remarkable happened over the weekend, but it got lost in the hand-wringing over Grindhouse‘s poor box office showing: after years of turning down role after role that might’ve asked him to play a morally ambiguous figure, Harrison Ford quietly agreed to star as a corrupt immigration enforcement agent in Wayne Kramer’s Crossing Over. This is astounding. After walking away from Traffic, Syriana and, most tragically, Scott Frank’s excellent screenplay for A Walk Among the Tombstones (which, if greenlit back in 2003, might’ve spared director Joe Carnahan the joy of developing Mission: Impossible III with that goofy fucker Tom Cruise), Ford suddenly seems open to the idea of dirtying his image.

I was going to say "open to the idea of acting", but, if you’ve seen Hollywood Homicide or, worse (yes, there’s worse), sat across from him at a roundtable, you’d know that playing Indiana Jones at this point in his life might be, performance-wise, more of a challenge. The guy seems massively unsettled and profoundly unhappy. The glint in the eye that enlivened Han Solo and Indiana Jones and, hell, even those two turns as Jack Ryan has dimmed; going as far back as 1998’s Six Days, Seven Nights, Ford has ceased to convince as the happy-go-lucky scoundrel. To be fair, it seems as though he’s picked up on this, but, rather than play conflicted, he’s simply glowered his way through such forgettable films as Random Hearts, K-19: The Widowmaker and Firewall.

The most frustrating aspect of Ford’s dogged reluctance to subvert his heroic persona is that, the last time he did it, he turned in the best work of his career. Some of us have been waiting over twenty years for another Mosquito Coast, and it seems like the only excuse for not following up on that bravura performance is the fact that said film remains his lowest grossing picture post-Raiders. So if the promise of a sure-fire blockbuster in Indiana Jones 4 has at last emboldened Ford to risk starring in a movie that might not crack $20 million domestic, then I guess the uncalled for sequel won’t be without merit.

It’s also worth noting that one of Crossing Over‘s producers is Frank Marshall. As this is a movie geek site, I shouldn’t have to explain to you why this is significant.