The last few years have been pretty rough for Robert De Niro. For a man once revered as one of America’s finest actors, a veteran of legendary films like “Raging Bull”, “The Godfather Part II” and “Heat”, the 21st century has held nothing but misery. First there was the horror-show that was 2003’s “Godsend”. Then there was the anything-but-a-horror-show of “Hide and Seek”. In 2016’s “Dirty Grandpa”, we had the pleasure of listening to an Academy Award winning performer spout immortal lines like “let’s get in that giant labia”. How the mighty have fallen.
However, it follows that if someone descends so far down the crap acting rabbit hole, the only way is up. In this situation, redemption can come from the most unlikely source. This certainly applies to De Niro’s latest project. Eschewing scripts for the type of films that have got him into so much trouble over the last two decades, Bobby D has decided to turn to the food industry. No more frolicking with Zac Efron. His mission is now all about selling bagels.
This sudden and admittedly surprising career shift comes after a new commercial starring De Niro aired earlier this month, containing one of his most committed and heartfelt performances in years. The ad in question, produced for British baking giants Warburtons, features De Niro in full “Goodfellas” mode, arriving in Bolton in the company of thuggish cronies and with a grand plan for bagel domination.
The clip begins with the New York native bursting into Mr Warburton’s office, demanding to know why the upstart Brit has been muscling in on the bagel business. Unsavoury associates Benny Slice, Tony Two Bagels and Jimmy Butterfingers surround the startled CEO. Shutters are drawn. The tension is palpable. Jimmy Conway is back, only older and much more interested in baking. An extensive dream sequence featuring mafioso running amok through the streets of Bolton, the commercial ends with a shot of De Niro as an all-conquering bagel boss, clad in orange and surrounded by everyone’s favourite circular savoury snack. Scorsese would be proud.
It would be easy to use the Warburton advert as another stick with which to beat Bobby while he’s down. However, the clip has already proved popular with a surprising number of viewers, many of whom have quickly leapt to De Niro’s defence. Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Stuart Heritage describes how “The Warburtons advert understands how to play to his strengths,” adding, “De Niro is luxuriating in his comfort zone here.” Esquire Magazine labelled the commercial “Actually pretty damn good.” On Fire Marketing described the ad as “genius”. Maybe there is a way back to the limelight for the venerable thespian after all. It just might be a tad more unorthodox than we all would have expected.