Shelf Help: Diesel Engine Edition

These are strange times indeed. Bloodshot was released theatrically less than two weeks ago (remember theaters?) and now we find it getting VOD release today. To celebrate the meager gifts we have been getting lately from the cinematic gods, this week our Shelfers are taking a long, hard look at Mr. Vin Diesel’s greatest on-screen achievements.

What is Vin Diesel’s greatest performance?


Pitch Black

Riddick is arguably the role that catapulted Vin Diesel into the public pop culture consciousness. The indie sci-fi/horror flick became a sleeper hit, eventually grossing over twice its modest budget. Diesel is right in his wheelhouse, stalking through various set-pieces looking angry and menacing, and dispatching aliens as the reluctant hero. Granted, he’s not required to do much, but what he delivers is perfect for what’s required of a standoffish antihero. – Jenny Bullough



The Guardians of the Galaxy

Rarely does an action-movie actor manage to branch off into family entertainment, but Vin Diesel has achieved this feat via his voice acting, first as the lovable Iron Giant, and then as Groot in the first Guardians movie. It is arguably his best and most emotive role, as he is forced by the limits of Groot’s vocabulary to put a slightly different spin on multiple utterances of “I am Groot”, and one very memorable and emotional variant that cemented his place in the hearts of Marvel fans. Remember, before there was a Baby Yoda, there was a Baby Groot! – Also, Jenny Bullough (can’t blame her for not being able to choose, can we?)


The Pacifier

As diehard fan of the Fast & Furious franchise, some might assume I would pick a film from that series or even the action-packed Riddick franchise. To be honest, I don’t feel either of those series effectively capture Diesel’s range to the fullest. For me, Diesel’s versatility as an actor shines brightest in The Pacifier.


Following in the steps of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Wills, Dwayne Johnson, and other notable action superstars before him, Diesel’s leap to family friendly comedy was both necessary and surprisingly effective. By playing badass U.S Navy Seal-turned-undercover nanny Shane Wolfe, Diesel reveled at the chance to poke fun at his own tough guy image. More importantly, he showed audiences, who only knew him from action films and dramatic works like Saving Private Ryan and Boiler Room, that he had great comedic timing. Yes, The Pacifier follows a paint-by-numbers formula, but Diesel’s performance gave the film a charm and undeniable heart that makes it immensely rewatchable. – Courtney Small



It’s hard to talk about best performances with an actor who is pretty consistent. It’s easier to pick out some career lows but I don’t want to be negative. So I’ll choose a film Vin Diesel wrote and directed called Multi-Facial. It’s certainly the most meaningful performance Vin Diesel has committed to film as it deals with his ethnically ambiguous look and how it’s hard for him to book roles due to him constantly making the wrong assumption about whether or not the casting director thinks he’s black white or Latinx. There is a moment where he talks about his father loving acting because it gives a marginalized person an opportunity to portray a doctor or a lawyer and have a brief period of escape from their reality. The movie is also only 20 minutes so it’s got that going for it as well. – Daniel Grant




Can I be a film snob and say none of the above? Vin Diesel gives the same performance in every movie. A philosophy of “rinse and repeat” works just fine for shampoo, but it leaves something to be desired in actors. Vin’s lucky that a franchise as loud and delightfully stupid as The Fast and the Furious has kept on trucking as long as it has. And he’s milked Pitch Black and xXx in ways I’ll never understand, harnessing his great screen presence and limited range into multiple franchises in ways that legit action stars like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger must envy. However, I’ll take “loud and stupid” Vin Diesel over any of the roles he’s tried to play outside his action flicks. His skills in line delivery, comedic timing, and emoting aren’t nearly as burly as his biceps are. If pressed, I’d call Saving Private Ryan his least offensive role, if only due to its brevity.  – Pat Mullen

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