Friday, April 3, 2009

Memorable Bad Guys in Cinema History (Part 2)

Welcome back to my second installment of my favorite bad guys of cinema. I was honestly so torn between 6 people in particular, that's I'm debating on whether I should keep at 10, or just add one more and make it a list. Let's see?

6. Detective Stansfield - Leon: The Professional
Played by one of the greatest actors of the past few decades, Gary Oldman bring us Detective Stansfield. A crooked cop for the NYPD that is involved in the drug trade and homicide racket. I'm not really quite sure if Gary Oldman's performance was more from him, or if the screenplay made this character to be so psychotic in the first place. Either way, his performance stays with you well past the film's running time. Out of my 2 point criteria, I'd have to say that Detective Stansfield falls under #1. Even though he's a symbol for good wearing an officer's badge, the man's capabilities go beyond any reasonable breaking point the outcome is borderline psychotic. Why? We don't know, maybe he just likes to make more money and is absolutely selfish. We don't get to spend enough time delving into the psyche of Stansfield...but it doesn't really matter. Charismatic, intelligent, precise, and absolutely insane, and we love every second of him.

Memorable Quote: "I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven. Can you hear it? It's like when you put your head to the grass and you can hear the growin' and you can hear the insects."

7. Hannibal Lector - The Silence of the Lambs
This is an easy yet hard choice to make. Silence of the Lambs had two of cinemas most prolific antagonists, but what makes the choice easier is the fact that this one resonates for years after the film's release. Even though Hopkins has been a commanding presence on screen since the mid 60's. It wasn't until his career defining performance in Silence of the Lambs that made him a household name and it's easy to see why. Originally brought to the screen by Brian Cox in Michael Mann's 1986 thriller "Manhunter", Hopkins takes over the role and brings the true face of absolute horror as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lector. His empty, wide eyed stares and soft spoken demeanor makes him all the more terrifying as he tears apart the mind of FBI Agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), who's only reason for communication is help to catch our other antogonist, Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Hopkins' approach to this role was impressive because he gives a chilling ambiance whenever he's on screen. The feeling of impending doom never seems to lighten up whenever Starling is speaking to the Doctor, which gives the performances on both ends praise due to the wonderful chemistry between them. His stimulating intellect, articulate vocabulary, and great achievements as a doctor, make him a strange candidate for this type of character. The character is said to have been molded from the behavior analysis of Ted Bundy; a real life serial killer who claimed over 100 murders in the US. As accomplished as he was, he was a monster through and through, which makes him fall under criteria #1. We don't know why he does what he does and that makes him all the more terrifying.

Memorable Quote: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

8. Max Cady - Cape Fear
Very rarely, do I ever feel the need to praise a remake. However, once in a while, a truly gifted filmmaker comes along that manages to bring a new revision to an older work and turns it into something more special. Cronenberg did just that with The Fly as John Sturges did with The Magnificent Seven as well. Martin Scorcese accomplished the very same with his 1991 psychotic thriller Cape Fear. Scorcese's mile a minute pacing and frantic camera work is almost reminiscent of Hitchcock's with this particular film. Taking over the role made famous by Robert Mitchum is a man who needs no introduction, Robert De Niro. De Niro's performance as Max Cady is still in my book to the best and most haunting of villains in cinema to this day. You learn quickly what Cady is capable of and feel the tension each time he's on screen. Snappy dialogue and pressing mind games with Samuel Bowden (Nick Nolte) and his family only get worse as the film continues. Ultimately, Cady's intentions are revenge and any cost. This criteria lands him under #2 with a small hint of #1. De Niro's performance is haunting and intriguing all the same and to this day is still my favorite performance of his career.

9. The Joker - The Dark Knight
The most talked about performance of 2008. The role that defined Ledger's career as a masterful film player and not just a pretty face in the hollywood circuit. When I first heard the news about Ledger taking over this role; made famous in 1989 by Jack Nicholson, I had a hard time accepting it. Director Christopher Nolan already brought a darker side to the Batman franchise with Batman Begins. It was only natural that this vision of the Joker was going to be not just different, but special. Before the film's initial release, Ledger passed away from a pill cocktail he took to help him sleep and calm his nerves; clearly from work exhaustion. It created a buzz and The Dark Knight was a huge hit and even got Ledger a posthumous Oscar Win; The only other actor in history to achieve this since Peter Finch in the 1976 film Network. Ledger's joker has no motive and his character clearly states that in a fascinating monologue between him and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). He has no purpose but chaos and does just fine with that realization. Criteria #1 is an understatement for this character but we loved him anyways. You couldn't take your eyes off the screen the minute he was on, and you couldn't wait till his next appearance. Though Ledger is no longer with us, he's left us with a performance that will be talked about for decades. The world's favorite psychotic remembered. Heath Ledger RIP (1979-2008)

Memorable Quote: "You just couldn't let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You are truly incorruptible, aren't you? Huh? You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever. "

10. Anton Chigurh - No Country For Old Men
Did you really think this man wouldn't make the list? It seems that in the past few years, we've grown exceptionally close with bad guys. Two years in a row, our best supporting actor winners are 2 of the worst human beings brought to the big screen. Don't think I'm saying it like it's a bad thing either. Armed with a cattle air gun, a horrible 60's boy band haircut, and a quarter that decides your fate. Javier Bardem's rendering of Anton Chigurh is the performance that truly shows the talents of an actor like Bardem. Having read the book, I can only imagine how hard it must've been to bring this character to life. Cormac McCarthy's only way of describing him in the book is simply put "He has no sense of humor". A quote that is actually used in the movie as well. The performance of Anton Chigurh feels as if you're watching the grim reaper himself in the shell of a human being. Out of touch with humanity and actually fair; frighteningly enough, Chigurh goes through every which road Texas has to offer looking for his stolen money and literally killing every person he comes across...well, almost every person. Scary as he is, this character has also proven to be a man of principles, sociopathic principles but they are principles, I assure you! Chigurh's character is the personification of fate and it's shown in his strong belief that if your time is up, the coin will show it. This character falls under criteria #1. A precise killing machine with no respect for human life, not even birds. He's the whirlwind of the criminal underground and everything gets swept away along with him...and it's never been so fun to watch it. The Coen Brothers directed a masterful and exciting film, and quite possibly the masterpiece that their entire career has built up to.

Memorable Quote: "So this is what I'll offer - you bring me the money and I'll let her go. Otherwise she's accountable, same as you. That's the best deal you're gonna get. I won't tell you you can save yourself, because you can't. "

I have to admit guys, writing this section in particular has been a lot of fun. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. I've also come to the conclusion that I can't only pick 10 people. I'm going to continue this little list for as long as I can. Got any suggestions you think fall under my criteria? Let me know, comments are appreciated. Thanks again.

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