle Shock was full of mischievous glee. He  even brought life to forgettable films like Stealing Harvard (I remember getting a chuckle out of his creepy-dad antics).

Despite all the violence, obscenity, and tough guy signifiers, that might be the defining characteristic of a Dennis Farina performance: joy. Whether he was spouting F-bombs, firing off weapons, or busting Alan Rickman‘s balls over a glass of bordeaux, Farina’s characters seemed to be having an amazing time.

What were your favorite Farina performances?

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