Hey kitty cats, you ready to get out your claws and put on your dancing shoes down at Jack Rabbit Slims? It's Tarantino Time. Not only responsible for giving us Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple cigarettes, Quentin Tarantino has given us a whole universe of Vega Brothers, deadly assassins and films within films, within films! The core of a good Tarantino-fest is his stellar cast of lovable bastards and dastardly foes. Admittedly in his more recent films, it has been easier to spot the archetypal villain, but back when Reservoir Dogs was released in 1992, anyone and everyone was a bad-ass mother who deserved to be gunned down. Looking back over the slick director's anthology of films, here are five of his biggest and baddest creations.
The trick of a Tarantino film is to create women that are just as unlikable as the men - none more so than in last year's mammoth film, The Hateful Eight. Dividing critics on whether it is the director's best or worst work. Leaked scripts and Oscar snubs may have dogged The Hateful Eight, but there is no denying that the icy mountain romp shows Tarantino's iconic dialogue at its best. Centring around a band of 'strangers', the casting was near-perfect, especially when it comes to Jennifer Jason Leigh's Daisy Domergue.
There is something very wrong when you cheer for a member of the fairer sex having their teeth kicked in by Kurt Russell, but we did it anyway! A sickening skid mark on society, Domergue was never going to win Miss Congeniality, and consequently spends the film's three-hour run-time dropping n-bombs and spitting blood. So what makes the moleskin wearer one of Quentin's greatest? The fact that Jennifer Jason Leigh holds her own in a heavyweight cast of males to stick in your mind as (nearly) the only actress of the film. The Hateful Eight may have been accused of sexism, and was condemned for the final lynching scene, but Domergue herself is the catalyst that not only brings the men together, but also tears them apart.
Blondes Have More Fun
Technically, it is Tim Roth's back-stabbing Mr. Orange who is the real villain of Tarantino's debut, Reservoir Dogs. However, when it comes to stone-cold villainy, Michael Madsen's Mr. Blonde wins it (by an ear). Blonde's torturous attack on an innocent cop goes down in cinematic infamy - set to 'Stuck in the Middle of You', as Blonde chops off Officer Nash's ear and douses him with petrol, you realise that Reservoir Dogs isn't just your standard indie heist film.
Madsen went on to be one of Tarantino's 'chosen few', appearing in both volumes of Kill Bill an then in The Hateful Eight. In one of the director's famous Easter eggs, Blonde's name is revealed as Vic Vega - another Vega would later appear in the form of John Travolta in 1994's Pulp Fiction. Continuing the family business of mob-life, Vincent Vega is a more ambiguous villain than Vic Vega. There was a long-mooted Vega Brothers film (presumably set before the character's demises), but alas, it never came to be. The last word has passed now, with Tarantino frequently quoted as saying both Madsen and Travolta are "too old" to resurrect the Vegas. Seeing the menacing brothers in their early days is surely one of Tarantino's biggest dropped balls? - well, that and Kill Bill Vol.3.
The Candie Man Can
With more N-bombs than your standard Tarantino outing (it makes Hateful look tame), as well as incest and slave auctions, it is hard to pick the most unlikable character in Django Unchained. It may not have helped DiCaprio grab that coveted golden statue, but Django goes down as one of his best roles. As the smooth-talking plantation owner of Django Unchained, DiCaprio's Calvin Candie makes your blood run cold. Tarantino's commentary on slavery manages to poke fun of a history you never thought could become funny - we hang our heads in shame that this was actually how the world used to be, but manage a chuckle at the same time.
What sets Candie apart from the rest is his loose cannon appeal. Tarantino's villains tend to have understated madness that bubbles under the skin. Sure, Mr. Blonde was trigger happy, but even as he lopped off an ear, he kept his cool. With Candie, the skull smashing scene and his berserker rage is some of DiCaprio's best work - after injuring himself in said scene, DiCaprio's real bloodied hand made it into the final cut of Django. Being cast in his first villainous role helped elevate DiCaprio from his hero days of Titanic and Inception and showed just adaptable the Oscar snubee really is.
Lends A Hans
Not so much reviving the career of Christopher Waltz, Inglorious Basterds brought him to the attention of mainstream cinema-goers. SS Colonel Hans Landa is the 'cream' on the strudel in Tarantino's war-time western - narrowly outshining the rest of the all-star cast. Arguably his best villain role, it is hard to now watch Waltz as Water For Elephants's evil ringmaster, or SPECTRE's Blofeld without comparing him to the sadistic Nazi from Tarantino's war film. Tarantino claims that Landa is his greatest creation ever, and originally wrote the role for Leonardo DiCaprio. He decided it should go to a German, before the Austrian Waltz finally clinched the role.
What makes Landa such a crook is his rat-like persona, ironically making him the very thing that he compares the Jews to. Willing to sell out his own country and all he believes in only adds to his skin-crawling screen presence. Under Landa's uniform is a psychotic charm and whimsy similar to that of Hannibal Lecter, epitomised in the much talked about 'bingo' scene.
Snakes In The Grass
Why pick one villain, when we can have a whole collective? Kill Bill's Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Whilst we grow old waiting for Kill Bill Vol.3, or a DeVAS prequel, it is hard not to salivate over the thought of seeing Elle Driver pop on an eye patch (or two) another time. The DeVAS aren't exactly your ideal dinner party guests, but they sure know how to liven up a wedding - in case you forgot, here is the group in full:
- Bill a.k.a. Snake Charmer - played by David Carradine. Sadly now passed away, Carradine played the titular Bill with grimacing menace. He was the leader of the pack and the cause of the whole bloody saga. With Bill gone, what the hell do you call Vol.3?
- Beatrix 'The Bride' Kiddo a.k.a. Black Mamba - played by Uma Thurman. Somehow topping her performance as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, Thurman played The Bride, later revealed as Kiddo. Gunned down by her former lover and allies, Thurman's one-woman revenge story is near-perfection!
- Elle Driver a.k.a California Mountain Snake - played by Daryl Hannah. Stealing the limelight from Uma Thurman, Elle Driver was Bill's other doting protege and a one-eyed killing machine. Whether or not Driver made it out of the film alive remains ambiguous, meaning that if we ever get a third outing...Hannah has to return!
- Budd a.k.a. Sidewinder - played by Michael Madsen. The Tarantino alumni stepped up as Bill's alcoholic brother, who lived his days in a desert trailer. Budd was the only one of the 'Death List Five' that Beatrix didn't take out herself.
- O-Ren Ishii a.k.a. Cottonmouth - played by Lucy Liu. Since the DeVAS disbanded, Ishii took her seat as a Tokyo crime boss and helped lead the Crazy 88 before The Bride's attack on the House of Blue Leaves.
- Vernita Green a.k.a Copperhead - played by Vivica A. Fox. Green enjoyed a quiet life with her family in suburbia until The Bride showed up for a sudden knife fight. The first member of the DeVas to take a dirt nap, the revenge plot of Green's daughter Nikita was the rumoured plot for a third Bride film.
We get so caught up in Beatrix's quest to 'kill Bill' and then her mother/daughter reveal, it is easy to forget she is still one of them. As a stone cold assassin, The Bride is arguably the most vicious of the lot - slaughtering and leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. Yes, those who lost their lives in her revenge quest deserved it, but ask yourself: is anyone really a hero in Kill Bill? Feel free to hurl abuse in the comments section, but The Bride is Tarantino's biggest screen villain we have seen yet.
So, who is left then? With rumours of Tarantino only holding 10 movies in his bank, we could only have two left. You should technically count the Kill Bill's as two (meaning he has actually done nine), but The Hateful Eight was widely publicised as the eighth film. What is next...a Vega Brothers film, a third in his Django-Basterds trilogy, or a remake of 1965's Faster, Pussycat Kill Kill? Tarantino himself was once in talks to take the helm of the James Bond series, but said he was only ever interested in doing Casino Royale. It is a 'bloody' shame that we will never get to see the artistic genius have it 'shaken-not-stirred', or that The Bride may never walk again. Ultimately someone is going to be left disappointed when he eventually hangs up his directing beret, but in the meantime we have at least two films left, and I bet a whole cavalcade of vile villains to devour - I'll have a large popcorn please, and an extra splattering of blood!
Who do you think is Tarantino's greatest villain? Sound off below!