“He had it coming! They all have it coming!” ~ Strawberry Alice (Unforgiven)
Cinema is simply a wonderful art. It not only fills your eyes with moving, startling images, but it can seize your mind and emotions with the story that only it can tell so uniquely. Be it while you sit in a darkened movie theater, or comfortably at home in front of whatever screen you have, film just captivates. And surely, it’s easy as sin to root for the hero. Especially, when the tale involves the audience, and gets them to relate with the hero through her hardships and travails, affectingly.
The cause for this can be innocent but heartbreaking happenstance, bad luck (or weather), and/or the result of a flaw in his personality that brings it down upon him. All true. However, is that the only way? Not on your life! Don’t forget the villain — Hollywood sure hasn’t. When nature wreaks havoc on our man/woman of the hour (or two), it’s good. But, it’s not great, in my humble opinion. For that, we need someone, another human being, to mete out that pain.
That old testament kind of tribulation and suffering has to come by way of another character (preferably, from someone who’s pores seemingly reek of evil and wrongdoing). They have to lay it right on to our hero… and then some.
But, surely, it’s the overcoming by the character of all that anguish and ordeal that’s the pay-off for the viewers. Right? For some, like my wonderful wife. They will reap the uplift and joy in the persistence of the one in this, and be more than happy with that redeeming aspect. The betterment of the heroine’s struggle alone will satisfy, and it will nourish their soul and reinforce the good in all of us. But having said that, it’s not what does it for me, though.
Not even close. It’s the villain’s comeuppance! That is what really gets my blood going.
You tell ’em I’M coming… and hell’s coming with me, you hear?… Hell’s coming with me! ~ Wyatt Earp (Tombstone)
Give me a great story… heck, give me a so-so one that’s performed with a clarity and purpose at paying back the villain for the mighty wrong he’s done to someone, and you’ll have me on-board. Be it grand and biblical, or thought-provoking and personal, and I’m so there for that! Another great thing about this subject, too, is it’s understandable to both sexes (contrary to my first list). Lord Bryon once wrote, “Sweet is revenge –especially to women.”
Yes, I know there are plenty of other quotes out there which espouse just the opposite. Milton’s comes to mind, “Which, if not victory, is yet revenge.” But, it would go against what I’ve built up to in this post. 😉 So, we’ll have none of that, for sure. Here then, in no particular order, is my Payback Is Hell list.
[Spoiler Alert: some plot points are revealed below]
- Magua – The Last of the Mohicans: Magua’s merciless demise administered by the father of Uncas, the Mohican warrior he’s slain via tomahawk and knife… unexpectedly good retaliation done in a brutally realistic and efficient manner. And here you thought it’d be a clash with Hawkeye, this so much better.
- Zed – Pulp Fiction: Zed’s (also know as, “Mr.-soon-to-be-living-the-rest-of-his-short-ass-life-in-agonizing-pain-rapist here.”) gets his just deserts meted out by Marcellus Wallace; the mob kingpin he’s just raped — oops. And he’ll get to find out what getting “…medieval on your ass” really means.
- Captain Terrill – The Outlaw Josey Wales: The instigator Captain Terrill meets his maker, along with his own bright and shiny cavalry sword, when Josey gets up close and personal with him; though not very bloody, it’s the quintessential moment of symbolic retribution in the film’s saga.
- Masala – Ben-Hur: Masala not only loses the chariot race to Juda Ben-Hur, but he gets to be lashed by his own whip, dragged by his own horse team, and finally run over by another chariot; for the one who’s imprisoned his mother and sister, absconded his wealth, and left Juda to die in a Roman galley, it’s an oldie but a goodie.
- Asa Watts – The Cowboys: Asa Watts receives his last horse ride ever — although, he won’t be sitting on the saddle — courtesy of the young cowboys in retribution for killing John Wayne’s character… too bad he has a broken leg, as well.
- Lady Mary Van Tassel – Sleepy Hollow: For murdering more than a few townspeople (and her husband) in her wicked scheme of revenge, Lady Van Tassel receives a very sharp kiss from the formerly headless horseman as he rides back to Hell… with her in tow.
- Stanley – The Ninth Configuration: For tormenting the ill and defenseless Capt. Cutshaw, the biker gang leader gets his hand crushed into a glass beer mug, beaten down and thrown through a window by the dark legend that is Colonel Kane (right along with his friends).
- Det. Jimmy Shaker – Ransom: not only gets beaten by the father of the boy he kidnapped for ransom (and still intended to kill), but he gets badly cut after going through a plate-glass window in the process; and finally, he’s deservedly shot for his vile efforts.
- Drexl Spivey – True Romance: Drexl’s harsh end done to him by Clarence and his large-caliber revolver… that first shot may not have been killed him, but after that slug, he probably welcomed the fatal one when it came.
- Virgil – True Romance: After brutally beating and torturing Clarence’s wife Alabama for information, Virgil will find out the hard way that the MacGuyer-like Mrs. Worley is very good with a Swiss Army knife…and a toilet tank lid… along with a shotgun.
- Caine 607 – Soldier: finds out that eugenics and superior hand-eye coordination are no match for brains, cunning, and combat experience in his last hand-to-hand confrontation with Sgt. Todd.
- Mountain Man – Deliverance: To rescue Bobby and Ed, the mountain man/rapist whole-heartedly merits the finely placed arrow shot by rescuer Lewis. In this case, one penetration deserves another.
- Roarke Jr. – Sin City: The thoroughly despicable and murdering pedophile (aka ‘That Yellow Bastard’) thankfully goes down for good after Hartigan surprises him with a knife, who then proceeds to perform ‘manual’ surgery on him, along with a graphic makeover.
- Top Dollar – The Crow: For being the cause of his fiance’s brutal rape and death, Top Dollar will be on the receiving end of her “Thirty hours of pain! All at once!” anguish and retribution held in memory and delivered by the avenging Draven. So deserving.
- Frank – Once Upon A Time In The West: Hired gun Frank will come to realize, much too late, that some sins are never forgiven, let alone forgotten; and Harmonica doesn’t care how blue your eyes are.
- Nicky Santoro – Casino: The extremely brutal execution (though, it is justly deserved) brought to the mob enforcer Nicky by his Mafia cohorts: beaten to a bloody pulp by baseball bats, dumped and buried in a grave while still breathing, you almost feel sorry for the guy…I did say almost.
- Little Bill Daggett – Unforgiven: For torturing and killing his long-time partner Ned, Little Bill Daggett finds out that there’s always someone meaner, badder, and more cold-blooded than himself out there…and his name is William Munny.
- Archibald Cunningham – Rob Roy: The final gloat over the wounded Rob Roy earns him a valid response from the highlander; Roy determinedly grabs the epee blade of his opponent so that he can hold him there and bring a justly deserved cleave of a claymore across the duelist’s chest. Oh, yes.
The entire series of posts can be found here.