You probably don’t think I’m a very nice guy… do ya?
Movie bad asses.
That’s been on my mind for some time now. Every once in a while I watch a movie that has a character in it that leaves a helluva impression on me. It’s not so much that I admire them or want to emulate them (course going postal on my upstairs neighbors could be very therapeutic) but more rather I appreciate the character’s cinematic completeness.
What the hell does that mean?
Villains have been a staple in movies since the images first started flickering on the big screen however not every villain can be considered an certified badass. No offense to old flicks and actors, but let’s be real… while they paved the way for the development of big screen acting, they were still pretty horrible when you compare them to actors of later generations. They were overly dramatic (and understandably so considering most came from theater backgrounds and you had to act that way on stage) and too unbelievable for my taste. Perhaps if I grew up watching them then I’d possibly consider some of the old school characters, but I’m not a dinosaur so to hell with anything prior to the 70s.
Anyway… back to “cinematic completeness” mumbo jumbo. In my book, a character needs to fall into the following criteria:
- The character needs to be well developed within the confines of the movie – I don’t wanna hear about books, screenplays or tangent publications that further the detail of the said character. It’s a director’s job to pull that off in the movie. A good villain shouldn’t have his entire story explain in a few sentences. He/she should be complicated enough to leave room for speculation yet leave no doubt as to how bad ass they actually are.
- The character has to have superior dialogue – What’s the point of being a memorable movie villain if he/she doesn’t have some memorable lines. I’m not talking cheesy lines either.
- The actor must own the role – Nothing’s finer than seeing an actor (or actress) almost convince you that they are that character. Not everyone can pull that off but those that do are forever immortalized. If you can see someone else in the role of the character in question then that character wasn’t owned.
- The character has to be bad… I mean really bad – I’m so sick of the villain-with-the-heart-of-gold theme. A badass should be a badass all the way to the end. You have to be able to look at that character and say…”Damn… that’s a bad muthaf*cka”.
It’s rare to find a character that hits on all four points but here are a handful of characters that deserve some recognition for being – in my own estimation – real deal movie bad asses. They’re in no particular order so don’t think of this as a Most Baddest poll or anything like that)…
Otis Driftwood – The Devils Rejects
Actor: Bill Moseley
Some could argue about this choice or the fact that I say it hits on all four points but there’s no denying how ruthless he is. Those familiar with Rob Zombie’s characters will remember him from House of 1000 Corpses. In that Otis was branded more as a militant mass murderer than a serial killer. Rob had many developmental issues with the studio during the course of filming and I’m sure he sacrificed a lot of creativity just so he could get it on screen.
That all changed when he got his dirty little hands on The Devils Rejects. That was pretty much his baby and he had free reign to take the characters wherever he wanted – and did. The beauty of the character (I know… just doesn’t sound right saying beauty in conjunction with serial killers but oh well…) is that a lot is left to speculation about his past. All we find out about Otis, according to the movie, is that he kills on a whim, likes tighty whities, and revels in mindfucking people. Rape, pedophilia, necrophilia, murder… nothing is really out of Otis’ comfort zone. That in itself is a good basis for a badass villain but it’s Bill Moseley’s performance that makes Otis that much more creepier. Some of you may remember him from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 where he played “Chop Top” Sawyer. It was a god-awful movie but any true horror fan has to appreciate him in that and may recognize traces of Otis in that performance. Bill took the character of Otis to an all new level of crazy. He wrapped himself up in that role so much that at times it makes you wonder if he’s really acting or just being himself (Sorry Bill. That’s my way of saying you put your heart into that).
If you haven’t seen the movie or don’t like any of Rob Zombie’s work, who cares. See it anyway. If you’re a real movie fanatic you treat them like a Chinese buffet and take what you want from it.
The Joker – The Dark Knight
Actor: Heath Ledger
No I’m not a bandwagon jumper. I believe in giving credit where credit is due and I thank Chris and Heath for purging the memory of Jack Nicholson’s Joker from my mind. I’ll say it… I was never a fan of Mr. Ledger. It wasn’t so much that I hated him or his acting – he just never stood out to me. Even playing the gay cowboy didn’t really knock my socks off… not that there’s anything wrong with that. Australia is known for putting out good actors (don’t count Mel… he’s crazy and was born in NY so he’s not a real Aussie) so I knew the potential was there. He just needed a good character and director. Unfortunately this role would be his last but boy was it a memorable one. I can’t say I was an avid Batman comics reader but I knew enough about it to know The Joker was a villain that villains were supposed to fear. Chris Nolan and Heath brought that to fruition when the Dark Knight was came to the big screen. I was real hesitant about all the hype surrounding Heath’s performance and went into that theater looking to continue on with my unimpressed streak regarding him.
I’m glad I went in looking to pick that role apart because it made me appreciate what he did that much more. Here you have the Joker – a criminal with no conscious that has an affinity for dressing a bit eccentrically. Simple enough premise but it’s the writing, dialogue and of course the acting that sends that character to a whole new level. In a make-believe world where dressing up in costumes and what not is the norm, the Joker seemed to bridge that gap between comic book campiness and real life macabre. He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see on the 11 o’clock news and that’s what made him stand out from all the rest.
Russell Edgington – True Blood
Actor: Denis O’Hare
You either love True Blood or you hate it and if you love it you have to love Russell Edgington. Yeah, I know. Not a movie villain but that’s what makes him so great. Now here’s a character that’s a bit less grounded in reality than some other villains but leave it to the fantastic acting of Denis O’Hare and creative (and often humorous) writing in bringing this seemingly impossible character to life. Many of the deviants in True Blood tend to be a bit over-the-top (which I enjoy) but Russell takes the cake. A 3000 year old vampire with severe emotional issues, a serious lack of conscience, a big fat zero on the morals index and temper that can’t be matched. Oh I forgot to mention that he’s also a megalomaniac, suffers from delusions of grandeur and – on top of it all – is a bonafide sociopath. It’s awesome television for those who delight in depravity.
The Eclectic Russel Edgington was introuduced in Season 3 and boy did he make an impact. At first glance he didn’t appear to be more than yet another egotistical socialite vampire but as you got to know more and more about him, only then could you appreciate the sheer twistedness of this individual. He’s about as complex as a giant ball of knots and crazier than Joan Rivers. To describe his demeanor wouldn’t do it any justice whatsoever. If you really want to experience it, watch the series. If you already know about him, soak it up. The end of the season is fast approaching. You won’t get another dose of Edgington for almost a year.
Clarence J. Boddiker – Robocop
Actor: Kurtwood Smith
Where the hell did I dig him up from, eh? True, Robocop was as campy as hell (and we’re talking about a late 80’s movie here so that’s like campy squared) but I hold a soft spot in my heart for this guy. Even surrounded by poor acting and even worse writing, somehow the character of Clarence Boddiker worked. There was nothing flashy or outrageous about him in the movie but I tend to appreciate the little nuances. Kurtwood (probably best known as Red on That 70’s Show) has made a career on being the scruff, no nonsense guy with the awesome super-nugget head. However getting to be the nemesis in this set him loose as far as being a bastard is concerned. There was nothing you could like about Clarence. He was a murdering, lying, scumbag from beginning to end and you gotta appreciate that. Kurtwood took pride in belting out some of the priceless lines he has throughout the flick and at points, you really loved to hate the guy.
Crappy movie aside, next time you find yourself up at like 2 in the morning and Robocop is on… kick back and soak in his performance. You’ll be surprised at how sinister he actually is in it. Perhaps he should be just an honorable mention in the list but who cares… bad is bad.
Col. Hans Landa – Inglorious Basterds
Actor: Christoph Waltz
Congratulations to the Academy for finally getting it right for a change and giving a stellar performance its rightful dues. We all know Tarentino. His movies always produce characters you’re bound to remember. Jaw-dropping dialogue and outrageous storylines are his trademark but with but this time he took it to a whole new level. I can’t say I put this movie in the same echelon as Pulp Fiction but it has its moments. What stands out most for me is the incredibly disturbing performance by Mr. Waltz.
Nazis are always a great foundation for movie villains. Col. Landa was particularly ominous because he rarely had to physically demonstrate how intimidating or nefarious he was. Highly intelligent and uncomfortably calm, he’s the kind of person that would flash a warm and welcoming smile right before he runs you through with a saber or shoots you between the eyes. Christoph somehow manages to convey that feeling of untrusting intimidation to perfection. Again, to try and use simple words to describe the vibe he gives just doesn’t work. If you don’t care to watch the whole movie, just see the opening sequence. It sets the tone for the whole movie.
Patrick Bateman – American Psycho
Actor: Christian Bale
I had to watch this movie a few times before I could really appreciate it. I’ve yet to read the actual book (from what I hear is totally deranged) but I have to say the movie itself was entertaining primarily due to then relatively unknown Christian Bale’s performance.
Patrick Bateman is crazy.
No seriously. He’s get-naked-smear-yourself-gore-while-rocking-out-to-Huey-Lewis crazy. He’s also delusional, a perfectionist, a possible paranoid schizophrenic and a narcissist to boot. Mix all that together and you have the making for a wild ride in Insanityville. The selling point of the whole journey is following along side him as he descends slowing into depravity. Bale broods. That’s what he does but he goes into a whole new realm of menacing with his cold lifeless stare-downs and wildly erratic screaming fits. It’s one of those roles that he, as a method actor, must have really switched the sanity button off for a while in order to pull off some of the scenes. Not the greatest movie in the world but definitely worth watching if just to sit in awe of his utter madness during the course of the move.
John Doe – Se7en
Actor: Kevin Spacey
Ooooooooh man. What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? When I first saw Se7en I thought it was an awesome movie all the way through. Great story, gritty cinematography and a pretty damn good pairing of Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. Serial Killer movies have always sent chills down my spine because that shit is real. There really are people out there that are that twisted and malicious and can very well live right next door to you. You always hear it on the news… “Oh he was a nice guy”.
Little did you know he was pickling people in his basement while dressing up like Bea Arthur and singing show tunes to his cocker-poodle.
Anyway, the serial killer premise set the tone for the entire movie. Slowly and painfully you get to learn more and more about this mysterious individual commiting all these hainus crimes. By the end of the movie you’re kinda expecting to see some wild haired jungle freak that’s foaming at the mouth but instead you’re presented with perhaps the most frightening alternative – Kevin Spacey. Let’s be real here. Kevin Spacey is probably one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. He kills it (no pun intended) in pretty much every roles he takes on… but the man is terrifying. He’s terrifying because he’s unassuming. Maybe it’s his voice or his diminutive stature, receeding hairline or piercing glances that do it. Heck it’s probably all of that. All I know is that he gives my wife nightmares and would probably make me feel uneasy if I ever met him in public. That’s not a shot at him as a person or anything, just a tribute to his phenomenal acting ability. If you’re able to convey that level of fear without so much as raising your voice, that’s talent.
John Doe (as he’s referred to in the movie) has no past. Has no identity. Has no real motive for his actions other than being inspired by words and passages from the bible. His soft spoken demeanor and utter disregard for any consequences for his actions make him probably one of the scariest movie villains of all time. What seals the deal for me is the fact that he doesn’t even really make a solid appearance until the last 20 – 30 minutes of the movie. If you can make that kind of mark in that little time that’s a fantastic, well written, well acted villain.
*Darth Vader – Star Wars
Actor(s): David Prowse / James Earl Jones
Notice the asterisk I have next to this one? His nomination comes with a catch. I only recognize Lord Vader as being a unquestioned movie badass only in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Mind you I’m talking about original release New Hope and ESB (not the crap they’re trying to perpetrate as the only Star Wars nowadays). He started turning into a wussy little douche in Return of the Jedi so I tend to ignore him in that movie. I don’t even acknowledge the prequels so let’s not even go there. Hearing “PADME….. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” just makes me feel like I was punched in the gut by a large angry man.
I, along with many others in my age bracket, had the privilege of seeing A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back when they first came out in the pure untouched forms. There was no denying Vadermania swept over the world. Everyone loved Vader. Why? Because he was a badass.
What made Darth Vader a badass?
For starters he was huge. He looked like a damn pro wrestler the way he loomed over people. Secondly he had the most tremendous voice in cinema. Everyone knows James Earl Jones’ iconic voice and it was the perfect fit for such an intimidating character. Match that with him saying some of the most memorable (albeit cheesy) lines in movie history and he dominated the screen whenever he was on. Not to mention the fact that he was black.
C’mon now. Vader was black. You all know it. He wore black. He sounded black. You were all disappointed in RTOJ when he had his mask removed only to reveal some frail old white dude. Don’t deny it. ;p
Most of all Vader didn’t take any shit from anyone. He’d kill you in a heartbeat and wouldn’t even have to raise a hand to do it. There was enough mystery around Darth Vader to keep people speculating about his past for decades. That’s what made him cool. Vader became what you as an individual wanted him to be. It’s all about letting your imagination go wild.
That all came to a crashing end when Mr. Lucas decided to tell you exactly what happened to him. In my opinion that singlehandedly killed the Vader legacy and dispelled the mystique around him. He was no long this ominous villain that inspired and compelled millions.
He became Hayden Christensen.
[Disclaimer] Any and all images in this post were plucked from various sites using Google’s image finder. If you are the rightful owner of any of the said images and would like them removed please let me know and I’ll do so immediately, otherwise take a chill pill and enjoy the free publicity. No harm, no foul.