Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Top Ten Anti Heroes
It always amazes me how many of our memorable modern lead characters are anti heroes, which is a main reason I started writing a blog about them. (That and the fact that I tend to enjoy such movies more than others) It seems to me that the hero has been all but replaced by his darker more complicated relation. We live much safer daily lives than we ever have, but as we get safer, our heroes get darker.
Certainly we're more secure now than ever and any threats to our security are handled by government agencies, which isn't an altogether bad thing perhaps. But why do we still have such an attraction to these characters seeking justice on the outskirts of the law, or challenging the system for their own reasons? Is it a fear of losing our individuality, the thrill of excitement or something else entirely? Has Jesse James evolved into Tyler Durden? And if he has, why do we need him?
With that thought in mind and having run into many top ten lists recently, I decided to try my own. Keep in mind, it may be completely different tomorrow as there are so many great characters are out there. (Right off the top of my head, Travis Bickle, Snake Plissken, D-FENS) For the purposes of this list, the anti hero may certainly be a criminal, but doesn't include any outright villians (which is sometimes a matter of opinion) Even so, for every character included, there were probably three more I considered. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on my picks and tell me your own favorites. You're also welcome to discuss it on the new Facebook fan page which you'll see on the right.
10) William Munny (Clint Eastwood, The Unforgiven)
William Munny has hung up his guns and successfully retired. The assassin in him never went away however, and the honest life leaves him struggling. When he hears a proposition to kill again for a "good cause" he has a hard time passing it up. He's "lucky when it comes to killin" but that's not really a blessing, and some things in life come harder. This is not a new character for Eastwood, as Munny could be a character from any of his earlier films, but this is him a little further down the road.
9) Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck, The Gunfighter)
Jimmy Ringo is tired. After a hard life of being the fastest gun alive he wonders if he could change his ways and find a little peace. Maybe, he thinks, he can be a husband and father and forget about his guns. However, a reputation that long and hard earned can't just be forgotten. Ringo's final scene looks like a man finally going to sleep after a long long day. And he proves that even if you shoot him in the back, he'll get his revenge. Sometimes being the best isn't what you think it is.
An unstoppable force of nature, so efficient you have to wonder if he's supernatural. You never wonder if Walker will get his revenge, even if he has to swim home while bleeding from Alcatraz. Betrayed by his wife and best friend, shot and left for dead, it might be enough to make some people give up, but it just makes Walker angry.
Although Charlton Heston is a bit hard to take seriously in his role. Welles' Hank Quinlan is the real star of the story. Sure he takes liberties getting criminals convicted, trusting his hunches enough to plant evidence if need be. Yeah he's pretty corrupt, and his methods force you to cringe, but what if he's always right? As we delve into his character, the corrupt cop character reveals more layers. And when he dies you may not like him but you can certainly agree that he was "some kind of man."
6) Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart, The Big Sleep)
The quintessential wiseassed, hard-boiled private detective. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, but neither does it seem to worry him. Even if no one can figure out what exactly happened, he always looks like he's got it under control (unless Lauren Bacall is involved) All the women love him, and all the men worry about him. Bogart was the master of this character and we haven't seen anyone quite like him sense.
5) Jesse James (Brad Pitt, The Assassination of Jesse James by that Coward Robert Ford)
Jesse James isn't the star of the show, but he's big enough to be. He's present even when you don't see him, which is fitting because James himself has left a similiar mark on our culture. One of the most celebrated anti heroes that ever lived, his character has been used in many films. He remains an anti hero who is larger than life and undoubtedly enduring.
As the title suggests, Leon is a true professional. He's not flashy and doesn't care about the wisecracks. He does his job and you'll never see him coming or going (unless you're about to die.) He's content with a self contained existence and reluctant to interfere in other's affairs, until a little girl's troubles force him to get involved with humanity again. And of course, once he's involved, he doesn't settle for half measures. Reno gives a tremendously powerful and compassionate performance which will leave Leon in your head for years.
A cop who lost his way a long time ago and has no idea how to get back. He tries every vice imaginable and of course only gets more lost daily. He knows he's broken but can't fix it. Knowing he's worse than the worst criminal he arrests, he's constantly tortured and actively self destructive. It would take something pretty drastic to get through his constant agony and find anything good in him, and you have to wonder what could be enough?
Luke embodies the spirit of the anti hero to me. Although he isn't the toughest guy around or the smartest, he is the most stubborn. He can't abide his spirit being crushed for no good reason and has to resist even if it kills him. He doesn't need a reason to resist, he'd love you to give him a reason not to, though force doesn't qualify. Luke's rebellion is just saying no.
What if you woke up and realized that what's been sold to you your whole life isn't really working, but you're so locked into your life that you can't even admit it? What if the life which you thought kept you safe really kept you from being alive? If you lived in the world of Fight Club, you might develop a Tyler Durden to force you to face this. A unique role and movie that continues to grow in relevance.