Tag Archives: Michael Cimino

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Christopher Walken Performances

Whenever Christopher Walken shows up in a film you can practically feel the energy and interest go up in an audience, whether they know him by name and are studious of his massive career (raises hand) or they just remember that instantly recognizable face. Whether it’s a supporting role, cameo or star turn there’s something about his electric eyes, steady yet spooky voice and offhandedly eccentric mannerisms that make him something truly special. His career is an epic one that spans comedies, drama, musicals, stage plays, music videos (that Fatboy Slim dance marathon!!), a Bond movie, the odd horror flick and a good dose of obscure indies that I’ve always loved to hunt down. Here are my top ten personal favourites! Please share yours as well and enjoy:

10. Max Shreck in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns

With a shock of electric silver hair and a razor sharp pinstripe suit, Walken embodies monstrous corporate evil as Gotham’s most corrupt business tycoon. I’m not sure if Shreck was a villain that ever showed up in the comics or if he’s something Burton dreamed up for the film, but in any case he makes just as much of a morbid impression as Danny Devito’s Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman in the baddie department.

9. Gabriel in The Prophecy Trilogy

Walken takes a decidedly darker approach to the Angel Gabriel here, playing him as a rogue operative at war with god and his forces and engaged in casual genocide of the human race to both achieve his goal and simply prove a point. The cool thing about Walken as an actor is that most of his career finds him playing characters in crime dramas, comedies, real people in the real world, no matter how wacky they get. But he also has the deft versatility to pull off something otherworldly and supernatural too, as you can see by this moody, intense characterization that definitely suggests something out of this world.

8. The Headless Horseman in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow

I had to. Roger Ebert wrote in his review of this film:

“ Note: No power on earth could drag from me the identity of the unbilled actor who plays the Horseman when he has a head. But you will agree he is the only logical choice. “

Is that not the perfect summation? He looks positively animalistic here as the big bad in Burtons best and most underrated film, sporting rock star hair, teeth whittled down to points and a thunderous roar which is the only actual dialogue he ever has in the role. Walken is a lot of things but one that you could boil his complex essence down to is ‘both scary and funny.’ If there’s one role that reinforces that it’s this, he’s somehow legitimately terrifying and ridiculously hilarious in the same note. That takes skill and charisma.

7. Caesar The Exterminator in Gore Verbinski’s Mouse Hunt

There’s something in the way one observes a crazed Walken crawling along the floor adorned in a headlamp and tactical gear, tasting dried mouse droppings to learn the gender of his quarry. Only he could take a ten minute exterminator role intended as comic relief and turn it into the kind of bizarre, deranged performance art that steals an entire film. I’ll also add that the film overall including his presence is one of the most overlooked of the 90’s and a misunderstood dark comedy/fairy tale that was unfairly billed as a kids film and lost on many dismissive viewers. Time for re-evaluation.

6. Frank Abagnale Sr. in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can

A family man whose reckless decisions lead to a radically different lifestyle and a diminished self image, Walken nails both the fierce pride and detrimental flaws of this character while infusing a deep love for his wife and son. It’s a complex portrayal that despite being a sideline supporting character, fills the film with humanity and humility. Don’t even get me started on the “two mice fell into a bucket of cream monologue.”

5. Paul Rayburn in Tony Scott’s Man On Fire

Another performance filled with subtly sorrowful regret, Rayburn is an ex military man who shares a past connection with Denzel Washington’s John Creasy, and the two share several central scenes of mutual remorse and guilt that land hard. Walken is good at masking deep set emotion with a joke, cloudy half smile or idiosyncratic anecdote, but the intention burns bright beneath whatever deflection tactic he employs, and his work here is no exception.

4. Vincenzo Coccotti in Tony Scott’s True Romance

Like many actors in this film, Chris only gets one scene or so to strut his stuff, but the nasty verbal showdown with Dennis Hopper here is not only one of the most memorable of the film but of cinema itself. He’s an apex predator here, a sociopathic mafia don who’s used to getting his way and accustomed to nobody standing up to him. His simultaneously bemused and aghast reaction at essentially being owned by Hopper’s wily ex cop is something for the ages and provides the film with some it’s best humour and scariest violence. “You’re a cantaloupe!”

3. Brad Whitewood Sr. in James Foley’s At Close Range

Walken has portrayed a lot of villains, scumbags and less than desirable dudes but Brad takes the fucking cake. Leader of a rural band of small time thieves, he re-enters the lives of his two sons (Sean and Chris Penn) he left years earlier and from the moment they become involved with him nothing good comes of it. He’s charming and affable at first but when the heat shows up it becomes very clear this guy will kill anyone, including his own sons, to keep himself afloat. This is a mean, sad and bleak spirited film with a cold, ruthless central performance from Walken. But it’s worth it to observe just how far human nature can go into extremes that all of us hope we don’t ever have to encounter.

2. Nick in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter

One of several young men who go from life in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania to the horrors of the Viet Nam war, he brings all the subtleties of the world into his work here, showing how the darkness out there can smother someone’s soul to the point that they don’t even know who they are anymore. One of my favourite moments in Walken’s entire career is in this film, where a nurse in a military hospital asks him who he is and who to contact in this situation. The actor expertly but unobtrusively displays a quiet, confused and utterly devastating mental breakdown as the reality of what has happened to him sets in. It’s showcase Walken for how believable it is and one of the finest scenes he has ever crafted.

1. Frank White in Abel Ferrara’s King Of New York

The most introverted criminal kingpin ever to show up in cinema, Walken plays a recently paroled crime kingpin who’s ready to take back the territory he lost while in the slammer, with some help from his rambunctious crew headed up by a fearsomely unstable Laurence Fishburne. The performance I picked for top spot isn’t a weird one, a hyperactive comedic turn, a funny scary villain or anything that he’s outright known for. There’s something remarkably compelling and down to earth about Frank, something very ‘street.’ His name is fitting because that’s how he approaches both business and relationships: with a blunt, no nonsense and vaguely sadistic air. Ferrara directs one of the best NYC crime dramas ever made here, he and Walken make the moody final scene ring with unexpected, grim poetry.

-Nate Hill

Advertisements

Michael Cimino’s Desperate Hours: A Review by Nate Hill 

Michael Cimino’s Desperate Hours, despite only really being a servicable home invasion/hostage thriller, still has a lot of fun with it’s two leads, brash sociopath Mickey Rourke and even brasher estranged family man Anthony Hopkins. Based on a creaky old Humphrey Bogart film, Cimino obviously vamps up the violence and eroticism that simmers beneath it quite a bit, and when you have Rourke as your antagonist you know it’s not going to be anywhere near a relaxed affair. He plays Michael Bosworth,  a dangerous felon on the run with two other goons, his volatile brother (Elias Koteas) and another creepy lowlife (David Morse). He crashes into the home life of Tim Cornell (Anthony Hopkins) a boorish father visiting his wife (Mimi Rogers) and children. The film mainly takes place inside the house, as the creep factor rises along with the threat of blaring violence which we know will come, made all the more likely by the growing police presence outdoors, and the tensions of everyone involved, threatening to snap at any moment. Rourke walks a tightrope between amiable and unstable, a man sure of himself, who always gets his way, and is capable of bad, bad things if he feels he won’t. Hopkins plays Cornell as a man used to being in control, but his inability to hold his family together is made worse by the gang’s arrival, rubbing salt in an already festering wound. Cimino has a brawny style to his violence, a trademark that’s seemingly born of both De Palma and Peckinpah, rich bloody gun battles and accentuated slow motion death scenes. Most of the film is held back, but the flood gates do eventually open and action hounds will get what they came for. Watch for Lindsay Crouse, Kelly Lynch, Shawnee Smith, James Rebhorn and Dean Norris as well. Not groundbreaking in the least as far as thrillers are concerned, but still an entertaining little piece made memorable by Rourke and Cimino’s ever interesting pairing. 

Michael Cimino’s DESPERATE HOURS – A Review by Frank Mengarelli

DH 2

Remakes are rarely a good idea, particularly if you’re a semi defrocked filmmaker and your headliners are Mikey Rourke who’s self-infliction was becoming more rampant in the late 80’s and early 90’s and a pre-SILENCE OF THE LAMBS Anthony Hopkins who’s star was on the fade.  Back all of that up by remaking a seminal Bogart film and releasing it to critical annihilation and an uninterested box office and we are left with a film that doesn’t find its audience until decades later.

Michael Cimino’s DESPERATE HOURS is a remarkable film.  It’s angry and brooding, wonderfully shot by Doug Milsome, and features two fierce performances from Rourke and Hopkins.  Mickey Rourke gives one of the finest performances of his career as Michael Bosworth whose freakishly high IQ wrapped along with his sociopathic tendencies makes for a fantastic villain and a very showy performance from Rourke.

Rourke is an escaped murderer on the lamb, he holds up in Hopkins’ house, where his family gets held captive by Rourke and his two lackeys.  Hopkins slowly pits Rourke’s paranoia and anxiety against him and his crew, slowly manipulating and faking them out at every turn.  Seeing Rourke and Hopkins go head to head in a fight between alpha males is worth the price of admission alone.

We all know about the rise and fall of Michael Cimino, and while the tide has completely turned on HEAVEN’S GATE, Cimino’s back catalog is more than deserving of being revisited.   DESPERATE HOURS isn’t a perfect film, but for anyone who loves dark and brooding films, this film is perfect for you.

Michael Cimino’s Year Of The Dragon: A Review by Nate Hill

image

Michael Cimino’s Year Of The Dragon is a visceral blast of pure Americana as only the man could bring us. It kills me that he suffered through that whole Heaven’s Gate fiasco (which is actually a really good movie, but that’s another story and argument entirely) because it extinguished any hopes of him making future films, and in doing so the studios effectively committed genocide against their own. Sure the guy was crazy as hell, but damn could he ever make a great film. This one is one of the most criminally overlooked cop flicks of all time, partly due to Cimino’s scorching direction and partly due to a a performance of monolithic grittiness from Mickey Rourke as Captain Stanley White, the cop who won’t stop. White is fresh out of Nam and mad as hell, launching a unilateral crusade of racist violence and self righteous fury against the Chinese crime syndicate in New York City, particularly a young upstart in their organization named Joey Thai (John Lone). Thai is as ruthless as White is determind, and the two clash in ugly spectacle, causing leagues of collateral damage on either side and inciting them both to roar towards an inevitable, bloody conclusion. Thai’s elderly superiors warn him of men like White, men who are fuelled purely by anger, bitterness and nothing else, smelling the fire and brimstone in the air and wisely stepping out of the way. Thai is of a younger, more petulant generation and foolishly decides to meet the beast head on by essentially kicking the hornet’s nest. White is warned by his caring wife (Caroline Kava) and fellow cop and friend Lou (Raymond J. Barry is excellent, firing Rourke up further with his work) not to mess with such a dangerous crowd. He has a volatile relationship with a beautiful Chinese American reporter (Arianne is the only weak link in the acting chain) who puts herself on the line for him by digging around in dangerous corners. The intensity level of this film is something straight from the adrenal gland; even in episodic scenes of introspect we feel the hum of the character’s emotions, and when the conflict starts again, which it does in fast and furious amounts, the actors are simply in overdrive. Rourke has never been better than he was in the 80’s, it was just his zenith of power. This isn’t a role that gets a lot of recognition, but along with Angel Heart, Rumble Fish and Pope Of Greenwich Village, I think it’s his best. He puts so much of himself into Stanley White that the edges which separate performer from performance begin to blur and waver, until we are locked into his work on a level that goes beyond passive consumption of art and elicits something reflective in us. Not to sound too hippie dippy about it, but the guy is just that fucking good. On the calmer side of the coin, John Lone brings both evil and elegance to Joey, a slick surface charm that’s constantly disturbed by Rourke’s hostility, leading to an eventual meltdown that’s very cool to see in Lone’s expert hands. This is one for the ages and should be in the same pantheon with all timers like Heat, Serpico, The French Connection and others. Rourke fires on all cylinders, as do his colleagues of the craft, and Cimino sits cackling at the switchboard with a mad calm, yanking all the right levers in a frenzy of unhinged genius. Not to be missed.

JOHN IRVIN’S THE DOGS OF WAR — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

2

John Irvin’s take-no-shit war drama The Dogs of War is the sort of action picture rarely made these days — unsentimental, lean, and thoroughly engrossing (David Ayer’s underrated Fury feels cut from the same cloth, as do portions of Antoine Fuqua’s compromised Tears of the Sun). Gritty, violent, masculine, and shot with rugged panache by director of photography Jack Cardiff, this 1980 mercenary adventure has received the Blu-ray treatment from the fine folks at Twilight Time DVD Label and if you’re a fan of unpretentious, straight ahead war films, then check this one out. Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger deliver intense and extremely effective performances, with a surly and gruff supporting cast which included Colin Blakely, Hugh Millais, and Ed O’neil. Irvin would later direct the outstanding Vietnam film Hamburger Hill, 80’s classic Raw Deal, and the underrated Michael Caine thriller Shiner. According to the internet, Michael Cimino did a re-write on Gary DeVore and George Malko’s terse and disciplined script. The opening action sequence, which plunges the viewer into the middle a full scale Central American war-zone, is outstanding, especially for the days of zero CGI, with all sorts of for-real pyrotechnics and incredible stunt-work. The final act is essentially a battle, with some ridiculous fire-power on display. Geoffrey Burgon’s pulse-pounding score was more than up to the task. This is one of those excellent films that may have snuck through the cracks that’s totally worth re-discovering.

1