Sunday, August 10, 2008

Favorite Movie Villains #30 - 21

30. Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)

"You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood."

Probably Christian Bale's all-time most entertaining performance, Patrick Bateman is a deeply materialistic, vain, and sociopathic Wall Street broker who has reached the culmination of his material desires. But his fancy office, apartment, limo, and business card leave him with only a swelling emptiness, and Bateman can only achieve his thrills through cinema's all-time most blackly comic killing spree, murdering "twenty people, maybe... forty!" Unlike 98% of this list Bateman is the protagonist of his film and features in every scene, and Bale's loony, maniacal interpretation makes for one of the largest mass collections of "I can't believe I'm laughing at this, this is so sick!" moments in one film in existence, even making something as inherently static as leaving a voicemail a hilarious portrait of psychosis.

29. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)

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

At risk of being a lazy writer, there isn't much to say that hasn't been said about Anthony Hopkins' Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He's a genius, he outsmarts everyone, he's a cannibal, he eats everyone. The FBI needs him to help solve their murders but in retaliation he screws with Jodie Foster's head (and eats Ray Liotta's head). If anything people might question why he's so low; well, in Silence of the Lambs he was chilling and perfect, but they didn't understand that some things work best in small doses and made him the star of the lackluster Hannibal. Red Dragon was a return to form, but then, well, the less said about Hannibal Rising, the better. But his original turn in Silence remains a high watermark for cinematic serial killers.

28. Queen Bavmorda (Willow)

"Is that the extent of your powers, little one?"

This bitch is like the Wicked Witch of the West on acid! And crack! She's a vastly powerful sorceress and evil queen whose one downfall is, according to prophecy, the infant child and future queen Elora Danan. So when Elora is jettisoned down the river, like any good fantasy villain, Bavmorda charges her army to rape and pillage the land in search of the child, destroying the kingdom of Tir Asleen and unleashing a dragon in the process. She isn't given a lick of development - we never find out a single thing about her background, how she got her magical powers, how she became queen, or why she's so goddamn evil - but every time she's on screen she sneers and hams up such a ferocious fantasy villain storm that you just gotta love her.

27. Clubber Lang (Rocky III)

"No, I don't hate Balboa. But I pity the fool!"

The first real Rocky villain (Apollo Creed is of course Rocky's opponent in Rocky and Rocky II, but he's too honorable to call a villain), Clubber Lang is a loud-mouthed, foul-tempered beast of a man. In sharp contrast to Rocky IV's Ivan Drago and his six lines, Clubber just can't stop talking - he shouts insults at Rocky through the whole movie, goads Rocky on by telling Adrian he'll show her what it's like to be with a real man, and tells the media in regard to Rocky that "I'm gonna torture him. I'm gonna crucify him." Holy shit!

He backs it up with skill, though; he beats Rocky to hell (immediately after starting a riot that leads to the death of Rocky's mentor Mickey) and takes the heavyweight title. But then Rocky's old foe Apollo reappears, coaches Rocky in a beach-set training montage more awesomely homoerotic than all of Brokeback Mountain put together, and Rocky comes back to win. You have to respect a villain who not only gave us some great fight scenes but made two thickly-muscled, well-oiled grown men jump while hugging each other in the gently lapping surf.

26. Francisco Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun)

"Your Walther PPK against my golden gun, each of us with a fifty-fifty chance."
"Six bullets to your one?"
"I only need one."
~ Francisco Scaramanga and James Bond

Bond villain alert! Three decades before Saruman and Count Dooku, Christopher Lee gave us Roger Moore's finest opponent: Francisco Scaramanga. Wielding a golden gun and perfect aim, Scaramanga is the best assassin in the world, charging a flat million dollars a shot, and extremely interesting as (similarly to the relationship between Indiana Jones and René Belloq) the shadow version of James Bond; what 007 could have been if he had made some different choices in life. While both men are alike in their pleasure taken in good food, good drink, and beautiful women, and both kill for a living, Bond does so on orders of his government, and Scaramanga does so dispassionately and for hire.

Although Scaramanga's plan (involving taking over and making money from an energy plant) is far, far more understated than those hatched by Moore villains such as Hugo Drax, Kamal Khan, and Max Zorin, the rivalry between the two men is a joy to watch and among the most entertaining Bond-Bond villain relationships in the entire series, let alone the Moore era.

25. Profion (Dungeons & Dragons)

"Let their blood... RAAAIN FROM THE SKYYYYY!!!"

The Empire of Izmir's Council of Mages, led by the wizard Profion, is trying to overturn the rule of the dictatorial Empress Savina, who imparts her laws on the land on a whim and has a magical rod that controls green dragons, threatening to unleash the wyrms on any who oppose her. However, since Savina is a pretty young girl who whines about freedom and equality and wears all gold and Profion wears all black and cackles, we know that she is the one we're supposed to be rooting for in the most full-blooded and heartfelt cinematic endorsement of unchecked authoritarianism since Triumph of the Will.

And Jeremy Irons' performance as the rebel leader Profion is something far beyond over-the-top. Cackling at the top of his lungs as he shrieks with abandon about his intent to dispose Savina and control the dragons, he doesn't merely settle for chewing the scenery but tears it off and devours it in bloody, still-twitching chunks. Even among the wizardly world of Dungeons & Dragons, it's something truly magical to behold.

24. Henri Ducard / Ra's al Ghul (Batman Begins)

"Death does not wait for you to be ready! Death is not considerate, or fair! And make no mistake: here, you face Death."

Christopher Nolan resoundingly establishes the realism of his world by giving us the League of Shadows, a millennium-old clan of vigilante ninjas who live on the snowy mountain slopes of Bhutan and are responsible for sacking Constantinople and Rome. They are led by Liam Neeson's Henri Ducard (real identity Ra's al Ghul), and he trains Bruce Wayne in ninjutsu, intending for him to lead the ninja army in the destruction of Gotham. But Bruce believes Gotham isn't beyond saving so he rebukes his mentor, goes turncoat and runs! Holy shit, we got us an Obi-Wan / Vader relationship! If Obi-Wan was evil and Vader good, anyway (coincidentally, Liam Neeson also trained Obi-Wan). And so sets the stage for the final battle between Batman and Ra's al Ghul. Batman won't kill him, but he doesn't have to save him.

23. Benjamin Caine (Wayne's World)

"Benjamin is nobody's friend. If Benjamin were an ice cream flavor, he'd be pralines and dick." ~ Garth Algar

One of cinema's greatest "enemy of fun" comedy villains, Benjamin Caine is a greedy television executive who, seeing in public access Illinois TV show Wayne's World the opportunity for a lucrative sponsorship, conspires to take over the show and censor, manipulate, and artistically / comedically neuter it (even if it means firing star Wayne Campbell), all while stealing Wayne's girlfriend and being a condescending shitbag to everyone around him in the process. Or as Wayne's World co-star Garth Algar reads from a memo found in Benjamin's bedroom, "'Purchase feeble public access cable show, and exploit it.' Gee, I feel sorry for whoever that is!"

22. Howard Payne (Speed)

"Pop quiz, hotshot! There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?"

Many "Die Hard on a _____" rip-off films followed that seminal 1988 work, but Speed a.k.a. "Die Hard on a bus" is one of the best, partially because it decided that instead of doing a lackluster imitation of Die Hard's cold, calculating Eurotrash villain it would give us the cackling, one-liner spewing, 30% sane American ex-cop and explosives expert Howard Payne. He impales a man's brain with a screwdriver through the ear one minute into the film and it only gets better from there as he threatens to blow up an elevator in the opening act, a bus through the film's middle, and takes over a subway at the end, killing lots of people and being a huge pain in Keanu Reeves' ass all the while. He's everything a 90s action villain needs to be.

21. Jafar (Aladdin)

"A snake, am I? Perhaps you'd like to see how sssssnake-like I can be!"

Oh Jafar, why are you such an asshole? As Grand Vizier to the Sultan of Agrabah, Jafar was merely biding his time plotting against the Sultan until he could get ahold of the Genie of the Cave of Wonders and become the most powerful sorcerer on earth, upon which he immediately takes control of the kingdom. The thing I don't understand is why he seems all concerned about wanting to romance Princess Jasmine after that; I agree that Jasmine is hot and I think it's pretty cool that she just wears a bikini top all the time, but if you have unlimited, infinite magical powers then you could fuck all kinds of hot chicks all over the world. Hell, you could magically create your own hot chicks. Why Jasmine? Who gives a shit? 

That said, Jafar is still pretty goddamn badass; turning into a giant snake, creating rings of fire, and generally zapping everyone with his spells. Until he gets outsmarted by a goddamn street rat. C'mon Jafar, you should know better.

No comments: