Friday, July 29, 2011
BADASS WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE: AUSTRALIA
If the Badass World Cup was the real World Cup, Australia would be the Netherlands. For the non-soccer fans out there, this means: they might not win, but they're always fucking dope. I mean like world-shatteringly awesome. Massively goddamn fucking talented. They will fuck your shit up.
Johann Cruyff is the crystallization of the parallel between Dutch soccer and Australian action cinema. He played for FC Barcelona in the 70s and scored, among many, this one goal that scientists studied and went, “well, shit, Johann, you got us stumped.” He was hauling ass as fast as he could go, coughing up both lungs cuz he smoked, and right as the ball was going out of bounds about a yard to the right of the goal, Cruyff stuck out the back of his foot and doinked the ball, which curved just past the goalie, who must have been like, “motherfucker, are you serious?” Spanish people, who love their futból, believe that, went apeshit and couldn't tell whether they wanted to compare him to Jesus Christ or put him on trial for witchcraft. That goal was so ridiculously awesome you all probably think I'm exaggerating, but you can look it up, or ask old Spanish people to tell you about it (it'd take a couple bottles of wine, but shit, I'd drink a couple bottles of wine with an old Spanish person even if they didn't have cool Johann Cruyff stories.) No one had ever seen anything like Johann Cruyff before he came along.
Australian badasses are like that. Like, if I described Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper to you, you'd be like, “For real? A skinhead with nuance?” Sure, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but no, Romper Stomper is the picture American History X would have been if it had been better and less corny. Like look at this clip:
That shit is fucking terrifying. But note, Russell's the scariest motherfucker in the clip. That smile, what the . . . . GAHHHHHHHHH!!!! Romper Stomper will fuck you up (it's an object lesson in the difference between depiction and endorsement; Russell does die at the end, but the violence in that movie fucked me up and nothing fucks me up).
So yeah, Hando in Romper Stomper is also-ran number 5. He loses a lot of points for being a skinhead because it's an inexcusable worldview and a product of cowardice, but he's still Russell Crowe, and Russell Crowe will fuck your entire shit up. Hando actually only makes this list because he's Russell Crowe, who is as ferociously talented as any actor ever to live. No bullshit, on raw talent I rank Russell top 5 all time and for intensity, shit, he might wear the crown. This is why I'm having none of this silly ambivalence about Russell Crowe. There's a reason why in that making-of doc (if it wasn't too goddamn long, I'd embed it here) that Kanye West and Jay-Z put out about their upcoming Watch The Throne album, when they're recording, and Kanye raps something about Russell Crowe, the camera pans over, and Russell himself is fucking sitting right there. Ponder that for a second. Kanye West is not, to put it mildly, a man of low self-esteem. Neither is Jay; for fuck's sake, the reason why he calls himself “Hova” is because he's fucking comparing himself to fucking God. And yet, these two consider Russell an equal. And goddamn well they should. He was Bud White. He was Maximus. He was Captain Jack Aubrey. And once upon a time he played a smart skinhead and it fucking worked. That's talent.
Okay, on to the rest of the list:
4—Mick Dundee, Crocodile Dundee
I know what you're thinking. You hear Crocodile Dundee and remember fish-out-of-water schtick in New York and silliness. But credit's gotta be given where credit is due. Sure he's a goddamn cartoon character, but Paul Hogan deliberately based him on Tarzan, and I'll remind all you kids with no sense of history, that before decades of wackification, Tarzan fucking owned. And so does Crocodile Dundee. Mick's invincible, is one with nature, can kick anyone's ass who steps to him, and he gains as many points as Russell lost for being a skinhead for coming to New York and going, “these guys ain't so tough.” This is obviously not true (Ed. Note: the author wrote this piece while listening to Nas' Illmatic, there isn't one motherfucking thing you can say that will swerve his confidence in New York). But it's an indication of how invincible he is that he can come to New York, get mugged, and go “That's not a knife . . . [pulls what's practically a goddamn machete out] That's a knife.” And he doesn't cut the mugger, just his stupid 80s jacket, thus thoroughly owning the guy non-violently and doing him an enormous fashion favor. So don't sleep on Crocodile Dundee. Obviously, the most badass movie character in the history of Australia is not going to be the lead in a comedy, but still. Mick warrants mention.
3—Rollie Tyler, F/X
Another dark horse qualifier in the group stage. Obviously Bryan Brown was going to show up and say g'day, but the smart money would have been on Breaker Morant, in which Bryan Brown ruled. But we need to salute F/X, which even though it's an American movie, is all about the Australian guy swaggering around and fucking shit up, which is the Australian's default state anyway.
What makes Rollie Tyler so fucking awesome is: he's a special-effects guy. Now, anyone with a functioning cortex who works in the arts knows that the people who make shit, the techies, are the coolest people in the business. They have all the best stories, every last one of them can drink like goddamn champions . . . and they know how to make things explode. That's before we even add in the part about Rollie Tyler being Australian. I mean, shit, the Americans don't stand a chance.
Bonus points as well for Rollie perpetrating all his ownage in New York, again. He gets the nod over Crocodile Dundee because he owns the bad guys with his mind. And because I fucking love special effects people.
2—Zipper Doyle, Kiss or Kill
(note: I couldn't find a photo of Barry Langrishe in character as Zipper Doyle, so there's his headshot; picture that guy but fucking terrifying)
Kiss or Kill is a great little movie, and a demonstration of the formula “good thing 1 + good thing 2 = better thing,” in this case “Australia + film noir = FUCK YEAH.” It's a classic lovers-on-the-run story, the cops are great (there's a scene where they start out riffing on the “I don't eat bacon” scene from Pulp Fiction that turns into this awesome existential inquiry into the unknowable Other—can we really ever know anyone other than ourselves?—only to conclude with the one cop being like “Nah, I'm just fuckin with ya, mate.” Awesome, that's what that scene is) and the villain is both scary and bad.
That's Zipper Doyle. He's a pedophile ex-football player who goes apeshit when this tape of him fucking a kid gets out in the open and so Zipper starts killing the fuck out of everything in sight. It's only through Frances O'Connor's film noir heroine toughness (incidentally, she's definitely a contender for the Women's Badass World Cup, she's fucking great) that Zipper Doyle eventually gets owned, and that's the only reason why he's the second runner-up, but he's definitely the scariest villain in any Australian movie I've ever seen.
1—J, Animal Kingdom
If you're like me, you like minimalist acting, characters who don't ever let on what's really going on upstairs, and lay in the cut patiently for the optimum moment to take revenge. Which is to say, if you're like me, you thought Animal Kingdom was tits, and when the closing credits rolled murmured “Holy fuck that kid was awesome.”
J is the 17 year old protagonist of Animal Kingdom, who goes to live with his grandmother and his criminal uncles. Nothing happens as you expect it to. And—spoiler alert—at the end J kills the guy who killed his girlfriend in brutally calculating “fuck you” fashion and assumes the role of the man of the family. The whole movie, you know he's putting in a good performance, but holy goddamn fuck that ending vaults him to this unbelievable level of badassery. If it wasn't for the big guy, J would be repping Australia in the Badass World Cup.
And, as inevitable as it is, Australia's representative in the international stage is . . .
Max Rockatansky, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
Look, this isn't about being some hipster and pulling some character you've never heard of out of my ass and crowning him so I can be like “derpy derpity doo, look at me, I'm so fucking smart, nya nya.” This is about ownage, people. And if I need to tell you Mad Max owns, you're reading the wrong fuckin blog.
People do horrible things to Max. They kill his family. They drop nuclear bombs and force him to wander the Outback, unshaven, eating dog food. They make him go up against malignant leather queens. They (in this case Tina Turner as Auntie Entity) take out their emotional baggage after their divorce from their abusive husband on him. But all through all that fuckin shit, Max stays resolutely crazy, fucks up the bad guys, and drives really, really, really fast.
Also, remember, before we found out the extent of Mel Gibson's duckfucking insanity, he was a fearsome badass. Martin Riggs, anyone? And Riggs was the watered-down-for-American-audiences version of Mel's ownage capacity. Max was the raw, uncut, 200 proof version, back when Mel fucked his ducks in private and drove faster and more dangerously than any sapient being in this universe. And for that, he reps Australia, a land of highly underrated badassery. The Dutch football team of putting foot to ass.