Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 5 Movie Bad Guys OF ALL TIME...

I have an updated version of this article...

Yes. Hannibal Lector is truly one bad dude. So is Darth Vader. And Annie Wilkes. And the Alien. And Pinhead. And, no doubt, Hans Gruber is someone we love as a bad guy. But these choices are all-so-very predictable. If I hear the fava bean quote one more time, I may be the one cracking open the Chianti.

So, for my choices, I've gone off the beaten path to call attention to some truly bad-ass characters that most folks don't know about. There are no block-buster film villains on my list. You may even have trouble finding one or two of the flicks that feature these villains.

So without further ado, may I introduce to you...

5. General Bethlehem, The Postman (1997) Directed by Kevin Costner.
Will Patton turns in an amazing performance as the Napoleonic General Bethlehem, a self-imposed ruler of what once was the northwestern United States, now a post-apocalyptic, disjointed remnant of a once-great nation. The tyrant Bethlehem leads his army across the region, raping and pillaging, taking whatever he deems necessary and forcing small towns into submission through fear, intimidation, and military might. This character is someone you absolutely love to hate. The movie drew small audiences and critics panned it, most having yet to forgive Costner for Waterworld. IMHO, this movie, however, is great - made all the better by Patton's interpretation of General Bethlehem.

4. The Interrogator, Closet Land (1991) Directed by Radha Bharadwaj.
When it comes to playing the villain, few excel like Alan Rickman. Who can forget his performance in Die Hard as Hans Gruber? Or his role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - a performance that all but saved the film from being a total loss?
In 1991, though, Rickman starred with Madeleine Stowe in a little-known film called, Closet Land. For the most part (with the exception of one or two scenes with extras) it's just the two of them in one room. Stowe plays the author of children's books who's accused of having secretly inserted subversive messages into her work. Rickman plays the interrogator who, in turn, tries to be both good cop and bad cop to elicit a confession from Stowe's character, the victim. It's difficult to imagine a film that can draw you so far in and devastate you so deeply with only two actors on the screen the entire time. Stowe's performance is incredible, but it's Rickman who steals the show in this one, earning his spot on my list.

3. Frank, Retroactive (1997) Directed by Louis Morneau.
James Belushi is not the archetypal villain. I mean, isn't this guy a comedian? Heck, Frank thinks himself a comedian, too, though, so why not Belushi as a villain?
In this low-budget, sci-fi, time travel movie, Belushi is unforgettable as Frank, the big-mouthed, gun-totin', womanizing, Elvis-wannabe, bad-ass, Cadillac-driving Texan. Stereotype? You bet. And Belushi nails it.
A female cop has car trouble and is picked up by Frank, a small-time hood working the black market in technology. When Frank starts to suspect his wife of having an affair, things turn violent and the off-duty cop finds herself in the middle of it all.
Meanwhile, one of Frank's customers has stumbled onto a method for time travel. This all leads to the cop trying to change the outcome of Frank's rampage- over and over again, each time the outcome being worse than before.
I'm a big sci-fi and time travel movie fan, but it's Belushi's hard-core performance that makes this particular film work so well. Yeah, there's an attractive female lead and a compelling story, but you won't take your eyes off the marvel that is James Belushi's portrayal of Frank.

2. Moke, Stick (1985) Directed by Burt Reynolds.
Hunh? A Burt Reynolds film? HEY! Don't knock it 'til you've tried it! Burt plays Stick, an ex-con who vows to go straight, but gets wrapped up in a deal with one of his friends that goes bad - real bad. Suddenly, Stick finds himself a fugitive, not only from the law, but from the bad guys, too.
The lead thug for the capo is Moke, an albino cowboy with a serious attitude. All-around nice guy and stunt man Dar Robinson tackles this role. (That's Robinson in the photo, goofing around with Reynolds on the set.) I don't know if it's the creepy white eyes, or the gravelly voice, or - whatever - but Moke is intimidating in a really uncomfortable way. You get the feeling that he's just in a bad mood - always. The guy just doesn't ever smile.
This movie features a great scene where Moke is falling backwards to his death after falling from a balcony, and he shoots upward at Stick the entire time he falls - hardcore evil to the very bitter end. It's one of the best stunts Robinson ever did. The film industry lost an amazing individual when Dar died. Trust me, Robinson makes it worth the view and you won't regret seeing Stick.

1) Loren Visser, Blood Simple (1984) Directed by Joel Cohen.
In this debut film from the Cohen Brothers, M. Emmet Walsh plays the unscrupulous private detective, Loren Visser. Visser is hired to kill an adulteress and her lover, but he double-crosses and murders the husband who hired him instead. When Visser fears he may have been discovered, he decides to wrap up loose ends by killing the man's wife an her lover after all.
The twist here, is that the lovers begin to suspect each other of having killed the husband, and they are blind-sided by Visser, of whom, they knew nothing. This is an amazing modern take on film noir, and you simply have to see it if you are a film fan. Walsh will give you a new appreciation for his talent. This film actually features two amazing character actors: Walsh, and Dan Hadaya, another guy who's played his share of great villains onscreen.

One last honorable mention has to go to the truck driver in Steven Spielberg's Duel (1971). We never see the guy, but he terrifies us. Kudos to Spielberg for pulling that one off- oh, just like he did with the shark. ;)