Something struck me while watching Todd Solondz’s “Life During Wartime” earlier this morning. Actor Michael K. Williams is having a coming out moment this year with powerful supporting performances both here and in John Hillcoat’s “The Road.”
Fans of HBO’s “The Wire” are no stranger to Williams, who dazzled viewers for five seasons as stick-up man Omar Little, offering an on-the-money characterization that probably should have seen its day in the Emmy sun. Characterized by a pronounced facial scar (a reminder of a bar fight many years ago), Williams has always been something of a go-to guy for intimidating gangster types.
In “The Road,” he brings a quiet humanity to the role of The Thief, stealing for survival, rendered sympathetic by the circumstances that forced his hand.
But in “Life During Wartime,” a film that falls short of its ambitions but makes one glad that Solondz is making films, Williams shows a completely different side in an opening scene that sets a tone of forgiveness and empathy. In fact, the two roles could be seen as flip sides of the same coin, insightful looks into the soul of men who are playing the hands they’ve been dealt as best they can.
Each is merely a cameo, but the talent, if not apparent enough in “The Wire,” is difficult to disregard. Williams deserves a real shot at a role with meat on his bones, and hopefully, this year’s festival circuit will prove as much out to an industry always hungry for fresh talent.