Monday, April 13, 2009

The Action Mutant presents...The April 2009 TAM Hall of Fame class...Villains Edition!

(Note: I am writing this based on the assumption that the reader has seen the films in question. If you don't want stuff SPOILED, in SPOILERS... you best be moving on.)

Bad news: I've been so swamped lately that I haven't gotten to update a new wing of The Action Mutant Hall of Fame. It is just as well though, as my lack of reviews recently has meant there aren't too many names that would qualify for the...ahem, honor. Good news: I have come up with a new wing for the Hall, one that makes so much sense that my head would explode if I only began to know what I was thinking about. See, those currently in the TAM HOF are the heroes. That's a given. And we look forward to their exploits with each new screen venture, even if many of them are just playing the same role with a different name. However, there are roles that are so memorable in scale that when that particular actor is brought up, it is THAT role that is first thought of. These are the roles of the villains. Sure, we "hate" them but things would be a lot less interesting if they weren't in the mix. I mean, would you watch Superman issue parking tickets for two hours? Would it be as memorable for Captain Kirk to, instead of yelling "KHAN!!!", yell...something else (Mandelbaum, perhaps)? Would Rocky IV be as legendary as it is if Ivan Drago came from Finland? Exactly. And with that, the best of The Action Mutant far...

- Det. Stansfield (as played by Gary Oldman in Léon: The Professional)
There's a litany of psychos to pick from in Gary Oldman's repertoire but none are quite as villainous, slimy & just plain fucked in the head as Stansfield. A renaissance man amongst wackjobs, Stansfield pops pills like Mentos & conducts his investigations by listening to some of the ol' Ludwig Van as his soundtrack. A botched drug deal leads to the crooked cop ordering the slaughter of the family involved & although one of the killings is accidental, you'd have to think Stansfield isn't going to be losing much sleep over it. Mainly because one can't imagine the guy ever sleeping. The viewer can make the argument that all of the pills have made Stansfield the way that he is but considering the man is played by an actor that has made playing the insane his bread & butter, I'd have to guess Stansfield was paddling the slowboat to Crazyland long before the medicine came into play.

- Patrick Bateman (as played by Christian Bale in American Psycho)
Although Bateman isn't your traditional Action movie villain, he possesses many of the archetypal trappings. Quick witted, charming on the surface, vain as all hell and...oh yeah, batshit insane, Bateman makes for a dangerous villain simply because there is no master plan to his madness. In the decade where every one was seemingly addicted to something, Bateman's vice was killing anyone & everyone (with a penchant for Coke and kinky sex along the way). Women were the main victims, though any gender or race would do. Bateman thrived in a time period where the serial killer was en vogue & showed his penchant for using the tools of the day (chainsaw, axe, nail gun, etc.) at every turn. However, the ultimate villain in this tale may have just been the very decade that Bateman was made of, as everyone was so self absorbed that no one apparently cared or noticed that Bateman was taking out a small chunk of NYC on his off nights. Guess they just figured Bronson would take care of it, like in 10 to Midnight (a film that Bateman might have taken some notes from at one time).

- Emil Fouchon (as played by Lance Henriksen in Hard Target)
When he's not starring in whatever dog feces Sci-Fi flings toward its schedule on Saturday nights (Heh, he said TURD!), the great Henriksen makes his living portraying highly articulate, heavily bent maniacs. And who else could take up the ultimate in fanatical self-employment...providing others the chance to kill other humans for sport! When he's not playing the piano & eerily staring off into space, Emil is like a modern day Harry Lime in profiting off of the fruits of wars (both past & present). Only in this "black market", Emil is providing violence & mayhem (which he sometimes partakes in himself, particularly when one of his clients balks at the opportunity he paid for). The only qualm against the man may be that he could have been a little more selective in pooling his killers together, as apparently an infinite amount of artillery was no match for a high kicking, Belgian/Cajun (cue Rome...allegedly) longshoreman with a monster mullet. Shame for him it didn't come down to a staring contest. (Note: How can I not include Henriksen here? He volunteered to be set on fucking fire!)

- Toecutter (as played by Hugh Keays-Byrne in Mad Max)
There has always been room for evil biker ganglords in Action cinema but very rarely are they as enigmatic as Toecutter. Leading a gaggle of soulless mucketymucks about the Australian desert, Toecutter decides to interject himself in policeman Max's life after the law takes one of his own. Pure magic lies in Toecutter's wild-eyed speeches urging his minions on...or crack. Carrying himself like a strung out Genghis Khan, Toecutter's ruthless nature peaks in the running down of Max's wife & infant son. I'm sure no one told Toecutter that Mel...err, Max can get very irritable & pissed off at little things like that. As for the pic of pro wrestler Raven...c-mon, I've been saying it all along that they're like twins. I can't help it that when I see Toecutter, I see Scott Levy with a hangover & 5 o' clock shadow.

- The Kurgan (as played by Clancy Brown in Highlander)
Seriously, if you were chased though time by someone wanting to cut your head off in an attempt to win a centuries long contest to be the "one", would you want it being this guy? A towering monster soldiering through time itself, Kurgan chases Connor Macleod to modern day New York City (circa 1985), where a giant in a trench coat & wielding a heavy sword would hardly get noticed. Despite not getting the job done at the end, Kurgan (and Brown in turn, who rocks here) would go on to legend not only as a villain but an icon for DIY punkers everywhere who have to respect someone that can fasten their head back onto their neck using nothing more than a few paper clips.
- Mary Ann (as played by Gene Hackman in Prime Cut)
Long before The Hackman retired from acting & became a Lowes pitchman, Gene was an unscrupulous meat mogul with a fruity name. I'm sure there must have been many people who felt that one couldn't run a successful prostitution ring in the Midwest but Mary Ann achieved that American dream! He may have had to run a few mobsters through the abattoir or keep his women drugged up so they couldn't advance off of the premises but we aren't here to award goodwill points. Like any corrupt politician, Mary Ann manages to hold on to the peoples' collective ear as well as rule with an iron fist. How else do you explain the slew of cornhuskers that become rural hitmen ready to blast away city boy Nick Devlin when he rolls into town? Kind of makes you shudder of the thought of Bill O' Reilly as a crime boss, huh?

and, of course...the main reason I thought of the column in the first place...

- Clarence Boddicker (as played by Kurtwood Smith in Robocop)
When one thinks of a super-villain, they think of a Bond villain or one of those slimy dictators from a Chuck Norris/Missing in Action movie. While Clarence Boddicker isn't going to siphon gold from Fort Knox or torture P.O.Ws with rats, he certainly comes off as one of the vilest, sickest villains ever put on cinema. We first see Boddicker sacrificing one of his gang members in an attempt to distance themselves from cops on the chase. When the gang corners Ofc. Murphy in their headquarters, they administer one of the most brutal slayings ever & Boddicker makes sure to get his taunts in (as well as the final shot). As much as Patrick Bateman exemplified the 80s & all of its tawdry glory, Boddicker is the quintessential 80s Action villain. All the guy is concerned about is himself; when his coke is out on the streets & when his bitches leave. He's never going to be able to overpower his opponent so he will attempt to weasel out of any predicament but not before trying to eliminate his foe with high grade firepower. Though he isn't exploded like many of his counterparts during their demises, Clarence goes out in a flourish that harkens back to classic Shakespeare. And if you can make anyone think of Shakespeare during this classic era of Action cinema, then you are truly a Hall of Fame VILLAIN!

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