Tag Archives: john boorman

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Powers Boothe Performances

Powers Boothe was one of Hollywood’s most understated yet grittiest badasses, a powerful, stone voiced presence who could vividly bring many characters to life including cowboys, corrupt politicians, stern law enforcement officers and more, always with the kind of steely eyed, half smirk charisma that suggested he’s holding a couple cards close to his chest for a fiercely explosive element to the performance arc later on. Unfortunately he is no longer with us but the vivid impression he left with his multiple, varied and always intense portrayals lives on every day. Here are my top ten personal favourite performances!

10. Philip Marlowe in HBO’s Philip Marlowe: Private Eye

Many actors have taken a whack at playing this iconoclastic gumshoe, but Boothe’s turn remains the most charismatic, entertaining and also under the radar. This is kind of a long lost HBO miniseries that’s hard to find these days but his gruff, keen and dangerous version of Marlowe is a key touchstone of the man’s career.

9. Mace Ryan in Dwight H. Little’s Rapid Fire

Perhaps the crankiest big city narcotics task force commander that Chicago has ever seen, Ryan teams up with the late great Brandon Lee to viciously take down a heroin syndicate and fire as many guns as he can in the process. He’s loud, mean and always on edge here but underneath that bristled exterior there’s a warmth and strong moral compass that we see in his subtly paternal relationship with Lee’s character. I might add this is one of the most underrated martial arts/shoot out actioners of the 90’s.

8. Mayor Eo Jaxxon in Comedy Central’s Moonbeam City

Not many people paid attention to this short lived, balls out animated series but it’s a fucking gem. Basically like an Archer type cop show with that amazing 80’s neon pastel Miami Vice aesthetic that we all love, starring Rob Lowe as a cocky but ultimately dipshit big city cop. Boothe steals the goddamn show in one episode alone though as the brash, coke fuelled, megalomaniacal mayor. Sporting a crispy white suit and two snow leopards for pets, it’s the kind of voiceover performance that lets this mostly grave and serious actor have a fucking ton of fun and just be looney for a little while, he had a real untapped gift for comedy that was only really apparent in this role.

7. Curly Bill Brocius in George P. Cosmatos’ Tombstone

Nothing beats the sight of villainous Brocius stumbling out of of an opium den, drawing his revolvers and deliriously shooting civilians for the sheer hell of it. Or his deadpan, nonchalant “Well… bye!” sardonically sneered at Wyatt Earp and his gang. He’s admittedly overshadowed and outlived by Michael Biehn’s ferocious antagonist Johnny Ringo but still makes a hell of an impression.

6. Cy Tolliver in HBO’s Deadwood

Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen gets much of the accolades here and rightfully so but Boothe’s rival saloon kingpin is an evil snake whose perverse, complex and twisted relationship with his chief whore (Kim Dickens) is a powerfully compelling dynamic.

5. Sheriff Virgil Potter in Oliver Stone’s U Turn

All of the townsfolk in Superior, Arizona are nasty, secretive snakes, Powers’ scary local sheriff included. He spends much of the film intimidating Sean Penn, getting silly drunk on spirits and not a whole lot of actually enforcing the law. When the third act revelations begin to play out and the noirish twists come along there’s a terrifying, blind drunk ferocity to his work that remains some of the best in a large, prolific cast.

4. Corporal Charles Hardin in Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort

A well read, thinking man stuck in the military isn’t something you always expect to see in cinema every day but here he plays an educated Texan who is less than thrilled to be saddled with yokel fellow soldiers for a Louisiana National Guard training exercise that goes hellishly South. There’s a hard bitten nature to his resilience here as he and another survivor (Keith Carradine) in the unit do battle with dangerous Cajuns who know the terrain far better than them.

3. Senator Roark in Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City & Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

His monologue about power in the first film was a chilling picture of ultimate evil and corruption, and then in the second we got to see him actually act on all that for one of the most memorable and heinous comic book baddies ever written. Gravel voiced, power-mad beyond reason, narrow eyed and psychopathic to the bone, Powers makes this guy one arch villain for the ages.

2. Cash Bailey in Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice

The pimpest drug baron to ever wear a white suit and swig tequila, Cash is in a fierce turf war with childhood friend and Texas Ranger Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte) that erupts into bloody Peckinpah-esque madness. Boothe is slick, mean, magnetic, deftly verbose and creates one of the coolest, baddest dudes of action cinema here, whether he’s prophetically killing a scorpion or menacing his and Jack’s childhood sweetheart (Maria Conchita Alonso). What a character.

1. Bill Markham in John Boorman’s The Emerald Forest

Perhaps the most vulnerable and down to earth character he’s played, Bill is an industrial developer who loses his son at the edge of the vast Amazon rainforest, only to be reunited after a decades long search and the boy’s adoption into a Native tribe. He shows striking depth, compassion, determination and paternal instinct here, I love that Boorman cast him against type because he wound up giving what I consider to be a career best turn.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

-Nate Hill

Advertisements

John Boorman’s Exorcist II: The Heretic

Calling Exorcist 2: The Heretic a horror movie is a bit of a stretch, but anyways. The only heretics to be found here are the studio heads that green-lit this script and the nimrod who edited it. This is a an embarrassment to the power of the first film and a weird (not in a cool way), hectic, inexplicable piece of wanton disarray. I don’t usually give out and certainly never enjoy these lashings but this one knows good and well what it did and had it coming.

Directed by John Boorman (who also did the solid Deliverance and the masterful Emerald Forest so maybe we shouldn’t fault him entirely here), this sees a now teenage Regan McNeil (a now teenage but still baby faced Linda Blair) afflicted once again by that pesky demon, or sorta kinda. The Vatican wants answers as to what happened to their first two dudes and so they send an investigative priest (Richard Burton) who teams up with Regan and her psychiatrist (Louise Fletcher) to stir some shit up. This all runs parallel to an expansion on Father Merrin’s (Max Von Sydow) exploits in Africa battling the very same demon and I know it’s supposed to all make some sort of intrinsic sense but the thing feels like it was written on an etch-a-sketch and edited with a jackhammer.

So what actually works? Well the film looks great, from Regan’s aggressively postmodern penthouse apartment to the spooky crags and mud huts of Africa. The visual atmosphere is great and permeates everything. And what doesn’t work? Pretty much everything else, really. Blair doesn’t have the same magnetism she had as a kid and both her lines on the page and her delivery feel detached and flat. The great Ennio Morricone takes scoring detail but I’m not sure what he was on that day because what he comes up with here is… I dunno. Where atmospherics should have been employed he’s used a soundboard of wails, howls, hollers, hoots and other nondescript aural diarrhea to the point where it’s laughable and distracting. The hypnotism and African stuff sort of work in isolated fashion but in terms of tying a coherent story together they’re used in a completely nonsensical way and there’s just so many “huh?” moments in the plot. I’m not sure what went wrong here but I’m sure there’s a reasonable story behind the mess, perhaps one more interesting than the actual film itself. Probably, because I feel like doing taxes would be more interesting and less confusing than this thing. Stick to the classic first one or also excellent third instead.

-Nate Hill

John Boorman’s The Emerald Forest: A Review by Nate Hill

  
John Boorman’s The Emerald Forest is the kind of exotic, intoxicating, wildly adventurous, unbelievable and unforgettable film that comes along once in a decade, if that. These days this sort of film would be gilded to the hilt with unnecessary Cgi, a burden which filmmakers just can’t seem to free themselves from in this age. Back in 1985, they had to use what they had, filling every frame with on-location authenticity, genuine realism which prompts a feeling of wonder and sense of mysticism from the viewer, which any computer generated effort just cannot compete with (I will concede that this year’s The Jungle Book came up aces, so there are a few cutting edge exceptions). This film is quite the undertaking for both cast and crew, and one can see from scene to scene the monumental effort and passion that went into bringing this story alive. It’s also partly based on true events, adding to the resonance. Powers Boothe plays technical engineer Bill Markham, who is living with wife (Meg Foster) and two small children in Brazil, while he designs plans for a great river dam which will allow further development. One day, on a picnic at the edge of the rainforest, his son Tommy disappears, after spotting an elusive tribe of Natives. Gone with no trace but an arrow lodged in a nearby tree, Bill launches a search for his son that spans a decade, returning year after year to probe the vast, untamed jungle in hopes of somehow finding Tommy. Tommy, now a young man and played by the director’s son Charley Boorman, has been adopted and raised by the kindly tribe, known as ‘The Invisible People’ for they way they remain unseen as they move about their home in the forests. Tommy is very much one of them, taken up their customs and traditions, with nothing but vague memories of Bill in his dreams, which he doesn’t believe to have actually happened. One day in the hostile territory of ‘The Fierce People’, Tommy and Bill are reunited, Tommy taking his wounded father to his home village. Bill is heartbroken that his son is essentially no longer his, conflicted by the situation. Tommy has just entered his life as a man, taking a gorgeous wife (Dira Paes) from his village and starting a future. Trouble brews as The Fierce People threaten Tommy’s village, and their women, prompting him to seek Bill’s help. It’s interesting to see how a tribe who have had little to no contact with the outside world react to it, calling it ‘the dead world’ and referring to the developers as the Termite People who cut down the grandfather trees. The environmental message is never preachy, always feeling like a vital and important truth that is organic and unforced, emerging through the characters and their interactions. The Natives possess an innate spirituality and connection to the intangible which we have forgotten as progress alters us, still rooted deeply in forces beyond our 21st century comprehension. Boothe is deeply affecting in one of his best roles, a desperate father through and through, while also filling out the broad shoes of the wilderness adventurer he has become over the years. He fills his performance with pathos, longing and is the emotional soul of the piece. Boorman is spry and takes up the aura of Tommy well, mastering the complex linguistics and mannerisms of the tribe admirably. One of my favourite aspects of the film is its exquisite and moving score, the main theme evoking wild romanticism, old world secrets and the unending beauty of nature so well that one feels goosebumps as if we’re really there in that setting. Pure cinematic magic, a timeless story told without flaw or hitch, and a breathtaking piece of film.