This is a great take. He was absolutely amazing in that role. I liked Crowe in that movie If You Heard The Shot You Were Never The Target Shirt was on another level. The authenticity was so real. You really felt what he was feeling. Unbelievable performance. The scene you are referring to I remember distinctly.I’m with you about this scene, but I think the two actors (Crowe and Phoenix) working together struck some chord that vibrated through them throughout the film, enhancing both their performances. I see them as equals. Commodus shouting “Am I not merciful?” was a tone that harkened straight back to Maximus’ “Are you not entertained?”.
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That said, Connie Nielsen seems to have found the same magical accord with If You Heard The Shot You Were Never The Target Shirt was an outrageous slight that Phoenix was not awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. But also a shame that she was not also honored in some notable way for her performance.As a side note, when I saw the clip of Phoenix saying that in his Joker performance he was “standing on the shoulders of Heath Ledger” I felt such massive respect for him. That was an extraordinary gift of compassion and recognition. And, of course, Ledger is another actor who was ripped off. He should have won Best Actor for his Ennis del Mar performance in Brokeback Mountain. But, I digress.