0While Hugh Jackman legacy will forever be tied to playing Wolverine in the X-Men franchise, every now and then he finds a meaty role that serves as a reminder that he also a tremendously skilled dramatic actor with plenty of colors that have gone underutilized for far too long.
That the case with Bad Education, the second feature from Thoroughbreds writer/director Cory Finley in which Jackman plays a public school superintendent who becomes involved in a massive embezzlement scandal. Based on a true story, Bad Education serves as a pretty searing indictment of greed and privilege, and although the themes do not entirely coalesce by the end, Finley crafts a consistently compelling and often humorous tale anchored by Jackman impressively nuanced performance. Jackman plays Frank Tassone, a meticulous, sharply dressed Long Island school superintendent who is as attentive to his personal care as he is to his students' progress.
And make no mistake, the film dials in on how Tassone genuinely cares for his students and the stature of the school (ranked #4 when the movie begins, which serves as an impetus to get it to #1). Finley hones in on the unglamorous life of a public school administrator by favoring unforgiving fluorescent lighting and spending a good deal of the first act simply showcasing the grinding day-to-day lives of Frank and Pam.
Obviously parallels to Wall Street financial crimes (and lack of consequences) are present, and clear lines are drawn to a certain other administration that skirted the law by wrapping themselves in lies, threats, and collusion.
Jackman turns in one of his most compelling performances in recent memory, and the skill with which he masks Frank simmering indignity and frustration is downright masterful. It does not entirely come together as a satisfying whole--it a tad long and the thematic ideals do not completely coalesce--but Finley is able to craft a handsomely-made, compelling, character-driven feature out of this pretty crazy true story.