Three reasons to like Brian Dennehy, the hardworking, pervasive actor who’s starring Jack Reed: Death and Vengeance, in his fifth Jack Reed mystery movie on NBC:
1. He’s a familiar, cuddly big guy. Whether in feature films (Cocoon, First Blood, F/X) or on series television (1994’s Birdland and 1979’s who-remembers-it Big Shamus, Little Shamus), Dennehy possesses an easy authority that transcends bulk; whether playing hero or villain, he’s invariably a guy easy to admire or fear. The bulk does help a lot, though.
2. He makes heartburn scary. You know, in those commercials he’s doing for Zantac 75. He’s walking down a dark suburban street, all business in a midnight blue suit whose too-long sleeves make him look like an exceptionally handsome, well-manicured gorilla. Glancing at a lit-up bedroom window, Dennehy points with his thumb and says, ”She woke up with heartburn.” (How does he know? Jack Reed, Peeping Tom?) He holds up the magic little pill he’s pushing and says, ”So take one of these,” and resumes strolling, all confidence and menace. Then he turns back to us and, lowering his voice to a rumble, says casually, ”And call me in the morning.” Why is this meaningless, doctorly envoi so unnerving? Don’t know, but if he wants me to, I’ll sure as hell be calling him in the morning.
3. He’s Jack Reed. Or rather, he plays him on TV. On Nov. 17, Dennehy will star in the fifth TV movie based on a real-life Chicago cop. This one’s called Jack Reed: Death and Vengeance, in which Reed cuts short a camping trip with his son to solve a grim triple murder. (Once again, Dennehy has produced and directed, too.) Invariably well made and highly rated, the Jack Reed movies showcase Dennehy at his burly, likable, hardworking best, and this one’s a lean, mean pleasure. B+