5 - 1
Smart, savage, and still unsure about how he became so, our walking wounded amnesiac with a skill at keeping several steps ahead of those who’d want to silence him forever sits in the center of our list for only one reason - the often implausible way in which he gets himself out of jam after jam. Indeed, when push comes to shove, Jason B. seems forever capable of finding the only loophole in the otherwise fail safe scenario. Thanks to the performance of Matt Damon, such coincidental conveniences become all the easier to believe. His combination of wholesomeness and reckless violent disregard gives us plenty to root for.
He’s a “cleaner” by trade, a lonely man living a solitary life in service of a local Italian kingpin. Aside from a wilting houseplant and the buzz of his TV screen, this ‘professional’ has little to get excited about. But when a rogue federal agent kills the family of a young girl, our unlikely hero takes her under his wing and shows her the ropes of revenge. Reno, a famous face in his French homeland, announced his presence to American audience thanks to this beloved Luc Besson effort. When DVD delivered a definitive cut of the film, the power in the actor’s performance was made all the more clear.
As the title entity, a jazz loving (and playing) assassin with a soul as deep as his killing skill, he’s almost heroic. As with many stories like this, there is a cop on his tail, as well as a girl whose blindness was a direct result of his actions. The need for money (for some experimental surgery) and the call of his career choice bring our pro to a choice church stand-off, one of the best firefight sequences ever committed to celluloid. This was the movie that introduced John Woo to Western genre fans, as well as highlighting the work of his favorite leading man. Along with Hard-Boiled, this remains one of the best foreign action films of the era.
With his bowl meets Beatles haircut and unusual speaking style, you’d never guess that this was one of the most merciless and maniacal murderers ever. With a laser like focus to recapture a cache of drug money and a pneumatic bolt pistol in hand, he is indeed walking death. As played by Spanish stud Bardem, the Coen Brothers took a risk. With his matinee idol looks and sturdy sexual appeal, there had to be a pretty amazing performance given to capture the cruelty in Chigurh’s calculated cruelty. The actor delivered, and was rewarded with a well-deserved Oscar for his efforts.
As partners in crime and pals in most predicaments, this delightful duo making whacking people seem almost poetic. Jules, in particular, enjoys serenading his targets with a bravura Bible quote while Vincent numbs the pain with heroin. Granted, they aren’t the greatest at making sure they leave a scene unscathed (just as the fixer, Winston Wolf) but they manage to get the job done. As personified by an equally winning pair of actors, the comic killers here turned Tarantino’s love letter to crime into a mix of post-modern critique and cinematic memento. You’ll never look at a milkshake, or a car’s backseat, the same way again.