Top 10 Most Dangerous Quentin Tarantino Characters

by Warren Cantrell on January 2, 2013

in Top 10s

This Christmas break it was if like Santa came down from Heaven on a special trip to give the whole world a present: Django Unchained. So why not discuss that writer/director’s body of work via a ranking of the most dangerous characters therein, eh? Quentin Tarantino’s latest western undoubtedly has lots of baddies rolling around, and only time will tell if they join the hallowed ranks of those listed here, yet if the man has proven anything, it’s that he’s not in the business to make tame, unobtrusive romcoms.  No, when Quentin Tarantino writes or directs a film, one can rest assured in the knowledge that it will involve hard-hearted characters living in a dangerous world most likely fueled by drugs, hard-core violence, crime syndicates, and good music. Furthermore, since Tarantino’s films usually focus on the varying levels of good versus evil within social sub-sets generally associated with the criminal, the man’s villains usually tend to be pretty fucking bad, for all his characters, to some degree, are pretty rotten.  Indeed, the protagonists in the Tarantino universe are usually just slightly nobler than the antagonists they face, something that requires the baddies to be especially cruel so as to differentiate themselves from the picture’s crowd. The result is a stable of cruel, sadistic, blackened-soul monsters that are the equal of any classic villain from the horror genre, and today, they’re getting their due.

Thus, to make today’s list, the character in question had to come from a film that was either directed by Tarantino, or was based on a script that Q.T. wrote. The candidates were ranked based on their potential for harm as weighed against their psychological state; put more simply, the film characters were placed in order, one through ten, based on their capacity for violence as demonstrated in the film(s), yet in a way that took their propensity for violent action into account. Thus, while a person may have been a trained killer, absolutely ruthless in the performance of his or her duties, if they were mentally stable, and somewhat predictable in their work, they may not have ranked as high as someone less-trained who nevertheless had a tendency to flip their shit and go on a kill-crazy-rampage at the drop of a hat. To keep things even, only one character per Tarantino film was allowed into the ranking, so my deepest apologies if your favorite Red Apple-smoking, Big Kahuna Burger-eating villain didn’t make the cut. Anyway, let’s get started…

10. Samuel L. Jackson as Odell Robbie from Jackie Brown

Don’t let the #10 designation fool you: Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) was a bad, bad man.  Though not an especially sadistic or cruel fellow (at least compared to those on this list), Ordell was definitely cold-blooded, and more than willing to kill to keep his ass on the up and up.  Shit, look at what happened to Beaumont (Chris Tucker)!  He hadn’t done anything except get pinched, and boss-man was all over the situation.  Beaumont hadn’t been locked up more than a day, and Ordell had the dummy bailed out AND lured into the easiest ambush assassination cinema has ever known.  The film’s title character almost suffered that same fate, but Jackie (Pam Grier) was no fool, and not only turned the tables on Ordell’s murder plot, but used it as the pretense to orchestrate a masterful scam to steal the gun-runner’s nest-egg.

This was one hell of a dicey play, however, for Ordell wasn’t above killing people in his way, and sure as hell didn’t sweat shooting the hell out of those who had crossed him.  Hell, poor Louis (Robert De Niro) hadn’t done much except ruin a simple pick-up, and for that he got blasted in the guts by an unsympathetic, furious Ordell.  Yet at the end of the day, Ordell was a businessman who just happened to deal in dangerous, cutthroat shit.  A ruthless killer, to be sure, yet Ordell wasn’t particularly dangerous unless cornered, and left with little recourse except to kill.  Indeed, much like this next man, Ordell Robbie seemed to keep his crazy on a fairly short leash…

9. Christopher Walken as Vincenzo Coccotti from True Romance

One of Mr. Tarantino’s earliest works, True Romance was a marriage of style and substance that worked wonderfully, for if anybody could have made Tarantino’s script sing (aside from the man himself), it was Tony Scott.  After all, this was the director of Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Revenge, and Beverly Hills Cop II: this was a man who knew how to make action sexy.  The script for True Romance called for this in spades, for it was about a cross-country crime-spree a-la Badlands with a Bonnie & Clyde float and a cocaine garnish.  The movie followed two lovers, Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette), who tried to navigate the turbulent waters of a mob heist and elopement whilst contending with all the hassles that usually surround such endeavors (surprised parents, hit men, cops, Bronson Pinchot).

Like many of Tarantino’s characters, Clarence had one hell of a prize at the end of the rainbow, yet had to survive the crossing of a number of nasty characters in order to get there.  One of these scary fellows was Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), the associate of a mob boss, Blue Lou, who claimed ownership of the stolen cocaine Clarence and Alabama hoped would fund their retirement.  Vincenzo was the kind of man a person doesn’t ever want to meet.  As he so eloquently put it when interrogating Clarence’s father, “I’m the Anti-Christ.  You got me in a vendetta kinda mood.  You tell the angels in heaven you never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you.”  Though his appearance in True Romance was brief, the weight of his one scene spoke volumes about the purity of his menace, and what horrible, unmerciful wrath followed behind him.  Much like this next high-end crime boss, Vincenzo Coccotti’s dangerous nature was mostly implied, yet never questioned…

8. Ving Rhames as Marsellus Wallace from Pulp Fiction

Ranking the most powerful and feared crime boss in Tarantino’s fictional L.A. cauldron was a difficult thing, for Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) was as dangerous and feared as any man or woman on today’s list.  The deference the characters in Pulp Fiction paid towards this fellow pretty much said it all, for everyone in L.A., from the most connected hit man, to the lowliest smack dealer, knew who Marsellus Wallace was.  Shit, with the exception of Zed and Maynard, who clearly had no idea who they were fucking with, everybody in the universe seemed to know who was in charge in Los Angeles, and by extension, who wasn’t to be crossed.  This last point was made perfectly clear after Butch (Bruce Willis) executed his burn on Marsellus, who promptly stated that he was “prepared to scour the Earth for that mother fucker.  If Butch goes to Indochina, I want a nigga’ waitin’ in a bowl of rice, ready to pop a cap in his ass.”

Most memorably, Marsellus explained his thoughts on just retribution after his former foe, Butch, rescued him mid-ass-rape.  L.A.’s most powerful crime boss calmly laid out his plans for Zed, the sexual offender, who had a short, agonizing life before him: a blowtorch and a pair of pliers two of the last things he’d see before expiring.  Yet this was hardly unprompted, and seemed to be the sort of thing Marsellus engaged in only when pushed into action.  Shit, had Butch simply thrown the fight as arranged, or if the dummies Vincent and Jules killed early in the film had kept their end of the bargain with the suitcase (whatever it was), the homicide rate in Los Angeles might not have gone through the roof that particular week.  Still, once fucked with, Marsellus was a terrible force of nature against which there was little defense.  Now, if going for pure crazy in the unpredictable, loose-cannon sense, we’d have to turn to…

7. Michael Madsen as Vic Vega, a.k.a. Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs

Easy, now!  Easy!  Yes, only #7, I know.  It didn’t feel quite right putting Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) this far to the back, yet considering the company he kept in this ranking, the guy was a pussycat.  Sure, he didn’t like cops…like, really didn’t like them.  Yet the man hardly stalked police officers, and only made a habit of slicing them up when the opportunity arose.  Besides that unfortunate display, there was really only the second-hand accounts of his lunacy, which, to be fair, spoke poorly of the man.  During the jewel heist, Blonde was said to have opened up on a crowd of innocent bystanders without provocation, an act he freely admitted to later on in the film.  “If they hadn’t a’ done what I told ‘em not to do, they’d still alive.”  To make matters worse, the steely-eyed son of a bitch seemed eternally calm, something that made his outlandish acts of violence all the more unsettling, for one never knew when the crazy-volcano would erupt.

And erupt it did, for beneath the calm veneer was a percolating psychopath just itching for an opportunity to stretch his legs.  While the other criminals were content to simply beat the cop up a little to get out their angst, Blonde took it a step further, and slowly tormented the poor bastard.  A beating wasn’t going to satisfy Blonde, no.  Nothing short of a full psychological assault, face-maiming, and full-fledged burning was going to do that.  Luckily for the cop, Marvin Nash, Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) was still alive, and was possessed of enough humanity to save a fellow officer’s life, even if it was only for a while, and at the cost of his own.  While this is the extent of the evidence supporting Blonde’s inclusion in today’s discussion, the striking nature of his assault on Marvin, and the seemingly blasé nature of the man perpetrating it took him into the meat of today’s ranking.  To have ranked any higher, Blonde would have had to throw some kind of sexual deviancy into his madness…

6. Quentin Tarantino as Richard Gecko from From Dusk Till Dawn

You had to figure Mr. Tarantino’s most violent, manic, and psychotic acting credit was going to make an appearance in today’s discussion, for his Richie Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn was a nut-job only a mother (or brother in the film’s case) could love.  While Richie was crazier than rat shit, he definitely had his brother’s back, for as the film explained early on, Seth Gecko (George Clooney) had been sprung from jail in a daring, guns-blazing, jump-on-the-back-of-the-wagon style break that was Richie’s doing.  Thus, even though Richie’s paranoid psycho-mania was at the root of the brothers’ every inconvenience early on, Seth endured it all as best he could.  Yet “endure” is a pliable word, for as Seth learned, it meant surviving a convenience store hostage situation, hostage rape-murders, a border-crossing freak-out, and a full-blown vampire transformation.

This last occurrence wasn’t really Richie’s fault, for he had an open wound in a den packed to the gills with vampires, yet all that other shit was definitely on him.  As Seth angrily opined at the beginning of the film, Richie had a habit of turning mundane, harmless situations into bloodbaths, for whether he was simply buying a map, watching a hostage, or keeping quiet during a dodgy situation, the man had a tendency to go completely off the rails.  To make matters worse, he was also severely disturbed, for he appeared to have a violent, sexual form of schizophrenia that seemed to overtake him any time a woman was around.  It’s probably good that Richie went down when he did, for Seth got into some fairly serious shit that required his full, undivided attention.  This wasn’t something he could readily offer up when babysitting his brother, a full-tilt maniac who was as likely to start a life-and-death incident as he was to cut a fart.  Say, speaking of murderous, sexual deviants, we ought to take a moment to discuss…

5. Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike from Death Proof

Now this was one sick mother fucker: ain’t no two ways about it.  Tarantino’s only foray into what one might most accurately term the ‘Slasher’ genre, Death Proof had a baddie that was just as monstrous and terrifying as any non-supernatural antagonist within this cinematic field.  Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) had a simple M.O.: he stalked and killed young women using a modified automobile as his weapon.  Insane, to be sure, yet dumb, Mike was not.  During his first hunt, Mike established impeccable alibi credentials with his actions at the bar (no alcohol consumption and a non-engaging disposition).  The man had clearly murdered before, for his technique was impeccable and spoke to an experienced and seasoned serial killer with a refined method to fit the madness.

All the other characters listed between 10 and 6 have been ruthless, yet were usually the victim of an opportunity or sudden impulse that overtook their better judgment.  For Stuntman Mike, however, there was no better judgment, or calmer side: it was all crazy, all the time.  Though the guy may have been somewhat sane or put together before the events of Death Proof, it was clear by the time the film started that the former Fall Guy had been in one too many wrecks, and suffered a few nasty after-effects as a result.  Shit; or maybe he didn’t!  Maybe Stuntman Mike was always that crazy, and the audience only got a peak at the man near the end of his run.  In any event, the guy was definitely crackers, and a hell of liability when on the loose, looking for a victim.  The man had something of a narrow scope, however.  If Stuntman Mike had been less selective about the people he killed, he might have edged out…

4. David Carradine as Bill from Kill Bill, Vol. 1

By the man’s own admission, Bill (David Carradine) was “a murdering bastard,” who took heartbreak badly.  The leader of the infamous Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Bill wasn’t a man who fucked around: something the very first scene of the very first film in this series established.  Later on in Volume 2, when Sheriff McGraw surveyed the carnage for which Bill was responsible, the seasoned lawman commented that the crime scene represented the work of “a salty dog,” and the man couldn’t have known how correct he was.  Bill wasn’t just a killer, he led a team of executioners that were trained in the most savage forms of death dealing on the planet.  Perhaps Bill’s greatest attribute was his eye for talent, for in O-Ren (Lucy Liu), he had a heart-hearted assassin who had been training as a killer since her adolescence, and in Ellie (Daryl Hannah) and Beatrix (Uma Thurman), he had two Pai-Mei trained warriors pretty much devoid of fear.  Then there was the Coppermouth (Vivica A. Fox), one of the deadliest women with a knife the film community has ever known.

Bill also had Budd (Michael Madsen), his brother, who may not have had the training or experience of the other members (at least so far as we know), yet still knew how to take care of himself.  Indeed, anyone who could get the drop on the Black Mamba was a person to be respected.  What one had here, then, was a man who operated pretty much at will, without any fear of legal persecution, or anything else, for that matter.  He sent his assassins off to places all over the globe on missions that one must assume were all successful (his squad remained alive and intact, after all), something that leads a person to infer that Bill was pretty much at the top of his game.  When taking this into account, the man was indeed very, very dangerous, for Bill killed people for a living, and had so much business that he needed not one, or even two, but five associates.  At the end of the day, however, one of these associates proved a little too hot to handle…

3. Uma Thurman as Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, Vol. 2

Now, Bill may have been a ruthless son of a bitch, and a murderously savage consumer of lives, but when it was all said and done, he fell to the Black Mamba, and the scoreboard never lies.  Besides, as nasty as Bill was, the audience got to see desperately little of him in action, for with the exception of a bad-ass deleted scene which showed him taking on a revenge squad, the man’s reputation spoke louder than any of his actions.  Beatrix, on the other hand, single-handedly slaughtered something like five dozen people between Kill Bill 1 & 2, most of them using nothing more than a sword and/or her bare hands!  As relentless as she was fierce, this was not a woman you would want on your ass, for she emerged paralyzed, from a coma, with little concerns except for notions surrounding her sweet, sweet revenge.

To this end, she summoned every favor and advantage she could conjure up, and took it upon herself to give her enemies the same cold, brutal treatment they had seen fit to offer her.  After working herself back into fighting shape, Beatrix travelled from one end of the planet to the other to confront each of the people who had crossed her, ending, of course, with Bill.  Trained by Pai Mei in the deadliest martial art form the world has ever known, and armed with the strongest steel the greatest sword-maker ever wrought, Beatrix set forth on her revenge quest, one she saw through to the end, as planned.  Certainly not a sadistic broad, Beatrix definitely wasn’t squeamish, either, for she would just as soon cut off an arm as screw around with some silly-assed interrogation.  This dearth of cruel malice kept her out of the runner-up spot, one occupied by the worst kind of movie villain: a fucking Nazi…

2. Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds

It doesn’t get a hell of a lot more dangerous than a genius Gestapo officer with every connection of the Third Reich at his fingertips.  In Inglorious Basterds, that’s precisely how one might have characterized Christoph Waltz’s Colonel Landa character, who swam in the deepest end of the Nazi pool.  His casual lunch with Hitler’s propaganda minister, Goebbels, certainly spoke to this, along with his attendance at the premier of Stolz der Nation where one of the most feared men in occupied Europe was in charge of security.  The organizer, leader, and director of the Nazi death squads in France, Landa might not have appeared menacing at first glance, yet was behind the imprisonment and murder of thousands, if not millions.  A masterful interrogator who was highly skilled at reading the slightest posture shift or facial twitch, Landa was good at his work, and unfortunately for the Jews of France, business was booming.

Yet this robust activity behind the lines was also something the American commando squad known as The Basterds enjoyed, and it was something Landa had to contend with.  The Basterds were running around France ambushing Nazi patrols and carving up whatever survivors they deemed fit to turn loose so as to spread panic.  Smart mother fucker that he was, Landa cobbled together a picture of what the Basterds were up to, and put himself in a position to foil their plans whilst still protecting his own bottom line.  Shrewd operator, to be sure, Landa clearly knew the war was all but lost, and hoped to secure a juicy surrender agreement that would steer him clear of any pesky war-crimes courts, but also compensate him handsomely.  Thus, in exchange for a immunity and a few post-war accolades, Landa sold the Nazi brass down the river, and added a couple dozen more bodies to his already extensive murder-by-proxy list.  Yet even Col. Landa, piece of shit Nazi that he was, wasn’t a crazy man, which means he had nothing on this next pair, who took murderous savagery in film to heights never before seen on a civilian level…

1. Tie: Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as Mickey and Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers

The proud owners of the #6 spot on the 10rant’s Top 10 Movie Crime Duos list, Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis) Knox were as nasty as a pair of rattlesnakes and twice as deadly.  With seemingly no agenda other than to cause terror and ferment tragedy anywhere they went, Mickey and Mallory were killers in the purest sense of the word.  They didn’t target any type of person in particular, but rather seemed to delight in the murderously absurd.  Whether they were in a roadside diner, driving down the side of a road, or simply dealing with an annoying reporter, they were on the lookout for victims whose deaths would serve no purpose except to add to an already lengthy murder-tally.  And that’s it!  Mickey and Mallory killed because they enjoyed it, and because they seemed to delight in the fact that others did as well.

Say what you will about Oliver Stone (and many have said much), but the man tickled an exposed nerve when he released Natural Born Killers back in 1994.  This was almost twenty years ago, during the earliest days of the internet, when 24-hour news coverage was already well-established, and a gossip-hungry world could get video of breaking news only minutes after a story broke.  The world was getting its first taste of real-time news: the ratings and interest in things like O.J.’s freeway chase and the Waco siege the harbingers of an information quantum leap just around the corner.  Mickey and Mallory Knox were a fictional hypothetical, for they asked audiences if, in an age where O.J. Simpson was front-page news for a year for just two killings, could a pair of young murderers win over the hearts (if not the sympathies) of a nation with dozens? Though Oliver Stone’s film bore little of Quentin Tarantino’s original script out, this core question remained, and was illustrated beautifully by two actors that embodied Mr. Tarantino’s most dangerous characters perfectly.

“Obvious Child” is the debut novel of Warren Cantrell, a film and music critic based out of Seattle, Washington. Mr. Cantrell has covered the Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals, and provides regular dispatches for Scene-Stealers and his own site, 10rant.com. Warren holds a B.A. and M.A. in History, and his hobbies include bourbon drinking, novel writing, and full-contact kickboxing. Mr. Cantrell is happily unmarried, and without any children, pets, or plants.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Rodney Bell January 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm

Wb samuel L Jackson as Jules in pulp fiction

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