Jules and Vincent. Mr. Orange and Mr. Blonde. The entirety of the Basterds. Jackie Brown and her company of male admirers. When one thinks of Quentin Tarantino and his compendium of motion picture badasses, these are the names that come to mind. These are the characters (and the actors who portrayed them) that Messageboard Nation swoons over, whom cinephiles dissect and fans foam over with memorized dialogue and exaggerated body art. Yet buried within each QT gem are a myriad of evocative individuals. Some get their major moment and then fade into the woodwork. Others operate on a level wholly separate from the onscreen scenarios, threatening to overwhelm the stars with their heft and substance and when viewed in total, they become as important as the players they are supporting.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a little aesthetic appreciation now and then, and with the arrival of a massive, 10 disc Blu-ray overview of Tarantino’s career (entitled Tarantino XX), perhaps it’s time to prop up those who fail to get the full faith and filmic credit they deserve. Remember, we are purposely avoiding The Bride, Marcellus and Mia Wallace, Louis Gara, Vernita Green, Elle Driver, the Bear Jew, Hans Landa, and Aldo Raine, just to name a few. While some may argue over a few of the choices (we’re looking at you, numbers 10, 4 and 2), we believe that they meet our imagined criteria — to wit, we would LOVE to see a movie made of their backstory. They are so compelling, so captivating in small batches that we can only imagine what a full length feature would find, beginning with this vehicular homicidal maniac:
Up until the moment they get their comeuppance, before he starts balling like a baby absent his bottle, this muscle car wielding weirdo with a proclivity for mauling females is a regular Tarantino treat. He’s got game and the patter to make it matter. He’s alluring without being alarming, and when he turns, it’s like a viper recharged with venom. So why is he so low on the list? Well, because of the crying jag. No true badass would beg for his life, or scream like a stuck wig when some girls start literally busting his chops.
Don’t remember him? Can’t recall this character? If I said “watch up the ass”, or perhaps, Christopher Walken in slightly less oddball mode, does that ring a bell? Sure, now you remember. This was the “intermission” moment in Tarantino’s breakthrough masterwork, a surreal monologue which has the always interesting actor recounting his time in a ‘Nam POW camp, the horrible bouts of disease and dysentery, and the promise to keep a family heirloom up his bum. For the intestinal fortitude alone — really — he deserves badass kudos. For keeping the promise to what appears to be a horribly unimpressed brat, he deserves much more.
He’s there for a moment, masked and ready to fight. Then he shrieks like a badass banshee and the rest of his legion, the Crazy 88s, come running. Later on, he does get a one-on-one battle with Uma Thurman’s Bride, but for the most part, Mo’s raison d’être is to provide martial arts legend Gordon Liu a place in Tarantino’s homage heavy home. As important to the entirety of Hong Kong action cinema as the other famous members of the Shaw Brothers-hood, this icon validates Tarantino’s chocie chop socky love letter. He’s also pretty good with a sword as well.
After falling in love with her as Thurman’s stunt slayer in Kill Bill (which is the focus of a fine documentary entitled Double Dare), Heir Auteur decided that Ms. Bell needed a starring role in his next feature. Playing a cheeky version of herself, Tarantino cast her as a performer who can’t wait to straddle the hood of a sweet ’70s muscle car. The resulting ride starts out scary enough. Then some nutjob with a vendetta shows up to cause some female fender bender chaos. Throughout the ensuing chase, Bell baffles physics by staying glued to that Detroit steel. Amazing.
True, he won’t tip, and he’s a pain the side of everyone who signed on for this supposedly simple jewelry store heist, but when the spit hits the can, whose thinking the calmest. Better yet, when Mr. Blonde is wielding his gun like a goon and Mr. Orange is bleeding out all over Mr. White, who figures out that it’s all a set-up? And makes sure the gems are safe and sound? Say what you want about his whiny weasel persona, but Mr. Pink is the only ‘Dog’ who knows what he’s doing. He’s the sole ‘professional’ amongst the anarchic ‘amateurs.’
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We know he’s a badass. After all, he impresses none other than King of the Badasses, Jules Winnfield. But there has got to be more than this passive problem solver. More than his revved up desire to drive fast. More than his knowledge of bathing rituals at the local lock-up. More than the massive roll of cash he carries around to help employer pal Marcellus Wallace “fix” things. Yet, with his damper demeanor and crazy quick wit, The Wolf is an enigma begging for an explanation. If there ever is a Vega Brothers film, here’s hoping the origins of this character are included.
Yes, she’s a main character. We know. Yes, she escapes capture by Hans Lando only to become responsible for the killing of every important high ranking member of the Third Reich (it’s her movie theater that she purposefully burns to the ground with the nasty Nazis inside). But when viewed alongside her Jew Hunter oppressor and the members of Aldo Raine’s amazing mercenaries, she appears as a pawn, a player of import cast aside by larger personalities. But make no mistake about it, Shoshanna is a badass. Only she could save the world through cinema.
As the henchgirl and personal bodyguard of assassin O-Ren Ishii, this disturbed little gal enjoys her job — perhaps, a bit too much. After all, with her school babe giggle and penchant for gore, she’s like every male fantasy made wholly and undeniably lethal. And look at her weapon of choice, a barbed wire ball on the end of a chain, one complete with a retractable saw blade? Yikes! While she doesn’t last long (thanks to a far more fatal Bride), Gogo gives good threat. Watching how she became a killer would be another excellent cinematic offshoot.
His hero moment comes early on, when he’s asked by the Basterds if he would like to join their cause. Of course, killing his onetime comrades is never in question, since no one wrongs Hugo Stiglitz. As deadly as they come and with a clear desire to kill, this German hating ex-Nazi is nasty plus. He’s also one of the few members of the group that doesn’t have a moral (read” religious) spin to his slaughter. He just likes to spill the blood of his superiors. With a look that can literally destroy, he’s the menace behind the Basterds’ main business.
He doesn’t carry a gun. He’s not part of the hold-up proper. He may be the mastermind of the entire enterprise, but there is something so unsettling about Big Joe that it’s hard to get a handle on. He’s clearly packing enough metaphysical heat to keep crazies like Mr. Blonde in line, but there is also a bruised brutality about his persona that reeks of smelly boxing gyms and gory alley fights. As essayed with gruff perfection by Laurence Tierney, Joe is a devise devil. One moment, he is relying on you to protect his criminal outfit. The next he’s giving you a “girly” nickname.