Thursday, February 04, 2010

Young punk had to pay

There is a MUST-READ discussion of bad asses over at AV Club. Like the inspiration of the story, I had to go with the Wire's Omar, but there are arguments for many others over there. Not sure about the best bad ass on film, but this scene from of Terrence Stamp in Limey is the probably the most bad ass scene ever filmed (you may know it as the "you tell him I'm coming" scene.

I wonder though who the greatest badasses in fiction are? Any number of James Ellroy's doomed heroes will do. Dwight Holly in the most recent book certainly counts. I think my absolute favorite is Takeshi Kovacs, at least as he is portrayed in Altered Carbon. Like Terrence Stamp, he takes a licking and then delivers a much worse one. Even better, he is loaded up with all kinds of special forces biotechnology making him even nastier. He doesn't want to kick your ass, unless you make him. Readers like it better when the people getting beat down bring it on themselves. It lets you enjoy it without the guilt.

Crime fiction also has plenty of sidekick badasses who let the hero bring or threaten the pain on people without doing it themselves. Scary Bubba from the Dennis Lehane books or Mouse from the Mosley novels are good examples of these, but main character bad asses are far more interesting.


HLK said...

I would for sure add Michael Madsen to the list . . . his character in Kill Bill Vol II - the renowned assassin, living in a trailer, drinking margys for breakfast out of dirty plastic cups (blender is the only appliance in the squalid kitchen)

how about the biz-related badass calm and cool, but could fight if necessary - Terence Stamp in Wall Street; DDL in There Will be Blood; the president of the JT Moreland in Boiler Room.

Or the military badass? Tough to distinguish one's self. Colonel Trautman? Sgt. Hulka in Stripes. Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in FMJ. Louis Gossett Jr on AOAAG (but he may have had his status revoked due to Iron Eagle).

I also have to give a shout-out to Guy Pearce in, most of all, Memento. His badassery is augmented by the fact that, by definition, it cannot be contrived. He barely knows who he is, where he is, or how to act. His badassitude comes from his lizard brain

Tripp said...

All fine examples, and all from film, which shows that the badass is easier to pull off in film than in fiction. Maybe, though, it shows that readers have no time for such nonsense, somehow I doubt that is the case.

One of my favorite examples of the literary badass is the one who holds it in, as it is the right thing to do, but then explodes when the provocation is just too much. The sheriff in Joe Lansdale's the Bottoms is a good example, as is Kenzie from the Lehane books.

Neill said...

T I already mentioned to you my dislike of Jack Reacher in the Lee Child books.....but I'd have to say that film-wise the baddest ass of all was Eastwood's man-with-no-name. You could say that Eastwood cornered the market on movie badasses...Dirty Harry, William T. Munny, Philo Beddoe.....etc

Neill said...

My fave lit badass (other than T. Kovacs (nice call!))would have to be Anton Chigurh from No country For Old Men... and honestly Javier made him even better in the film.

Neill said...

Nice Cypress Hill quote too!

Tripp said...


good call on Chigurh. With the spare prose of the novel, there was a lot of room to grow that character and Bardem did it.

Again, I wonder if the bad ass just works better in film.

Also the idea of Chigurh makes me think about something HLK and I talked about, that is, whether a bad ass can be evil or has to be, at worst, an anti-hero. I think maybe the person can be a bad guy as long as he is independent. He can't part of your system.

Anonymous said...

3 suggestions:

1. Shane. Direct ancestor of Eastwood's man with no name. The movie sucks (they cast Alan Ladd as Shane, which is like casting Tom Cruise as Conan) but the book is seriously underrated. He only cuts loose a coupleof times but they are awesome.

2. Achilles. The proto-badass. Not only does he kill Hector, he then drags his body around the walls of Troy while his family and people (who are now well and truly f-cked and they all know it) watch in horror.

3. Keyser Soze. He would eat Guy Pearce's liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

But I have to say Terrence Stamp is my favorite.


Tripp said...

Achilles of course. Is it OK for badasses to whine, as he does at one point?