2003's "Daredevil" was met with mixed reception from critics and fans, that over the years would become increasingly negative. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm one of the film's many, many, many haters, because that's not true. To date, "Daredevil" remains one of my favorite superhero movies of all-time, and while the film did get a lot of flack, it's not without it's fans. YouTube Critic FilmMasterAdam called the film one of his top 3 favorite comic book movies, giving the Director's Cut a perfect 10/10 score, Richard Roeper complimented the film for it's "dark sense of humor...ingenious fight scenes" and "high powered cast", and Roger Ebert even called the film "more clever, more nuanced and more interesting" than 2002's "Spider-Man." The movie had a lot of things going for it, and is in my opinion, one of the most under-appreciated blockbusters of all time. But today, we're only going to be talking about one of it's strengths; the late Michael Clarke Duncan's performance as Wilson Fisk a.k.a The Kingpin.
Even critics of the film will agree that Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin was one of the film's highlights. I'll go several steps further and say that his performance as The Kingpin is one of the best comic book movie performances of all time. It is more intimidating, more entertaining to watch and more menacing than any MCU villain we've seen to date, and given that we've reached a point in the MCU where we have characters trying to wipe out entire planets, that's quite an achievement.
One of the first things I loved about Duncan's performance is how he begins the film fairly calm and unfazed. Duncan's Kingpin is a man of immense power, and as we see him hear rumors of possible rats squealing to the press, he merely shrugs off those rumors with an overly friendly smile and a puff of a Cuban cigar. With that being said, that makes it all the more shocking and intimidating when such a cool and collected character completely snaps, as we see when he murders 2 of his guards after hearing rumors they may have gone snitch. In a blink of an eye, he goes from happy and calm to bashing one of his guard's brains in and breaking the other's neck with a single bare hand. And the best part? When he's finished, he shrugs the whole thing off and immediately moves on, as if he'd just killed a rather annoying fly. That combination of calmness and psychopathic rage makes Duncan's Kingpin very unpredictable, and thus all the more intimidating. Villains like Nebula or Alexander Pierce or Bane are threatening, but at the end of the day, their personalities are also very predictable and straight forward. You generally know how to act around them. Not at all the case with the Kingpin, not only is he completely unstable, but you wouldn't even know he was unstable unless he damn well wanted you too. I think it's that second piece that made me enjoy him even more than Ledger's Joker. Ledger's Joker was a phenomenal performance, and damn well worthy of that Oscar he took home, but as far as a villain went, I couldn't imagine too many people following him as he doesn't exactly have the best charismatic people skills. Kingpin does, which makes him all the more powerful and all the more threatening.
On top of that, there seems to be a presence that Michael Clarke Duncan's Kingpin exudes that makes him superior to any other comic book villain I've seen in a movie to date. I'm not sure if it's his size, or his voice or the intensity of his acting, but he very much seems like the kind of man capable of the charisma required to create a criminal empire and the fear factor required to keep it in check. I think this is best shown in his final scene, where he is preparing for his battle with Daredevil. At the time, Daredevil is wounded and Fisk's building occupied by countless guards. What does Fisk say? "Send the guards home...I was raised in the Southside Bronx...This is something you wouldn't understand." That may have been the moment I completely fell in love with the Kingpin and Duncan's portrayal. Pretty much every villain in the MCU these days will always rely on their henchmen first to take the hero down, preferring not to risk losing to him head on (Or at the very least to make him weaker). Kingpin may be a ruthless, evil thug, but he also has honor and respect for an opponent of equal skills as his own. When he finally fights Daredevil, it is the equivalent of a street fight, in terms of brutal choreography as well as setup.
With a new Daredevil series coming to Netflix, I'm hoping that many comic book fans will come back to the original 2003 film for a re-examining. Even if they hate everything else, nobody can deny that Duncan's Kingpin was a phenomenal villain. It was an incredibly memorable performance, and in my humble opinion, better than anything that we've seen from any of the MCU villains so far.