Wednesday, April 16, 2008

10 BEST HITMEN

10 best hitmen: why the screen loves a deadly assassin

From The Jackal to Nikita, the screen loves a deadly assassin. Kevin Maher gets the Top Ten movie hitmen in his sights:

Click on the name for video

Warning: some video clips may feature strong violence

It’s not the most obvious profession. Yet when the heroes of the new comedy thriller In Bruges – Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) – are introduced as hitmen we accept this completely. They go about their business, hiding out in the titular Belgian town after a botched kill. They drink beer, joke and meet women. And then, eventually, Ralph Fiennes arrives as Harry, the hitman-in-chief. And still, we never once say, ‘Hang on! How many hitmen are there in the world?’ This is because movies are so en-amoured by hitmen that, somehow, we are too. We love their deadly authority and their glamour, In short, we love the thrill of power.

PHILIP RAVEN
ALAN LADD
THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)
Ladd went from uncredited roles in studio pabulum to Alist stardom thanks to this one movie. The reason? He played a hitman, and with complete ferocity. His Raven is an unregenerate toughie who, in the midst of a Graham Greene adaptation about selling wartime poison gas secrets, has no compunction about shooting women (or beating them) as well as men, and casually murdering any witnesses to his hits, including cops.

However, studio morality of the time insisted that Raven be humanised, so he was given a fondness for cats and a back story that involved childhood beatings from his aunt. So, he’s fine then.

LEON
JEAN RENO
LEON (1994)
The years of murder and mysterious solitude have clearly taken their toll on Leon (Reno), a troubled assassin in New York. His best friend is a rubber plant and his pastimes include being bullied by 12-year-old orphan Matilda (Natalie Portman). He does, however, dispatch his victims with lethal efficiency and has been known to hang upside-down from the ceiling and let rip with an automatic weapon in each hand.

JEF COSTELLO
ALAIN DELON
LE SAMOURAI (1967)
Delon’s suave Costello set the standard. He lived alone with a pet songbird, was devoted to the teachings of The Book of Bushido (see Ghost Dog), and treated each contract with a seemingly blank passivity. His kill ratio, nonetheless, was pretty poor, and after a lone opening murder, he spent most of the movie on the run. The fedora and the trench-coat, however, screamed Parisian chic noir.

THE JACKAL
EDWARD FOX
THE DAY OF THE JACKAL In 1973
Fox brought some gentlemanly gravitas to the genre thanks to his aristocratic portrayal of the mastermind assassin with French President de Gaulle in his sights. Fox’s Jackal survives on fake passports, raffish charm and a specialised rifle that can explode a watermelon at 200 yards. That we know he fails from the start doesn’t matter. That we want him to succeed is more telling.

NIKITA
ANNE PARILLAUD
NIKITA (1990)
The totemic mother of all gun-toting distaff assassins to come, Parillaud’s Nikita was a post-punk revelation when she first hit our screens in Besson’s brilliantly preposterous Pygmalion redux. She began as a crazy-eyed heroin addict who was eventually transformed by Tcheky Karyo’s black ops Henry Higgins into a slinkily sexy killing machine. Her less dynamic boyfriend Marco (Jean-Hugues Anglade), typically, spent a lot of time whining outside bathrooms while she topped visiting dignitaries with a high-powered sniper rifle. She gave birth, figuratively speaking, to the latterday femme fatales of Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Underworld, Aeon Flux and TV’s Alias.

THE BRIDE
UMA THURMAN
KILL BILL From 2003
Thurman’s “The Bride” cut a bloody swath through the Kill Bill films, mostly clad in a yellow tracksuit once worn by Bruce Lee. She’s a jilted member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and, courtesy of the director Quentin Tarantino, a walking, high-kicking movie reference. Still, she demolishes 88 crazed mobsters, not to mention divesting Darryl Hannah’s rival of her remaining eye.

GHOST DOG
FOREST WHITAKER
GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI (1999)
Entering and exiting buildings unseen seems to be the greatest skill that Ghost Dog (Whitaker) can claim. Otherwise, the hero of Jim Jarmusch’s downbeat thriller is more comfortable hanging out with pigeons in his rooftop haven, reading from The Book of the Samurai, or talking nonsense with his best friend, a French-speaking ice-cream vendor.

ANTON CHIGURH
JAVIER BARDEM
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)
OK, so the hair is bad and the face implacable, and it’s not much of a boast to have introduced the word “Friendo” to the language. But Bardem’s killer, lifted by the Coen brothers from the pages of a Cormac McCarthy novel, is undoubtedly the genre’s most intimidating. A psychopath where other hitmen are conflicted, Chigurh has no internal processing, no angst and no regret. At most, he teases, asking, “What’s the most you ever lost on a coin toss?”

VINCENT
TOM CRUISE
COLLATERAL
Despite the greying hair, the shiny suit and the impromptu pop philosophy (“Improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man!”), there is something perfectly Cruise-like about the hitman Vincent in Michael Mann’s 2004 thriller. As he’s ferried around LA by a luckless cabbie, Max (Jamie Foxx), Vincent reveals a focus, and an intensity of purpose that, though very Cruise, is also, well, terrifying.

JEFFREY
CHOW YUN-FAT
THE KILLER (1989)
A soulful murder-poet with a penchant for double-gunned mid-air, slow-mo, ballistic mayhem, Chow’s Jeffrey is a hitman with style to spare. He accidentally blinded his girlfriend on his last job (she wandered into his line of fire – typical!), and now all he needs to do to earn enough money for a cornea transplant (I know, me neither) is take down the entire Hong Kong mafia without getting arrested by the dogged detective inspector Lee (Danny Lee). He uses a lot of bullets.

Thaks to entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/



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