That's not quite fair. Tequila Sunrise is one of our favorite noir pictures, combining all the elements -- tough guys with questionable morals, betrayal by a friend and a girl worth the risk. But apart from that, we've never seen many of his movies. Skimming over the IMDB filmography, we were surprised to discover that we've barely seen any of them: Mad Max, a few Lethal Weapons, What Women Want. Oh, and one of those Twilight Zone knockoffs that helped put the coffin-nail in M. Night Shyamalan's career. It was a lousy movie, although it would have been better if he'd worn his clerical collar all the way through, instead of just at the end. We automatically give a thumbs-up to pictures about guys in clerical collars fighting extraterrestrial invaders.
Which reminds us that religion and politics, not to mention sex, have often played a significant role in Gibson's image. We avoided The Passion of the Christ, not because of the various controversies that accompanied its release, but we'd already read the book. In the background for many years has been Gibson's close association with an obscure schismatic church body, which the press insists on identifying as "Catholic." As we've said before, these sedvacantist crazies are about as Catholic as Pat Robertson. He thought Bill Clinton was taking orders from a secret paymaster. And then there's the drunken anti-semitic rant.
Anyway, it's over now. The series of phone calls leaked to the press (click here for a rundown) has pretty much doomed Gibson as a public figure. Using the most vulgar language imaginable, he abuses his girlfriend verbally -- and also, it appears, physically. Oh, and endangers their child. People don't like that. When Scott Fitzgerald said that there are no second acts in American lives, he was utterly and completely mistaken. America, the land of self-reinvention, is all about second and third acts. Any person, having achieved even a modest level of fame -- or infamy -- has almost unlimited access to further fame in the future. Almost unlimited, because beyond a certain point, the public simply decides to hate you. And, like Fatty Arbuckle before him, Gibson has hit that point.
Now, let's take a grain of salt. Remember that these tapes were leaked in the middle of (redundancy alert!) an ugly custody battle. And remember that there is some speculation that they have been altered. We do not doubt that there is skullduggery going on here, and that somebody desires to make Gibson look especially terrible and the girlfriend look unrealistically good. But the thing is that they've succeeded. Even if the tapes have been altered, he said some baaaadd things. We don't know what will happen in court, but we are pretty certain that, in the court of public opinion, Gibson has been tried and found icky. He may make a few more movies, but they will fail. He may even find a niche, marketing some product to religious extremists who don't consider anti-semitism or spousal abuse to be necessarily contrary to their faith. But so far as the big spotlight goes, he is toast.
And yet, here's the real joke, on all of us: He's still mind-numbingly rich. Even if his separated wife and vengeful girlfriend wind up with most of the bank account, the guy will still die with more money than we can imagine. Nice guys may or may not finish last, but sons-of-bitches often do seem to finish first.