Good Bad guys.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

We saw Constantine last night. Loved it! The special effects were awesome, the vision of hell and demons appropriately disturbing (scary), and of angels and religion, interesting.

One thing I really enjoyed was the characterization. John Constantine was a fully shaded anti-hero. You couldn’t put him in a box. Even after he had attained a certain amount of growth and salvation, appropriate to his character, he couldn’t resist giving one last 'finger'. gg.

I’ve never seen the devil portrayed as he was in this movie—-in his pristine white 'godfather' suit, and bare, tarred feet. Lovely. And Gabriel the angel? As played by Tilda Swinton (she of Orlando fame) the whole twisted ambiguity and shifty androgyny of that character was so well done.

I really, really like complex characters. Ones who have a dark side, an edge, a certain sense of the unpredictable, maybe even untrustworthiness. Not necessarily because they aren’t worthy of trust, but because that character hold his/her own code ethics and honor, that may not dovetail with everyone else’s. ;-) And their growth doesn’t have to be about losing those ‘bad’ or ‘dark’ traits altogether, but more about acknowledging something larger than themselves, something they need or want bad enough that they are willing to compromise or sacrifice to have it.

In ms#2, my heroine is an alcoholic (one of those secret, binge drinkers), the hero is somewhat amoral ( a contest judge compared him to Bobby Donal from The Practice, which brought a big smile to my face. Exactly. Although I was thinking more along the lines of that essence of ‘a little too smooth, tinged with danger’ vibe that Pierce Bronson exhibits as James Bond or Thomas Crown) Obviously, my H/h have a lot of growth to achieve during the story, I was looking forward to writing it, but the plot sucked and the book stalled at chapter 8. I’ll get around to revising it one of these fine days. I love Raine and Winston way too much to leave them in their literary limbo.

One hero protagonist I’ve never gotten out of my mind is Dillon Gaynor from Anne Stuart’s Into the Fire. It’s almost a stretch to call this asshole guy a 'hero', yet he was compelling and fully dimensional. Far more than the usual ‘bad boy’ seen on the pages of many romances (contemporary counterpart to the ‘fake rakes’ of historical novel), the author didn’t just tell the reader this guy was bad, she showed us, she made us see and believe it. The rest of the book didn’t quit work for me, but I’m thinking of picking the book up again for my keeper shelf, simply because of this character’s portrayal.

Another couple of bad guys that fascinated me were Tom Cruise’s 'Vincent' in Collateral, and David Carradine’s 'Bill' from Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies. Okay, these guys were beyond bad, they were psycho. But they are far more than 2-D Snidely Whiplash EEEEEViiile. Bill loved his daughter--we *saw* that--and when he confessed to Beatrice (The Bride) that she'd broken his heart, we had to believe him when he spoke this horrible truth that had been played out in the movie: "There are consequences to breaking the heart of a murderous bastard." And then there was Vincent--pairing Tom's charming mega-watt smile with a curiously intense, empty gaze--first berating Max (Jaime Foxx) for not bringing flowers to his hospitalized mother, then urging the 'loser' Max to go after his dreams (ultimately a very sadistic and cruel urging). Complexity. I like that. (Yeah, yeah, neither of these characters ‘grew’ in the sense I laid out above. I’m talking complexity now.)

Odil isn’t dark the way I thought he’d be, I can’t pinpoint it now, but the darkness is there, and I’ll find out what it is sooner or later in the writing. ZoĆ«, on the other hand, has characteristics I don’t like, or at least, I don’t find admirable, but I’m not going to air brush them to make her character more palatable. One of the BIG mistakes I made with ms#1 was to pull my punches.

Just thought of another (obvious) dark character, Dracula as played by Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. You really got a sense of the depth of his corruption and also of his abiding love, and unquenchable longing for his one true soulmate—his wife, Elizabeta.

Oops! One more, Clay from Kelly Armstrong’s Bitten. An unrepentant werewolf in the throes of an obsessive, unrequited (sort of) love.

Last one, I promise-- Damon Rouke, the sexy as hell, gambling, 'fights hard and hurts easy', walking gotta-a-death-wish, N'awlins homicide dectective from Penelope Williams' dark mystery-thriller Sin series of books.

Er, one more. gg. Denzel Washington's John Creasy in Man on Fire. This guy wasn't flawed, he was broken, only holding it together by some very thin and frayed threads.

So while I’m on this subject can anyone recommend some good, complex dark heroes to me (books—any genre/nongenre, movies, tv shows)?
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R. Scott Bonnell said...

Thanks for your review i can not wait to see the film!

Sasha White said...

Oh My God!! Clay, from BITTEN. *drool* I absolutely love him! And ofcourse, he is fantastic in STOLEN as well. Have you read that one yet?

Kat said...

I absolutely adored Denzel Washington in Man on Fire. He portrayed that character so perfectly, for once I was voting for the 'bad guy'.

Jaye said...

No worries, Scott. You won't regret seeing it. I'm definitely getting the Constantine DVD when it comes out.

Sash, I KNOW!! ::drool:: I've read *Stolen* and the prequels Kelly has on her site. I'm just waiting for the next book based on the werewolves.

Kat, my heart broke for Creasy. I just knew his wouldn't be a happy ending.

Amie Stuart said...

Thanks for the review, doll! I LOVED Collateral and Man on Fire--probably for the complex characterization. Like you I'm sorta a character ho *g*.

Anthony Hopkins in SOTL and Red Dragon--priceless IMO. So smooth, so suave but oh so bad, though maybe a bit more straightforward, you can't help but like him even knowing he'd eat and kill you as look at you. Another good character study is 25th Hour. I LOVE LOVE LOVEEEEEE Edward Norton. You KNOW he did wrong and you KNOW he's going to jail--there is no redemption, no midnight phone call of salvation--it's a completely character driven movie.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about Constantine. More thanks for the review!
Dark heroes...
Mickey Rourke, 91/2 Weeks.
Frank Langella, Dracula.
Edward Rochester, Jane Eyre.
Old movie, but one of the best 'villains' ever--Tyrone Power, Witness for the Prosecution!
Man on Fire--yesssss.
Al Pacino, Devil's Advocate.

Whoops, didn't mean to go on & on! I love complex heroes & villains who are so good at evil you love 'em!


Jaye said...

Yes! Hannibal Lecture(sp?), how could I forget him? And I'll definitely check out Ed Norton in 25th hour (Loved him in American X).

Dream, how could I forget Mickey Rouke in 91/2 Weeks (that slime bag. gg.) But as sick and twisted as he was, you just knew he loved the heroine (in his sick and twisted way. gg)

While, Frank as Dracula, did make an impression on my (pre)teen self, ::drool:: at those big dark liquid eyes, Gary's portrayal had so much more to it. He was absolutely captivated, by the Winona Ryder character (you saw the vulnerability in his eyes). That's it for me, it'll be a long time before someone makes a more definitive Dracula movie. :-P

Al was real slick in Devil's Advocate, wasn't he? Hmmm... I have to think about that one. He's not *quite* doing it for me, and I don't know why. Cause he's charming, but not vulnerable? There's a hint of vulnerability in the other men, even if it's a misleading hint. gg

I just remembered another dark Hero, Jason Bourne. This is were I fell, hard, for Matt Damon. My usual response to him, was 'meh.' Now I see the allure. I have the first two Bourne books on the bookshelf, haven't gotten around to reading them yet, but I will as I've heard the books are better than the movies.

And speaking of books, we're coming up with dark heroes in movies, but can you think of characters in books? Aside from Heathcliffe (read in High school), or as you pointed out, Dream, Rochester (which I haven't read).

Thanks for the feedback guys!

Anonymous said...

Vanessa, Gary WAS wonderful in the part, quite right (don't like Winona). Think my problem was with the heroine (don't like Winona). And if I have this wonderfully enigmatic, sexy hero being absolutely mad (don't like Winona) for a heroine, she'd better be worth it, or it somehow lessens him in my eyes. (Don't like Winona). Does that make sense?
Oh...did I mention that I don't like Winona?

Jaye said...

You and Johnny Depp. *snort*.

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