6. Angel Eyes – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
It is all in his eyes: The anger, the greed, the hatred and the sadism that powers him. That may come off as hyperbolic, but in the context of Sergio Leone’s third and final entry in the “Man with no name” saga, Angel Eyes comes off as the most evil that mankind has to offer.
Lee Van Cleef, a veteran actor of the Western genre, portrays him as a calm, collected and very menacing figure. He has a twisted sense of ethics, as he is loyal to his clients, but has no problem killing them if it furthers his own personal gain.
Angel Eyes is after the ultimate treasure, and will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal. He is the archetype of the desensitized stone cold killer whose essence is captured by personalities such as the titular character of The Terminator (1984) and the Joker from The Dark Knight (2008).
Given the timeless feel that Leone’s characters have, there is no reason why Angel Eyes has to be situated in the American Civil War period or the Wild West. An origin story, may rob him of some of the mystical qualities he seems to possess, but placing him in different contexts and situations might give more insight into the man behind those mesmerizing eyes.
7. English Bob – Unforgiven (1992)
English Bob (Played by Richard Harris) is a legendary bounty hunter, who has spent his career crafting his character of a posh, gentleman assassin from England. When he goes to Big Whiskey, Wyoming (intending to collect a reward on a bounty), he is beaten and humiliated by the town’s local sheriff, Bill Daggett, a man he knew from previous encounters and who does not like guns in his town.
Moments before Bob is assaulted, he says to Daggett: “I thought you was…well I thought you were dead.” As if it was not intriguing enough that it is revealed that Bob has a history of bad blood with Bill, the audience also begins to realize that there is an even darker secret lying beneath Bob’s polished visage (with him quickly rectifying his manner of speaking).
In fact, after Bob is on the floor bleeding from Bill’s punishment, the makeup fades away to reveal his true self to be nothing more than a pathetic and low person. All of this occurred in front of Bob’s biographer.
Bob’s brief character arc in the film stirs up a lot of curiosity as to how he went about pursuing the path of fame and respect, but the heart of the character would be the creation of his own iconography, and the careful balancing act he would play to hide the real grimy persona.
8. Cesar Luciani – A Prophet (2009)
The criminal element always make for fascinating stories in every medium, and French cinema have excelled at developing some of the most memorable titles in the genre especially with the initiation of the French New Wave. A Prophet features an illiterate young man doing time for assaulting police officers. There he gets involved with the Corsican gangsters, who practically run the prison. They answer to an old timer named Cesar Luciani (played by Niels Arestrup).
Luciani follows in the tradition of great movie crime lords; He is smart enough to know from his long experience what it is that scares fellow criminals, especially the amateurs and newcomers. While he runs his criminal empire from prison in a relative state of luxury, he still retains an aura of cynicism and does not have the strong grip on his organization that he might have had in the past.
There is a great deal of personal history to explore with this character, and it would make for an interesting trilogy (or anthology) of films that follow his rise to power, without looking like a carbon copy of the structure laid out by Coppola’s Godfather series.
9. Carson Wells – No Country for Old Men (2007)
Woody Harrelson portraying a Vietnam veteran who works as a freelance assassin in a Coen brothers’ film? That is smart casting.
The auteurs’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s southern gothic tale may carry a pitch-black tone overall, but it is not bereft of charm and lighthearted humour. Carson Wells is one of many characters in the film to come in with his own brand of style and wit, which is considerably less grim than the other players in the picture.
While Anton Chigurh is deadly serious about his business and philosophies marching from location to location with an intimidating demeanour, Carson Wells has a classy and relaxed aura when presenting himself to clients and other people, while remaining committed to his work. Chigurh dresses in black, while Wells works in beige and white.
Harrelson plays him like a man who has had an interesting life, where his job has become routine but fulfilling. While there have been very interesting character studies in which the actor took on throughout his career, including the polarizing cop drama Rampart (2011), Carson Wells comes off as a fresh and unique personality to inspire his own film.
10. The Negotiator – Four Lions (2010)
In a film that follows the comic mishaps of a group of bumbling jihadists in England, there is nothing directly special about this fellow (played with great enthusiasm by fan favourite Benedict Cumberbatch), who stumbles into the grand finale to try and sort out a messy hostage situation. And yet, who is to say that he is not significant?
Four Lions is in the same vein of comedies like Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and In the Loop, which revel in their dark humour and absurd situations. With regards to characters that inhabit these worlds, even the ones that make the briefest appearance (like Steve Coogan’s obnoxious character in In the Loop) are memorable and quotable.
By the time the negotiator character arrives to the scene of the crime, he appears to have had an eventful week. It is even funnier because the audience has grown fond of the Lions, especially the hostage taker, Waj, (the most dimwitted and loveable member of the group), and know how awkward their interactions are with outsiders, unaware of their personalities or schemes.
Not only is the hostage scenario here a consequence of the Lions’ own confusion and incompetence, but also, the Negotiator’s attempts to dissolve the situation is completely undermined by Waj’s own idiotic nature. It is a very intelligently handled scenario, and does away with tired clichés that many hostage-centric films resorted to in the past.
The ambitious writing evident in the film makes a feature narrative about the negotiator very appealing. Whether he is family man, or a loser who only has his day job keeping him alive, it is his interactions with his colleagues and the bizarre people he deals with in a crisis that will add a lot of heart and humour to his story.
Author Bio: Faisal Al-Jadir is a long time cinephile and an aspriring filmmaker and writer. He holds a B.A. Honours degree in Film Studies from Carleton University, and splits his time between film, podcasting and theatre.