Tag Archives: michael massee

Actor’s Spotlight: Nate’s Top Ten Michael Massee Performances

Not too many people remember or could name a lot films in Michael Massee’s career, but to me he was always an electrifying, charismatic and often quite scary character actor accustomed to villains, tough guys and supernaturally malevolent roles throughout his varied career. With sad, cold eyes, gaunt frame and a voice that seemed to both annunciate clearly and blur mercurially with his mannerisms, he always stood out no matter the role. Here are my top ten personal favourite of his performances!

10. Leroux in Sahara

This African set war film is a remake of an old Humphrey Bogart picture and sees tank commander Jim Belushi leading troops through a desert gauntlet of fierce combat. It’s a serviceable TV movie and Michael steals scenes believably playing a French soldier who joins forces with them and turns on the charm even when things get tough.

9. Jacob Dawes in Criminal Minds

A vicious, manipulative serial killer who sits on death row giving everyone the crazy eyes, Jacob is not only responsible for murder but for corrupting an innocent woman and convincing her to join him in the atrocities. Michael makes this one episode arc count with sinister magnetism.

8. Casey Steele in CSI: NY

Casey is a mysterious and sadistic trucker who is transporting several kidnapped women in his rig across many state lines, likely for human trafficking. Michael gives him a sardonic edge and just the right amount of dark humour. When apprehended and in custody instead of talking he just curtly tells the cops: “If you gentlemen are done here I’d like to go to prison now.” That line delivery is note perfect.

7. D. Gibbons/Dyson Frost in FlashForward

This excellent and painfully short lived show saw the entire world experience a collective metaphysical phenomenon and try to deal with the aftermath as well as all the mysteries it brings about. Frost is one of those mysteries, an elusive scientist of dark proclivities out for nefarious ends and appearing here and there like an evil force of nature. Massee gets a solid arc here as basically the show’s main baddie and proves a force to be reckoned with.

6. Andy in David Lynch’s Lost Highway

Lynch’s trippy psychological shocker is chock full of fascinating personalities including Marilyn Manson, Gary Busey and a terrifying Robert Blake in his final acting role. Michael’s Andy is a sleazy socialite who hosts weird cult parties and, like most characters that Bill Pullman’s protagonist comes across, perpetually seems to be keeping some kinky secrets to go along with that unsettling pencil thin moustache.

5. Man In Massage Parlour Booth in David Fincher’s Seven

Another dark film full of interesting cameos, Michael plays clerk at essentially a brothel where one of the film’s central murder set pieces occurs. When asked cynically by Brad Pitt’s detective if he enjoys his work and likes what he has to watch happen there every day he replies “No, I don’t. But that’s life.” It’s a minuscule portion of dialogue but Michael gives it all the gravity, sorrow and resolute melancholy in the world.

4. Gustav Fiers/The Gentleman/Man In The Shadows in The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I’m not really familiar with Fiers as a villain in the comics but her he’s essentially a shadowy figure who manipulates Norman Osborn (Chris Cooper) for unseen purposes and hovers over the events of these two films like a dark entity, actually ending up being the most effective antagonist in either entry, as most of the other efforts are pretty silly. Michael gives him a ghostly noirish vibe and gets the spotlight in the first film’s tantalizing post credits scene.

3. Lucius Belyakov in HBO’s Carnivale

This is a tricky role and it doesn’t belong entirely to him but he’s basically a Russian soldier who serves as avatar for darkness in this show’s complex, slowly revealed mythology. Michael doesn’t speak a word here (the role is later given the voice of Linda Hunt, of all people) but the sight of him spectrally hunting down a wild bear in a smoky battlefield is pretty haunting, as are the surreal dream sequences where he stares menacingly at his adversary Scudder (John Savage).

2. Isiah Haden in Revelations

This miniseries sees him play a maniacal prophet of doom heralding the apocalypse while a priest (Bill Pullman) and a nun (Natascha McElhone) investigate both his claims and his sanity. Michael often reined it in for quieter portraits of evil but he lets it fucking rip and goes absolutely ballistic here, all fire, brimstone and biblical fury. It’s also one of his largest roles in a career spent mostly in fringe supporting appearances.

1. Ira Gaines in 24

Gaines is a sterling badass psychopathic bastard and straight up my favourite villain that Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer has ever done battle with. He isn’t even a top tier baddie either, he’s one of the early season middle men that is clearly working for someone else (as is always tradition with 24) but there’s something about how cold, nasty and calibrated his operation is that sticks with you. He orders countless people killed and when one of his henchman asks where to bury one he hisses back “In the ground.” When Jack eventually corners and has the drop on him he calmly wishes him “good luck” and casually goes for his gun without hesitation. He was a beast of a villain played expertly by Michael and the show has never matched that level of icy malevolence since.

-Nate Hill

David Lynch’s Lost Highway

High beams pierce a nocturnal interstate as David Bowie’s ‘I’m Deranged’ eerily cuts through a still night and we realize that David Lynch’s Lost Highway isn’t going to be your average road trip, let alone overall viewing experience. This is a fuzzy, feverish portrait of a fractured mind attempting to make sense of extremely distressing circumstances that are both alienating and possibly self inflicted. Lynch is always keen on probing the murky cerebral waters which border on potentially paranormal occurrences, and the often frustrating line, or lack thereof, which is drawn in, around and between these two aspects. Psychological terror, ambiguous scenes that leave you scratching your head once you’ve caught your breath, identity crisis, elliptical narratives that leave us haunted and wanting more are all tools in his bag, ones he’s employed countless times throughout his monolithic career. Usually he implements that in an esoteric, earthy way, but there’s something cold, clinical and unsettlingly voyeuristic about this that somewhat separates it from a lot of other stuff he’s done. The term ‘Lynchian’ in itself has become its own genre, there’s no debating that anymore. It’s usually within this self made realm that he explores, but it’s almost like with this one he went in with a mindset to play around with a sordid, almost De Palma-esque style of genre, and then inject it with his trademark eerie weirdness, in this case to great effect.

Bill Pullman stars as jazz trumpet player Fred, spending his nights belting out unnerving solos in smoky clubs. Pullman is an all American prototype, seen in a lot of generic, regular Joe roles. Observing him venture into sketchy material is jarring and super effective (see his career best work in David’s daughter Jen Lynch’s Surveillance for an even better example of this). He and his gorgeous wife Alice (Patricia Arquette) wake up one ominous morning to discover a packaged video tape on their doorstep, the contents of which show someone breaking into their house and filming them while they sleep. They feel both horrified and violated, and call the police who prove to be just south of useful. From there things get terrifically weird. Fred attends a party where he meets the Mystery Man (Robert Blake) who plays a mean spirited magic trick on him that will have your skin crawling out the door. This was one of Blake’s last two roles before the unfortunate incident that cut his career painfully short, but he’s perfect for Lynch’s stable and eats up the frames he inhabits, a pasty faced ghoul with beady black jewel eyes and a piercing laugh that will stain your dreams. Before he knows it, Fred wakes up and is accused for his own wife’s murder, whisked away to a dank death row cell, plummeting the film into a new segment, Lynch’s way of letting us know this isn’t going to be an easy watch.

Fred wakes up sometime later… And isn’t Fred anymore. He’s a young dude with amnesia who’s been missing for a while, played by the edgy Balthazar Getty. It’s a stark narrative left turn, a stinging reminder that from there on in, we’re in for some nasty antics with no light at the end of the tunnel. Getty is released from prison, since he’s not Pullman who they arrested to begin with. From there he gets entangled in one hot mess involving a volatile gangster porno king (Robert Loggia), his seductive wife (also Patricia Arquette) and the ever present Mystery Man who lurks over both planes of the film’s narrative like a malicious puppeteer. I’m trying to be deliberately vague about the plot (lord knows Lynch did as well), both to not spoil any surprises for you, and partly because after many viewings, I’m still not sure exactly what it means for myself. It’s a great big clusterfuck of extremely disturbing sequences, surreal passages of auditory and visual madness and a frothing undercurrent of atmosphere that constantly pulls on your sleeve to remind you that something is terribly wrong, but never gives you the solace of telling you what that something is. Traumatic viewing to say the least.

Lynch assembles an extraterrestrial supporting cast including Michael Massee, Jack Nance, Natasha Gregson Warner, Marilyn Manson, Henry Rollins, Mink Stole, Jack Kehler, Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Pryor and the one and only Gary Busey (when Gary is one of the calmest, sanest people in your film you know you’ve driven off the cliff). Some highlights for me are anything to do with Blake’s paralyzing spectre of a character who is one of the best Lynch creations ever, Loggia intimidating an obnoxious driver is priceless and the closest the film gets to comedy, and the final twenty minutes where the lines of reality, fantasy and the jagged planes of perception within the characters minds collide, providing us with a creepy non-resolution, part of what makes the entire show so memorable and affecting. A classic that begs countless revisits before it can fully cast all aspects of its spell on you, and one of Lynch’s unsung best.

-Nate Hill

Corky Romano

Call me crazy but after finally daring to watch it, I can’t say I’m one of the many people who think that Corky Romano is one of the worst films ever made. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid fucking toilet destroying turd of a film, thoroughly shitty no doubt, and yet… I laughed. A lot. I’m still trying to figure out if the laughs were ironic, genuine or spurred on by the eight plus beers in my system, but irregardless, I can’t say it wasn’t a good time. Chris Kattan is one of those actors like Rob Schneider, Seth Green or David Spade who are in what I call the ‘mosquito category.’ They can’t act, they’re not really that funny and they seem to exist for no reason other than to buzz around like vermin. As twitchy, dysfunctional mafia brat Corky Romano, Kattan is admittedly his annoying self but he nails a few laughs nicely, and lands one big one spectacularly involving cocaine and schoolchildren. His mobster dad (Peter Falk and his loopy eyes) is about to be testified against by a mysterious informant, so his two volatile brothers (Chris Penn and Peter Berg) and uncle (Fred Ward, slumming it and loving it) hatch a cockamamie plan to send him in to the Bureau as a fake Fed and destroy evidence. If you’re wondering why, or how this is a good plan, don’t bother. The film’s haphazard script is like several post-it notes drunkenly stuck on a fridge, and instead of coherency in plot we get an insane parade of slapstick shenanigans and situational comedy masquerading as a story. Saddled with a stern FBI boss (Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree), a foxy partner (Vinessa Shaw) and jealous bureau cohorts, it’s a laundry list of fuckups, arbitrary car chases, third grade level humour and unapologetic what-have-ya. This came out in 2001 and it’s funny to see how much times have changed and people’s tolerance for certain types of humour have dried up, they use words and scenarios here that would have the film swiftly boycotted these days, but it’s refreshing to watch older films where they didn’t have to tiptoe on eggshells quite as much. What else is there to say, really? This is a wantonly childish display of bottom feeding comedy, and the immature man-child in me found it to be a fucking laugh riot. Uneven, sure. All over the place, definitely. But funny as all hell in fits and starts.

-Nate Hill

ABC’s FlashForward: here in a flash of brilliance and gone after one season 


ABC’s Flashforwad was a gripping psychological/supernatural epic with potential to run many seasons and provide us with solid entertainment for a long time a lá Lost (which it bears some similarities with), but the network mysteriously axed it after a single season, leaving a vacuum in the air as far as it’s story, and many viewers left stranded, wanting more. The show was built around a wicked concept: one day, every human being on planet earth simultaneously blacks out for a few minutes, and in that time has a precognitive vision of the future some months away from their present time, then promptly wakes up. This of course causes sheer chaos all over the globe, initially with millions of car crashes, disasters and planes falling out of the sky, and eventually the uncertainty, paranoia and confusion as to just what these flash-forwards are all about, and if it will happen again. An FBI task force spearheaded by the likes of Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B. Vance is commissioned to investigate the matter, and their mission takes them to some truly weird places, both geographically and thematically. There’s strange forces at work with this one, secrets that are kept close to the chest and gradually doled out over the expansive twenty three episode arc, a great length of run that should really be the standard for television. It’s similar to Lost in the sense that every week the mystery deepened as opposed to circling a resolution, clues and questions piled on top of the previous ones without a hint of finality or exposition to light the way, an audience tested, surefire way to keep people from flipping the channels mid episode and a great of garnering new viewers via word of mouth. The trick is to also add rhyme and reason to your bag of mysteries, provide a modicum of answers to keep the frustration just at bay, a formula which this one actually succeeds better at than Lost ever did. The scope and budget here are both enormous, giving new meaning to both the terms ‘globetrotting’ and ‘ensemble piece’, a truly vast attempt at long form storytelling. The cast is eclectic, other leads including John Cho as another hard-nosed Fed, Zachary Knighton as a doctor whose life is perhaps affected most by the incident, and brilliant turns from Jack Davenport, Sonya Walger, Peyton List, Dominic Monaghan, Brian F. O’Byrne and the late Michael Massee as nefarious, shadowy ultra-villain Dyson Frost, who serves as a sort of mcguffin during the first act of the show. Guest arcs included James Remar, Thomas Kretschmann, Rachel Roberts, Gabrielle Union, Shohreh Ahgdashloo, Annabeth Gish, Callum Keith Rennie, James Frain, Peter Coyote as the US President and so many more. The show looks amazing too, a brightly lit, well oiled mystery machine with all sorts of storytelling wizardry including nifty slow motion musical montages, trippy time jumps, non linear what-have-you and all manner of neat stuff. Gone way, way before it’s time, this one is well worth a watch and shouldn’t have been written off so soon. And remember: D. Gibbons is a bad man. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Mojave Moon


Before Angelina Jolie blew up front and centre, she got her start in some wild and wacky b movies and genre stuff, the weirdest of which has to be Mojave Moon. It’s one of those low rent flicks where not much of anything happens, the characters meander in and out of a non-story and almost everyone is completely nuts. ‘B movie dramedy’ I suppose would be the specific sub-genre. The ‘story’, as it were, follows drifter Al (Danny Aiello), who meets pretty young Ellie (Jolie) in a diner and hitches a ride out to the desert for seemingly no reason at all. As Ellie takes a shine to him, he begins to fall for her mother (Anne Archer). Only problem is, her mom has a boyfriend played by Michael Biehn who is quite possibly one of the weirdest characters I’ve ever seen in a film. Volatile, berserkly unstable and constantly in near hysteria mode, it’s an odd performance that off-sets the quirky tone straight into the twilight zone. That seems to be the idea here though, the dreamy desert climate having a strange effect on these folks, causing all kinds of outrageous behaviour and scenarios. The town offers a rogue’s gallery of characters including Michael Berryman, Alfred Molina, Jack Noseworthy, Peter Macnicol, John Getz, Michael Massee and others, all of whom don’t really do much other than show up, act weird for a bit and then wander off again. I like this type of film though, purposeless other than to languish about with characters who don’t want much, their arcs sputtering in a flatline of small town doldrums and behaviour that only makes sense to them. It’s not for everyone, which is why no one really gives credit to this stuff, but it’s enjoyable once in a while, when you’re in as strange a mood as the residents of this one horse sideshow of a town. 

-Nate Hill