One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies is Payback starring Mel Gibson. I only really like the first 10 minutes or so of the movie, because it just shows the protagonist starting from nothing and working his way back up the food chain by being bad. And it isn’t big stuff either. He steals a pack of cigarettes from a waitress because he didn’t have money for smokes – that’s bad. I love it. I love all the little things he does that shows the audience that this is a bad man. The rest of the film just drys up though from there when it shows Mel’s character as a sympathetic bad guy, you know, just trying to get his money back and protect his new girlfriend – hookers with hearts of gold crap storytelling.
I hate the “hookers with hearts of gold” stereotyping for supposed bad guy anti-heroes. For me, it doesn’t get much better than Way of the Gun in that sense. In this film, you don’t like anyone. No one is innocent, everyone is looking out for themselves, but there are a few scenes for each character that quietly show that they aren’t 100 percent bad all the time; that there is some good in these characters. However, for the most part, every character in that movie is bad to the bone and treat each other really terribly.
Both of these movies didn’t do wonderfully at the box office, I believe, but for different reasons. Payback was supposed to be much darker than it ended up being, more in line with Way of the Gun, but I think Gibson ended up not liking the direction and fired the director to make the characters more sympathetic. He was worried about marketability, and it ended up as a neutered story. Way of the Gun, on the other hand, has went the full-on dark route and ended up not being very marketable, but is definitely a great flick where you root for the bad guys to win, because there aren’t any good guys at all.
I’ve always wanted to do a “bad guy” crime comic (I do have a script, but the bad guy isn’t bad enough yet for my tastes), and part of me would really like to do it like Way of the Gun, but there is another bad guy story that has stood the test of time that should be considered as a workable model: Macbeth. The audience gets to see Macbeth become bad (and not through a great deal of effort either).
Just things I’m thinking about… I’m tired of reading about good guys. Let’s bring on the bad guys, I say.
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