Year in Review: Best Villains of 2012

6 Jan

Rant. Rave. Review. 2012This is the other category that the higher-ups in Hollywood don’t really pay much mind to. However, the villain is such an integral part of any action movie that it almost seems a sin to not acknowledge their importance in the films of 2012. Especially in this age of cable television filled with morally ambiguous anti-heroes (Walter White, Dexter Morgan, Don Draper), I found myself craving a pure-blooded villain with only hate and destruction in his (or her) heart. Thankfully we got some good ones this year!

Looper

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as Joe and Old Joe in, “Looper.”

5. Bruce Willis, Looper

(MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR LOOPER) When you go into a movie thinking that one of the two main characters is a good guy, and you come out realizing that he turned out to be the bad guy, you walk away feeling pretty shell-shocked. Bravo to writer/director Rian Johnson for the best bait-and-switch marketing for a film that I have ever seen. To clarify, Willis doesn’t necessarily play a villain since time travel is ever a fickle thing to tackle in a movie, especially where the question your left with is, “If you had a chance stop a Hitler-type monster as a child before they murder your wife and countless other people in the future, would you kill them?” No, Willis is more of a desperate man in love with the power to try and stop a potential mass murderer. But one of the main points of this brilliant science-fiction character study is that one action can and will alter the path of somebody’s life. Unfortunately, this simple paragraph does not do the film justice. I beg you to go watch the movie where you think Bruce Willis is an action hero but ends up being the guy the audience ends up turning against about halfway through the movie. It will surely throw you for a loop (zing).

 

Seven Psychopaths

Woody Harrelson as Charlie the gangster in, “Seven Psychopaths.”

4. Woody Harrelson, Seven Psychopaths

The most insane movie of the year deserves the most insane villain of the year. Harrelson plays a ruthless mobster who cherishes his dog more than the lives of anybody else, a fact that he brutally shows by killing people without a second thought when he finds out that his dog has been dog-napped. Harrelson is used to playing some very eccentric characters, but none as crazy as this psychopath (see what I did there?). Aided by a fantastic script from writer/director Martin McDonagh (which shows up in the original screenplay category), Harrelson walks a fine balance between hysterical and evil that makes him a villain worth watching.

 

Bernie

Matthew McConaughey as District Attorney Danny Buck Davidson in, “Bernie.”

Killer Joe

Matthew McConaughey as Killer Joe Cooper in, “Killer Joe.”

Magic Mike

Matthew McConaughey as the owner of a male strip club, Dallas in, “Magic Mike.”

3. Matthew McConaughey, Bernie/Killer Joe/Magic Mike

Like Channing Tatum, this babe magnet has had one hell of a year. He made it on to my Best Supporting Actors list as well, but I put him in the Honorable Mentions there to let others just as deserving get their place to shine. So this is the one-stop shop for all Matthew McConaughey praise. Starring in three great films, McConaughey gets a lot of respect for showing his amazing range for three vastly different roles. In Bernie, he was the District Attorney who was villainized for just doing his job as he persecuted town-favorite mortician Bernie (Jack Black’s best performance possibly ever) for murder. In Killer Joe, he was a police detective who doubled as a contract killer named Killer Joe Cooper. In this NC-17 rated murder story, he did some pretty messed up stuff with a girl way too young for him and a particularly unsettling act with a chicken wing that is best left to the imagination. I cannot reiterate how messed up some of the stuff he did was. But damn what a great movie. Finally, in Magic Mike he played Dallas, the owner of the male strip club Xquisite, who turned out to be solely driven by greed and propelled by backstabbing. Three very different villains. Three excellent performances.

 

Django Unchained

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie in, “Django Unchained.”

2. Leonardo DiCaprio, Django Unchained

Considering the very nature of the setting of this story, the pre-Civil War South, anyone who owns a slave is going to be evil. To create a character that stands out during such a vile time in our American history, Leonardo DiCaprio had to sink pretty damn low to capture our attentions and hold us enthralled the way he did in Django. As much as I should have hated him, and I did, I just couldn’t help liking him so much. He was funny and charming, but unimaginably cruel as the owner of a plantation who also fights slaves to the death for sport. As Leo’s first villain role in a filmography chock-full of heartthrobs, hopefully we can expect to see more of the bad Leo in the near future.

 

Deadfall

Eric Bana as the criminal Addison in, “Deadfall.”

1. Eric Bana, Deadfall

While Bana’s performance may not be considered “award-worthy” in any other context, his evil turn as both a sadistic brother and trigger-happy criminal takes the cake for best villain. His two sides of the same coin personality leave you in suspense the whole film as to whether he will handle a situation as a Southern gentleman or crazed killer. He’s got some enjoyably dark dialogue that just slithers out of his Southern tongue, giving you a bit of the chills as you see the sinister purpose in his eyes. Unfortunately, the rest of the film falls far short of Bana’s terrific performance.

 

Honorable Mentions (alphabetized)

-Charlize Theron, Snow White and the Huntsman

-Dave DeHaan, Chronicle

-Jai Courtney, Jack Reacher

-Javier Bardem, Skyfall

-Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers

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