Post Malone is an actor now, whether you like it or not

American singer Post Malone Artist of the Year 2020 Billboard Music Awards.Record for Post Malone wi...
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Culture

[This story has a small spoiler for the film Wrath of Man.]

As a musician, Post Malone has somehow managed to achieve a complete and total mind-meld with the algorithm. His music is on the playlist of every frat party and airport Starbucks in the country, its ubiquity matched only by that of Post’s tatted, baby-faced image, which he’s lent to every brand from Doritos to Bud Light. (Since I started researching this piece, Twitter has plagued me with nothing but targeted ads for Monster Energy drinks.) Seemingly determined to achieve utter inescapability, Posty, as his fans call him, launched his acting career in 2020 with an appearance as a neo-Nazi inmate named “Squeeb” in the Mark Wahlberg movie Spenser Confidential. And though his approximately six minutes of screen time register as stunt casting, the singer seems to have genuinely caught the acting bug.

“We were hanging out at my house,” Wahlberg, 49, said to USA Today in a March 2020 interview, “and he was like, ‘You know, I'd really love to be in a movie.’ And then he was like, ‘I want to die in a movie.’ He just wanted to get killed in a movie.” While Spenser Confidential didn’t make that particular dream a reality for him, Posty returned to screens earlier this month in Guy Ritchie’s revenge thriller Wrath of Man, in which Jason Statham’s mysterious character “H” makes quick work of the singer, who plays a member of an ill-fated crew attempting to rob an armored truck. In one of the film’s more memorable sequences, Posty, billed as “Robber #6,” realizes he’s about to die and defiantly tells H to “suck my dick.” In response, H shoots him in the head and tells him to “Suck your own dick.”

And with that, Post Malone managed to check “die in a movie” off his bucket list. “Post came in with this big enthusiasm for being killed that day,” Statham recently reflected in an interview with USA Today. “He's like, 'I can't wait for you to kill me, man.’” Having achieved his dream, it’s possible that Posty will move on to other ventures. But assuming he continues to accept some of the roles that come his way, the singer’s acting career still offers more questions than answers, namely: Is he any good at acting? Is he too famous offscreen for his performances to garner a response other than “lol is that Post Malone”? And what kind of roles could he hope to pursue apart from low-level criminals who get beat up by middle-aged men?

Given the brevity of his appearance in Wrath of Man, Spenser Confidential offers the most comprehensive glimpse available into Posty’s range as an actor. Across his two scenes, he’s asked to (1) menacingly tell Wahlberg’s character, Spenser, to “get out of Boston,” (2) insult Spenser's girlfriend, and (3) react angrily as Spenser threatens his girlfriend — a true meal for any character actor worth his salt to dig into. Aided by the fact that Confidential isn’t exactly a Scorsese picture, I’d argue that Malone manages to pull off a competent enough performance, complete with the genuine sense of skeeviness required of the role. Critics were generally less enthused. Identifying him as “rapper Post Malone,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Frank Scheck wrote that Malone “mainly acts with his voluminous face tattoos,” while RogerEbert.com’s Kristy Puchko noted, “The best I can say about his performance is he seems stoked to be there! The worst is he should keep his day job.”

Perhaps wisely, Wrath of Man leans into the assumption that a portion of the audience will want Post Malone’s character to die the second he shows up on the screen. (In his defense, this is a useful quality to have as an actor if you’re cast as “Robber #6” in a Jason Statham movie.) Whereas Posty’s earnest “fuck the haters” posturing often registers as hollow and grating in his music, his eagerness to die onscreen in a manner seemingly designed to gratify those same “haters” reflects a refreshing self-awareness — or maybe just a fixation on movie violence that doesn’t warrant any closer reading. Either way, Malone finally won over some critics with Wrath. In his mostly positive review for the New York Times, Glenn Kenny went so far as to highlight the singer’s gruesome onscreen demise as an “inordinately satisfying moment.” (When reached for further comment, Kenny declined, adding, “I think that to try to elaborate on my feelings concerning Post Malone might do nothing more but put me in the ‘Old Man Yells at Cloud’ category!”)

With two performances under his belt, it’s probably not the most promising sign that Posty received the best notices of his fledgling career for a movie that mostly just asks him to die violently. Even so, his jokey appearances in commercials suggest he has a healthy sense of humor about his own screen presence when there’s money involved, leaving a few obvious pathways to more significant roles. Film critic Lee Jutton, who reviewed Wrath of Man for Film Inquiry, suggested in an email that Posty’s instincts for choosing roles aren’t entirely off-base so far, but that he’d be more suited to the gleefully anarchic vibe of early Ritchie classics like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, rather than the oppressive doom and gloom of Wrath. “I bet he's got some comic chops in there,” said Jacob Oller, movies editor for Paste magazine. “Maybe he could land the ever-present rapper spot in the next Judd Apatow joint.” For a singer who has borrowed liberally from hip-hop whenever it’s convenient for him, modeling his acting career after rappers might seem like an obvious next step.

At the moment, Posty’s IMDb suggests he’s taking a brief hiatus from his dramatic pursuits, though he’s apparently set to narrate an animated short “based off of Alfred Wegener's theory of Continental Drift” that follows a “cave boy” named Tobias who gets separated from his family and has to learn to survive on his own. Only time will tell if future generations come to know the singer primarily as a thespian. In the meantime, he’s probably just happy to be able to dine indoors again at Olive Garden.