by David Christopher Bell
Sometimes a person just doesn’t get along. In films, it can be the other characters that don’t mesh, or sometimes it’s the audience themselves who just can’t stand a single idiot character that won’t go away. I believe the term is “Jar-Jaring” or, if you’re referring to television, “pulling a Lori.”
Last year I gave you a pretty okay list of characters that achieved excellent redemptions for their wrongdoings. Today I want to explore those who did not. These are the asshole characters that tried and failed, or simply didn’t try at all.
12. Dr. McCallister in Deep Blue Sea
Susan McCallister is supposed to come across as passionate about her work with sharks – therefore justifying the decisions she makes along the course of the film. Instead she just comes off as a selfish sociopath, opting right away to save a giant-brained shark from shotgun death despite it biting a guy’s arm off. After that she continually defends the ridiculous plan of making sharks super-smart in the middle of the ocean in a underwater observatory that can apparently be destroyed by a small metallic gurney. Not to mention that they appear to be keeping all their flammables huddled together on the surface deck.
Her demise is an honest-to-god attempt at redemption, jumping into the water to distract the last killer shark from escaping into the ocean through the flimsy-ass fence they decided to put up. However, she also causes the hero shark wrangler to jump in the water. At least she got eaten.
The Low Point: Risking her life in the midst of the action to retrieve her research.
11. Carl Denham in King Kong (1933, 1976 and 2005)
“It was beauty killed the beast”? Seriously, Carl? You shipped the thing to New York and put it on display – and you’re blaming the blonde chick?
And that’s the story of Carl Denham. A man who continually deflects any and all blame away from himself. He illegally drags a camera crew to the middle of the ocean because of some half-assed map he bought from lord knows where, stumbles upon an island of enlarged beasts and decides, “Hey – let’s explore!”
After half of his crew has been consumed by nightmares, he then somehow convinces the few living to actually capture and bring home the biggest nightmare of them all. Now that’s he has the big angry death ball in a nice big populated area, he apparently opts for discount ape shackles – and it’s all death and destruction from there. And he has the balls to pin it all on some actress? Carl, man – how are you not in handcuffs at the end of this film?
The Low Point: Bringing the giant monster monkey back to NYC after watching it kill half his crew.
10. Stephen Meyers in The Ides of March
To be fair, it’s uncertain whether or not Stephen actually makes any sort of confession at the end of the film. The ending implies a level of ambiguity – however even if he were to attempt any kind of redemption, he already made himself a grade-A champion in our book of assholes.
Failing to pick a lady up after her abortion is not only wildly inconsiderate, but probably a deal-breaker in terms of any romantic interest – and that’s putting it, you know, lightly. Really his only saving grace is that he’s Ryan Gosling. However, those cerulean blue oculars only get you so far up the ladder, especially when you’re engaged in a charm-off with George Clooney’s chestnut brown panty-droppers. I forget where I was going with all of this…
Anyway. Politics bad, or something.
The Low Point: Using a girl’s suicide to boost his political career.
9. Grandma Ruth in Dante’s Peak
Good god does she suck. Okay – firstly, thinking that a freaking volcano won’t erupt because it hasn’t erupted before is child-stupid. Actually it’s worse than child-stupid, because even the children in this movie understand basic geology better than Grandma Ruth, who stubbornly refuses to leave her shitty log cabin despite a volcanologist flat out telling her that the freaking volcano she lives under is about to erupt. It’s is like an oncologist telling a chain smoker they have lung cancer and the chain smoker refusing the diagnosis under the evidence that they “never had lung cancer before.”
From there it’s a straight-shot to Burdentown as the kids have to go force Granny out of her cabin at the zero-hour, pretty much causing EVERYTHING that happens in the film. And even when they find her, it LITERALLY takes LAVA COMING INTO HER HOUSE to get her to finally move. Freaking idiot.
You could say that she redeemed herself by jumping into that acid lake, but considering that they were like yards away from the dock she probably just made it all worse by giving them one more problem – burnt grandma. In the end she dies, which was what should have happened in the first place while James Bond and Sarah Connor got busy in some emergency shelter miles away.
The Low Point: Failing to understand how nature works.
8. Micah in Paranormal Activity
It’s impossible to imagine a world where someone willingly married Micah. No doubt he filmed the whole thing, starting from the proposal where he got on one knee and called God a “piece of shit” while holding the ring that Katie specifically asked him not to buy. Honestly this is the only film where you root for the duck-footed invisible hell monster over the young couple. After all – if you had to live with that guy you’d be slamming doors and screaming in the middle of the night too.
And the catch is that he stays that way throughout the entire film. There isn’t even a second where Micah stops and thinks, “maybe all this demon taunting and Ouija Board purchasing isn’t actually helping the situation… perhaps I should also put down this camera.”
The Low Point: Throwing a cross in a fire – because that’s clearly going to hurt a demon.
7. Robert Angier in The Prestige
I understand you are sad about the passing of your wife, Wolverine, but starting a magician rivalry is hardly a way to grieve properly. Also – did it occur to you that you only needed one clone to perform a transportation trick? It would have been easier than trying to hide dozens of drowned doppelgänger crates, right? Whatever dude.
This is a great film – but no one in it is very likable. Then again, magicians aren’t very likable. The grand jerkass moment is when Robert visits an incarcerated Christian Bale toting Bale’s lovable daughter that he has now adopted. Did I mention that Bale’s been incarcerated for Angier’s death? Basically the simple professional rivalry explodes to murder and kidnapping at the fault of Angier – who pretty much ramped it all to 11 the moment he started killing clones for some reason.
In the end, there is some justice but no redemption. Also the slow realization that when Bale’s character says he “honestly doesn’t know” which knot he tied during Angier’s wife’s death, dude ain’t lying. Fucking amazing.
The Low Point: Sending a man to the gallows… over a magic trick.
6. Randy “The Ram” Robinson in The Wrestler
Gonna go out on a limb here and say that Mickey Rourke should have won the Academy Award instead of Sean Penn. Hell, Penn even used part of his speech to remark how amazing Rourke was in this role.
I was unsure where to put this on the list, because unlike the rest of the list this is the only character that you really, really want to see redeemed for his faults. Randy truly means well, but knows only one life path. His passion weighs so heavy that it can not be balanced with a healthy lifestyle.
Like a true Aronofsky film it’s about a person’s personal addictions and obsessions besting them until they’ve sacrificed everything in their lives – most likely culminating with their dramatic demise, or at least a drill to the head.
The Low Point: Missing dinner with his estranged daughter.
5. Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood
There’s no denying that Mr. Plainview is rage-awesome in this film. Like the Terminator, he probably only sees the color red wherever he goes. If a waiter brings him a Dr. Pepper instead of a Root Beer he probably drags him outside and tries to drown him in a puddle. That’s just how he rolls, and you best recognize.
Fun fact: If you shave off Daniel Plainview’s mustache he loses all of his powers. Of course he’ll kill you before you can even plug in the clippers.
While this guy is certainly fun to watch – that fun would quickly extinguish if you actually had to interact with the guy. Pretty much everyone within his personal range is, at best, emotionally broken. Worst-case involves a mop.
The Low Point: Being a terrible bowler.
4. Hud Bannon in Hud
“You don’t respect nothing. You keep no check on your appetites at all. You live just for yourself. And that makes you not fit to live with.”
— Homer Bannon
Hud is the most you’ll ever hate Paul Newman, which is saying a lot considering that the man emanated charisma his entire life. But in this case the charm is what helps to hurt. Through the course of the film, Hud’s nephew Lonnie watches on with a gradually diminishing admiration for his uncle – one that eventually turns to match the exact same distaste Hud’s father has for him as well.
The speedy transition from approbation to downright hatred, while jarring, is clearly a just one as Hud proves to live up to his father’s every word about him – never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity of redemption. In the end, Hud is left alone on his empty and penniless cattle ranch, watching Lonnie leave with a dismissive wave of his hand. Paul Newman’s the man.
The Low Point: Drunkenly forcing himself on his housekeeper Alma. A close second would be almost making his nephew run over his father, as well as driving every single person he ever knew away from him. In fact, that stuff might be worse; at least he gives a half-assed apology to the housekeeper.
3. Chris Wilton in Match Point
Anyone walking into this film expecting your usual Woody Allen experience is going to be met with a hilarious surprise. Don’t get me wrong – the film was great, but not something to bring your grandma to unless she likes watching shotgun murder.
It’s an incredible turn of events when our main character is faced with the unwanted pregnancy of a woman he secretly knocked up on the side and, in a dick act fit for a king, decides to take the low road and just shoot her dead. He makes it look like a botched robbery, and actually gets away with it.
In fact – Chris shows zero remorse while his professional and personal life becomes everything he ever wanted it to be. And in the end, the only lesson is that if you’re rich and handsome you can do anything you want.
The Low Point: Shooting the woman he got pregnant in order to cover it up.
2. David in Shaun of the Dead
Anyone who’s seen Black Books knows that it’s a damn shame that Dylan Moran is almost solely associated with his triumphant assholery as David in Shaun of the Dead. However you can’t blame a guy for doing a good job, and boy did Moran do this prick justice.
David spends the entire film being a big lump of crap, only to start actively inciting rage in his whining as he pushes the issue of Shaun’s zombified mother. On top of it he plays the perfect disapproving friend-zoned anchor weighing poor Shaun down as he attempts his own retribution with his ex Liz.
It all comes to its apex when David willingly pulls the trigger on a Winchester repeating rifle aimed straight at Shaun, only to see that the gun has thankfully run out of ammo. Before he can apologize for his despicable ways, the movie does it for him in the form of righteous zombie dismemberment.
The Low Point: Trying to kill Shaun.
1. Dae-su Oh in Oldboy
Okay, people – this is going to be a debated topic. Dae-su Oh, seen initially as a drunken fool, masturbating prisoner, and finally a revenge monster – seeks redemption not from the audience or those close to him, but rather from himself. He has been humiliated for a sizable chunk of his life and quests to right that wrong. We wait patiently as he kills his way to the top, hungry for that beautiful moment of retribution.
And when we get there – boy is it painful. Fucking your daughter painful. Suddenly the avenger has become the avengee as the once kick-ass hammersmith begs like a dog for forgiveness. It’s an amazing direction, however horrible it may be.
But the final redemption is uncertain when Dae-su Oh has himself professionally hypnotized to forget all the unsettling business revealed to him prior – and with a desperate smile we are ultimately left in the dark as to its success.
Seriously, everybody watch this film before Spike Lee remakes it.
The Low Point: Oh… you know the scene.