The male antihero, while he used to be a rare trope trotted out only for certain kinds of stories, is now everywhere. Flicks like DRIVE, OLDBOY, and JOHN WICK and television shows like BREAKING BAD, MR. ROBOT, and RAY DONOVAN all make use of the stoic, suave, capable and calm-until-violent Mr. Man as their would-be protagonist, in turn flipping our idea of the hero’s quest and traditional character arcs.
In three of my absolute favorite films of all-time – Nicholas Winding Refn’s DRIVE, Walter Hill’s THE DRIVER, and Jean Pierre Melville’s LE SAMOURAI – the male antihero is brought to vivid and visceral life by Ryan Gosling, Ryan O’Neal, and Alain Delon, respectively. As these men weave through their storylines, they similarly but with distinction form their era’s and culture’s version of the antihero. By mixing them together into one video, as Dylan Nanayakkara has so brilliantly done, the separate films’ shared story points and intersections of character make for a fascinating look at the male antihero in general , as well as the various ways and contexts in which he can be manifested.
There is no bigger narrative shift in film and television over the last 20 years than the shift to antihero, male or female (see THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, GONE GIRL, KILL BILL, HOMELAND, JESSICA JONES etc.). It is a reflexive shift, indicative of our shifting mores as a culture, how we are more willing and able to see the gray in formerly black-and-white matters such as good vs bad, and it has made for some of the most compelling films and series both mediums have ever produced. Therefore it’s fitting, I think, that such a compelling topic receives such a compelling tribute. Enjoy, though be warned that spoilers exist herein; but if you haven’t seen any and all of these films, please please please fix that as soon as you can. For further temptation, I’ve included the trailer for each after the video.
CINE-CEPTION -The Stoic Male Antihero Trope Examined from Dylan Nanayakkara on Vimeo.