With the passing of each week, the more I enjoy concocting these top 10s, and this week’s entry is no different. As you may have guessed from the title or header image, this top 10 will feature, in my opinion, the best antiheroes in cinema history. As always, if you feel I’ve overlooked a contestant or listed one that shouldn’t have been considered, leave all comments and questions below. I’m always looking to improve the segment and love interacting with fellow film lovers.
Every now and then there comes along a protagonist who might go off the deep end. You know, beat someone half-to-death, take pleasure in humanities destruction, or have the occasional soul erased from the face of the earth. Now, however they chose to go about there business is irrelevant. We, as cinephiles love these colourful characters for their more shady characteristics and the nonchalant way they handle things that would send normal people into spiralling depression.
Let’s do it!
Severus Snape (Harry Potter series, Alan Rickman), Oh-dae Su (Oldboy, Min-sik Choi), Marv (Sin City, Mickey Rourke), Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara), Patrick Bateman (American Psycho, Christian Bale), Daniel Plainview (There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day Lews), Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee, I Saw the Devil).
10: Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson)
Jules is someone who really radiates anti-heroism. Almost like a gun-slinger with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other.
9: Charles Bronson (Bronson, Tom Hardy)
Talk about taking pleasure in abhorrent behaviour. All Bronson wanted was to fight for the sake of fighting and to become Britain’s most violent prisoner.
8: The Driver (Drive, Ryan Gosling)
Torn between his only skill-set and doing right by his friends. The Driver may lull you in with his heartwarming nature, but make no mistake, he is ruthless and unforgiving.
7: Tyler Durden (Fight Club, Brad Pitt)
Driven by a desire to disrupt the world and destroy his opinion of oppression. Tyler may be trying to help out his bud, but he accomplishes it in true antihero fashion.
6: Alex (A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell)
Alex simply wants to see others suffer, whether it be through violence, mental degradation, or dominance.
5: Leon (Leon: The Professional, Jean Reno)
An assassin with a heart of gold.
4: Tony Montana (Scarface, Al Pacino)
Willing to do whatever is necessary to become his own interpretation of king. Tony Montana is as cold-blooded as they come.
3: Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver, Robert De Niro)
One can’t help but feel for Travis, attempting to free the unfortunate girl sucked into prostitution. However, his sociopathic mentality, obsessions with firearms, and desire to murder is too repulsive to overlook.
2: Henry Hill (Goodfellas, Ray Liotta)
From the beginning, we are led to believe that Hill and his fellow thugs are normal, everyday hard-working guys. However, the truth is much more sinister and ferocious.
1: Michael Corleone (The Godfather, Al Pacino)
Although we’ve been given a veritable gaze into the Corleone family and begin to care for them. There is no denying that this mafia family will do whatever it takes to remain atop, especially Michael.
Okay all, that’ll do it for this week’s edition of the top 10, hope you all enjoyed it. Have a great weekend!
An unmatched, disconcertingly poetic, and visually brutal tale of vengeance that never ceases challenging its viewer. Chan-Wook Park’s “Oldboy” manages to find new ways to discombobulate and disturb while remaining mesmerizingly visceral and unbelievably disheartening. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more taut character study that is truly unbound, cruel, and stretches to the furthest reaches of comprehensiveness. Although it may blur like a dream-sequence, mar any sense of humanity, and plaster your thoughts with violence long after it ends. “Oldboy” is a lyrical, ambient thriller that honestly depicts the power of love and loss. Containing one the most brilliantly choreographed and exhausting fight-sequences in cinematic history, a stomach-churning consumption, and a reveal that is sure to linger. “Oldboy” is a vivid nightmare you’ll be glad to experience again and again.
Oh Dae-su (Min-sik Choi) is a business man and a notorious womanizer. On the night of his young daughter’s birthday, he is kidnapped and placed in a hotel-like prison. Confined to this room with no human contact or explanation for his imprisonment, his only connection the outside world is a television. Soon, he learns that his wife has been murdered and that he is the prime suspect. Oh Dae-su passes the time shadowboxing and planning his revenge. After fifteen years pass, he is released, also with no explanation. Given only several days to find his captor and discover the reason for his confinement, Oh Dae-su is forced to make quick friends and even faster decisions.
Amidst the physical onslaught and weaving its way through a fair amount of sensitive themes. “Oldboy” is somehow able to exude some very dark humour. However, this is not the only surprise director Chan-Wook Park offers in this ferocious, almost Shakespearean neo-noir. While “Oldboy” is exceedingly violent, at times down-right cringe worthy, it is not excessively gory. A true testament to the strength, subtlety, and beauty in Park’s work behind the camera. And even though it may not be Park by the book, it is delectable to witness his work unrestrained and unfinished, as if his imperfect perfection makes the film that much more rough and unsettling. This raspy, unpleasant film may not be for everyone, but to further cement how important and powerful “Oldboy” is, keep in mind it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2004. They don’t give out that acknowledgement to just any film…but I digress.
Granted, “Oldboy” isn’t the most rewarding or satisfying flick out there and it doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. With Park Chan Wook’s “Oldboy” what you see is what you get, not that I’m complaining. It’s like a puzzle that you don’t fully understand until you start taking it apart, piece by piece. It is feverishly appeasing to all the cinematic senses and while it may not necessarily be a story that needs to be told. “Oldboy” is a brilliant take on what it means to be human and how low one has to sink in order to have that privilege revoked. Why the film manages to shock is obviously due to its reveal. However, the reason it’s so effective is because of the viewers inability to foresee the reveal coming. Not because it is sly or intricate, simply put…we don’t want it to be true. It’s a story of morals and righteousness that doesn’t teach a lesson.
“Oldboy” is a phenomenal series of highs and lows, it pulsates like a distant star. There is hope, then despair, a series of positives and negatives. Nothing is ever permanent or stable and this adds a seriously complex layer to the film that its leads are left to master. For example, Min-sik Choi’s protagonist is constantly built up and torn down. Resulting in a varying set of emotional requirements that he is left to try and balance. Nonetheless, Choi’s diverse range is predictably outstanding and he is nothing short of intimidating, spectacular, and relentless throughout. Ji-tae Yu’s antagonist is a repulsive, obsessive, regressive villain that never fails to astound with his deplorable, blood-thirsty tendencies, and of course Yu portrays this disgust immaculately. As for Hye-jeong Kang, she gives an honestly heartfelt and terrified performance, but compared to these heavyweight actors, she gets lost in their brilliance.
Brutal, disturbing, heartfelt, and utterly unnerving. Chan Wook Park’s “Oldboy” might not be for the faint of heart, but if you can take it, it’s one hell of a bumpy ride.
Oldboy: 9.5 out of 10.