Friday, January 14, 2011

5 Biggest Badasses in the World of Tarantino

Nobody does badass quite like Tarantino.  Gangsters, assassins, flight attendants-- everybody gets a shot in this bloody world of cinema.

QT has made a name for himself with his skillfully crafted dialogue and mastery of the plot twist.  But these attributes pale in comparison to the director's true genius: character development.  His ability to pronounce each role as separate and compelling in their own way is impressive, considering his usually sizable ensemble casts.

And you know his style: push the conflict and don't hold the blood.  That's why I've compiled this last of his five most badass characters based on their ruthless roles.

5. Mickey Knox: American Badass

In Natural Born Killers (1994), Woody Harrelson plays Mickey Knox, a dangerous felon in love.

Hero or Villain?  In the eyes of the law, Knox is more than a criminal: he's a menace to society.  With numerous murders, robberies and hostage situations under his belt, it's needless to say that this psycho is wanted by the law.  Morally and ethically, what they say is true.  In the film, Knox is one prison riot away from a violent spiritual experience and the freedom to continue his reign of terror.

...But to Mallory Knox (Juliette Lewis), Mickey's young bride, he is the true incarnation of God.  She must've known it was true love when Mickey drowned her abusive father in a fish tank and set her mother on fire.  Their beautiful, sadistic relationship develops into an addiction for both characters, inciting their emotional escape.

Why he's Fucking Badass:  Mickey Knox doesn't take shit from anyone: not the cops, not the press, not even his own wife.  Director Oliver Stone's use of trippy, colorful imagery gives us a sense of the couple's drug-fueled liberation in his crimes.

In portraying the murder of Mallory's parents, Stone takes away our sense of reality by shooting the scene like a sitcom.  The freedom of this  hallucinogenic state makes Mickey virtually unstoppable.

4. Mr. Blonde: Fresh from the Cage Badass

Michael Madsen portrays the vicious Vic Vega, aka Mr. Blonde, in Reservoir Dogs (1992).

Hero or Villain?  Vic Vega is a thug in every sense of the word.  Newly flown from the clink after taking the fall for the boss, Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney), Vic returns more merciless than ever.  When a diamond job goes bad, the "madman" guns down innocent people and several police officers.

Why he's a Fucking Badass:  Madsen's unnerving portrayal of the heartless criminal is superb.  What really sets him apart is his violent, carefree attitude and cool, James Dean-esque delivery.  Even as he tortures a police officer, he casually dances and sings along to the radio.

3. Jules Winnfield: Badass Motherfucker

Jules Winnfield is an existential gangster played by Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction (1994).

Hero or Villain?  Jules is a criminal, through and through.  At first, he treats all crimes the same way: apathetically, perhaps theatrically (with lines like "Come on, let's get into character").

But when Jules begins to believes that he has witnessed a miracle, he radically changes his tune.  He'd like to leave the life, "walk the earth," and even spares a victim in order to "teach him a lesson."  Like many of Tarantino's character, Winnfield walks a thin line between lovable and lowlife.

Why he's a Fucking Badass:  That wet Jheri-curl, the sinister bible verse-- the wallet really says it all.

2. Hans Landa: Charismatic Colonel Badass

Christoph Waltz portrays SS Col. Hans Landa, the crude yet courteous antagonist in Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Hero or Villain? Of course Landa is a Nazi (or at least affiliates with them).  His nickname, "The Jew Hunter,"isn't ironic-- the Colonel is known for his skill at uncovering the Jews still hiding in France.

He's also undeniably, sinisterly smooth.

Why he's a Fucking Badass: Trilingual Austrian actor Cristoph Waltz gives a breathtakingly charming performance in this film.  Landa is calm, polite, even cheerful in the face of war and death.  When dealing with Basterds leader "Aldo the Apache," the Colonel is cool and collected, poking fun at the situation ("What's that English saying about shoes and feet?" he asks, "'Looks like the shoe is on the other foot.'  Yeah, I was just thinking that," Raine replies).

His confidence, intelligence and creativity make him number two on the list.

1. The Bride: Last Badass Standing

In Kill Bill Vol. 1&2, Uma Thurman plays Beatrix Kiddo, aka The Bride, aka Black Mamba: a former assassin on a "roaring rampage of revenge."

Hero or Villain?  Once upon a time, Beatrix Kiddo was a contract killer.  When she chose motherhood over murder and ran from the life, her boss/lover/baby daddy Bill and her former crew (The Deadly Viper Assassination Squad) tracked her down and burned her new life to the ground.

So they deserve it, right?

Why she's a Fucking Badass: Not only does she survive a brutal beatdown, gunshot to the head and four year coma, the Bride also uses the 1-inch punch to break out of a coffin, "snatches out" someone's eye and uses the five-point-palm exploding heart technique.  Busy girl.

Beatrix is more than just a mindless fighter.  At times she represents a mother "scared shitless for [her] baby."  Other times she takes on the role of the fearless warrior out for revenge.  In the end, her resolve is rewarded and her child returned.  See what happens next in 2014.


  1. This article suffered from a lack of Butch, and not having Jules in the number one spot.
    But Pulp Fiction is my favorite movie, so I'm a little biased. For real, though, great article.

  2. Thanks man. Obviously Kill Bill is my fav, but if you can convince me that Jules is more badass than the Bride i'll give you 5 bucks. Prepare to debate.

  3. Love the list.
    Honorable mention to Zoe Bell. She kills significantly less people, in fact only one person, but she is the pinnacle of female badassery in Death Proof. She plays herself, that fucking bad ass!

    Also, I had no idea Tarantino wanted to do a third movie. Wow. And thanks for the link.

  4. She should also be mentioned as Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill. She's killed at least 88 crazy asians.