Richard Roeper Blog

Dennis Farina: A Chicago original

Dennis Farina always looked like he had just returned from a long vacation, and what’s it to ya?

In reality, he was almost always working.

With that seemingly permanent tan, the silver hair and the ever-present mustache, Farina was a striking presence on screens small and large, whether he was threatening an underling, hunting down a bad guy or making pitches for a cable provider.

Mr. Farina went to Hollywood and made it big–but he never stopped being a Chicagoan.

Family man, Chicago cop, TV cop, Bleacher Bum and long-suffering Cubs fan, Mr. Farina leaves us at the far-too-young age of 69–but he does leave behind a legacy of nearly two decades of service to his home city as a cop, and three decades of memorable roles in films ranging from “Saving Private Ryan” to “Out of Sight” to “Get Shorty” to “Midnight Run.”

He also did fine work in lesser remembered gems such as “Bottle Shock” and “Sidewalks of New York.” Do yourself a favor and queue them up in the next week or two if you can.

“Is this moron number one? Put moron number two on the line,” barked Farina in “Midnight Run,” and with just that one line we knew we weren’t dealing with a standard-issue heavy. Farina could be menacing and hilarious with the span of a dozen words.

Before Mr. Farina became a familiar face to millions of TV viewers and movie fans, he put in 18 years as a Chicago cop.

Philip Cline, the former Chicago Police Supt. who was a longtime friend of Mr. Farina’s, was a guest on Monday’s “Roe and Roeper Show” on WLS-AM and told us, “[Farina] was a detective in an elite unit and he belonged there. He had a great work ethic..’

“The [police officers] he worked with were still his friends today.”

Mr. Farina’s unique way with a line often featured liberal and humorous use of the f-word–but he could be just as effective on a network TV show. He had one of the most recognizable deliveries of any actor of the last 30 years, delivering classic such as:

“You and that other dummy better start getting more personally involved in your work, or I’m gonna stab you through the heart with a f—– pencil. Do you understand me?” — Jimmy Serrano, “Midnight Run.”

“I’m from Miami f—– Beach, and you wanna show met he ocean, huh?” — Ray Barboni, “Get Shorty.”

“London, you know, London. Fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad fod, worse weather, Mary f—— Poppins. LONDON.” — Cousin Avi, “Snatch.”

“There goes a perfectly good pair of Gucci loafers.” — Detective Joe Fontana, walking through the snow on “Law & Order.”

When Mr. Farina was in bad movies, he usually made them a little more tolerable when he was onscreen. When he was in great movies, he was usually as good as anyone else in the room.

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