Les Miserables Review: Russell Crowe Ruins Everything!

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Les Miserables is an impressive cinematic achievement that remains true to the iconic Broadway production, changing scarcely a storyline or a lyric and likely satisfying fans of the long-running musical.

There's just one minor problem: Russell Crowe absolutely cannot sing.

Russell Crowe as Javert

The Oscar winner portrays Inspector Javert in the film, an integral character who sets his sights on Hugh Jackman's fugitive, Jean Valjean.

But while Jackman has won Tony Awards and shined on stage, Crowe simply can't carry a tune.

He spends his time on screen concentrating so hard on each note and attempting to hide his accent while doing so that he fails to actually act. Javert is a fascinating, intense character, none of which comes off in Crowe's stoic performance.

The policeman is tasked with two solos, the final of which typically concludes - SPOILER ALERT - with a beautifully held long note, as Javert plunges to his death.

But the movie cuts the song short, removing the drama from this suicide and symbolizing the problem with Crowe's casting in general: you never forget that Russell Crowe is trying to sing like Inspector Javert. One of the best actors of his generation stands out, when he should be disappearing into the character.

Will Anne Hathaway win Best Supporting Actress for her role as Fontine? Yes. Will it be deserved? Absolutely.

Jackman is also strong, as is Samantha Barks (Eponine), and you can't go wrong with Sacha Baron Cohen as shady innkeeper Thenardier. But it's impossible to not be affected the most by Crowe and to envision the awards he ought to have coming down the line:

Sorry, Russell. But make room for a shelf full of Razzies.

(NOTE: For another take on the film, read the Les Miserable review from our friends at Movie Fanatic.)

Have you seen Les Miserables? Give it a grade now:

 

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Crowe was good as an actor but awful as a singer. Spent most of the movie trying to recast Javert in my mind. When he is standing there looking down ready to jump the end all I could think was''do it!" Who should have gotten the role?????

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@ musical fan

there was a cheer in the theatre tonight when he jumped... 150 people can't be wrong!

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I'm sat there through the movie just praying that Wolverine would whip out his blades and put Russel out of his singing misery. Really, I don't know why they would give this part to someone who clearly didn't care for the role AND could not sing. You need someone with intensity, drive, and a strong voice to carry that role.

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I didn't like Russell Crowe in this production. Don't get me wrong, he had a very strong physical presence on the screen, and had he not been focusing so much on his singing, he would have acted the hell out of his role. While Crowe CAN sing, and yes, he does have a lovely baritone...he didn't have the power and "oomph" that the other cast members did. His voice is weak by comparison. It didn't ruin the movie, but it was very distracting. How can anybody deny the strain in his voice? If he strained any harder, his voice would have cracked.

Hypatia-leigh

I agree. It is a unique talent/skill to BOTH sing well and act well. E.g., 'eponine' singing a beautiful ballad/aria with a bullet hole in her gut, completely believable. Before 'javert' killed himself he looked like he was out for an enjoyable stroll singing a nifty tune. I was shocked. Russell is a great actor - but he was too concentrated/insecure about his voice (which was weak). Russell had many highly emotional scenes (e.g., struggling with issues causing suicide), and he looked like a school boy singing in a school choir. He said the lines. He sang the notes. NOTHING made this character believable.

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I agree whole-heartedly. His voice was nasally and monotoned throughout. He was painfully noticeable as the cast's "weak link" and really had no business whatsoever in this production. Literally every other cast member was incredible in nearly every aspect, and he was frustratingly average at best. With every scene he appeared in, I kept hoping his singing would improve. It didn't. He seems to have a range of about five notes and in attempting the complexity of Javert, really just displayed himself as a guy who isn't good at singing this type of music. It doesn't matter if he was in a band or sang something else that sounded good at one time: he sounded terrible in this difficult role and completely botched it (although his sustained notes were mostly good and thankfully in tune). As others have indicated, it seems that because he was working so hard at the singing, his acting suffered and he just didn't pull it off. While he didn't quite ruin the movie, he definitely ruined his character. While I was watching the movie and as a huge fan of the Broadway production, I knew it was one of, if not THE, best movies I've ever seen. I was floored. But from the opening scene on, I wondered how in the world Crowe landed that part. He is utterly terrible -- a fine film actor elsewhere I suppose -- but a completely uninspiring and untalented singer who has left a black eye on an otherwise amazing and historic movie.

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Your review is apalling! To say Russel Crowe cannot carry a tune is ludicrous and I am guessing you are not educated in music. You may have not liked his portrayal, but the man can sing (did you hear him flat or off key? Please learn what a tune is before speaking about anything to do with music.). Also, the movie chose to represent Javier more along the lines of the character in the book versus the broadway. I was thrilled when I heard they casted Crowe and thought he carried the performance just as well as any of the non-broadway actors.

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@ Sydney

Amen, and THANK YOU Sydney for saying what I was not able to do. I thought his voice was beautiful, and smooth. I heard a lot of straining and screaching in that movie and it did NOT come from Russell!

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@ Angela

He was not off key or out of "tune" as you have so nastily clarified for us. But that is ALL he was. Singing notes in tune. No acting. No emotion, not even any stylistic/artistic inflection. And his voice sounded edited in post production, whereas no one else's did.
He looked like he was reading off a sheet of music the whole time. A miserable performance that, to me, only confirms the arrogance of the actor, and likely a director that didn't know how to handle the A-List movie "Super Star".

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I FEEL BAD FOR YOU THAT YOU DON'T SEE THE BEAUTY IN RUSSELL'S VOICE.
HE DOES NOT HAVE THE TYPICAL VOICE, HE HAS AN AMAZING TOUCH TO IT, THAT'S WHAT DISTINGUISHES HIM FROM ALL THE OTHER ACTORS IN THE FILM.
YOU HAVE TO TRULY UNDERSTAND HIS VOICE. ITS REMARKABLE.
EXTRAORDINARY ACTOR. BRILLIANT VOICE. HIS ACTING, HIS VOICE AND HE , HIMSELF ARE MASTERPIECES.

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I totally disagree. Almost immediately, as soon as the movie started, it was Russell Crowe that absolutely caught my attention. I thought he made a perfect Javert - deep, strong, tormented. And I was surprised at the beauty of his voice. I was disappointed in Hugh Jackman's performance - he just never seemed to quite hit the mark. He strained to make every note - and not in a good way. Ann Hathaway was beautiful as Fontine and should be considered for an Oscar. All other performances were great.

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@ Pattie

I absolutely agree with you. When hearing his voice, you will automatically know THAT is RUSSELL's voice. His voice sets him apart from all the actors in the film . SIMPLY BRILLIANT.

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I felt exactly the same way when watching Crowe struggle with "Stars" and "Javert's Suicide". These are two of the most moving and powerful songs in the whole production, and I was very disappointed with Crowe's renditions. All other performances were spectacular, particularly Anne Hathaway. The raw emotion of her "I Dreamed a Dream" is impossible to deny.

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I am a HUGE Russel Crowe fan and have always been drawn in by his performances, but he absolutely butchered the role and his voice was SO distracting and SO bad I was embarrassed for him. For those that say his detractors just don't know a good baritone when we hear it is nonsense. Is this production of one of the most beloved stories of all time not supposed to appeal to a wide audience?

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