Oh, I bet you all thought these were over and done with and I'd just flaked. Au contraire, homes, we just gettin started. And now we get to the Big Three in terms of cinema: North America (where my sweet home Estados Unidos is), Asia, and today, Europe. This is not to slight Africa, Central/South America, or Australia, they just don't have as vast and well-funded national film industries as the Big Three. And of course, simple math dictates, more cinema, more potential ownage.
Europe is where cinema goes back the longest, too (fuck you, Edison, I'm Team Lumiere). The Czech Republic (and Slovakia, too, I guess, back when they used to be smushed together as Czechoslovakia) and Poland have produced some great pictures, Spain, Germany, Russia, Italy, France, and England a whole fucking lot of 'em. Some of the greatest directors to ever call action—in whatever language—are European, as are some of the greatest actors. It would stand to reason, by this rationale, that the problem in determining who reps Europe in the Badass World Cup should be sifting through all those badass performances. Right?
Actually, surprisingly, no. European cinema suffers from the same problem as South America and Africa do, on a much larger scale: their art cinema is fucking top-notch, but the ownage content of their shamelessly populist stuff is, percentage-wise, a bit low. The one notable exception to this, historically, has been France, because French people have historically had this massive crush on American B-movies, starting from Truffaut and Godard trying to intellectually justify geeking out like little kids over Don Siegel movies where dudes own other dudes with shotguns, on down to the present day of Luc Besson's EuropaCorp, an institution with the highest respect for le cinema d'ownage.
Despite these most valiant efforts by the French, European cinema remains largely a place where people get their asses handed to them by historical forces, fate, and totalitarian governments, rather than one large man with muscles and/or guns. This makes European movies great to drink a glass of wine to, no question, and that's important. We need movies where people grimly contemplate existence, or have secret affairs wherein their long-repressed passions take flight, or where we just sit there for three hours digging how pretty the Alps or the Riviera or the steppes are. Well, maybe we can trim that last kind, but you know what I'm saying. Ownage isn't the only game in town.
However, it is the subject of this competition. So, without any further ado, the also-rans:
6—Count Orlok, Nosferatu, Transylvania
Remember back when vampires weren't pretty hairless twinks who sparkled in the sunlight? Well this motherfucker right here is fucking old school. Max Schreck was a perfectly normal-looking old German dude, but he got in the room with F.W. Murnau, one of the earliest great duckfuckingly insane auteur filmmakers—and I say this with great reverence, F.W. Murnau was fucking crazy—and suddenly it's all like “get in this makeup, Schreck, we gotta make your ass look fuckin disgusting.” Oh man did it work, too. Nosferatu fucking owns if you can get a half-decent print (a big if these days, sadly, mostly due to Bram Stoker suing the shit out of Murnau for copyright infringement because Murnau decided to just steal the shit out of Dracula instead of paying for it). And Count Orlok is one of the all-time great baddies. He loses out in the Cup largely because a) he's a bad guy and b) he dies. Way to waste your immortality, fucko.
5—Vakulinchuk, Potemkin, USSR.
|Vakulinchuk (left), some other dude with a dope mustache (right)|
Because we need to shout the Russians out when we're talking about cinema. The great thing about Russians, if I may be permitted a little racism leeway to pay the cats a compliment, is their grim determination to soldier on with unglamorous shit. Thus, in the early years of cinema when everyone was figuring out the best ways to light chicks to make them look hot and messing around with visuals, the Russians were like, “fuck it, we're gonna invent editing.” Everyone else, taken aback, was like “okay, you guys do that, we're going to see if Gloria Swanson will show her tits.” (Ed. Note: the one or two women directors in the world were probably figuring out how to light Douglas Fairbanks' package, for a note of equality). But in '25, Sergei Eisenstein dropped Potemkin and everyone else ever since has been cutting based on the way he showed them how.
Now, the important thing to note with this entry is that the fact that one character stood out in Potemkin is a sign that Sergei Eisenstein fucked up. He was trying, and employing every last theoretical and technical bit of genius in his arsenal, to make a film glorifying the Soviet ideal, wherein each was part of an all rather than a unit on their own. Only problem is, he was such a good filmmaker that in the second episode in Potemkin, he ends up revealing how much the sailor leading the mutiny, Vakulinchuk, fucking owns.
The great thing about Vakulinchuk is that he doesn't spout all kinds of incongruous, fully-articulated Marx (like any number of dudes in Soviet movies), he's just like, “Fuck it, this shit's not right. These dudes running shit are assholes. Let's fucking get rid of them, even if it means our lives.” And Vakulinchuk lets himself get owned in the interest of the greater socialist struggle etc etc etc, leading inexorably to the Leninist revolution, but let's not let the fact that it ended up being for a questionable cause count too much against Vakulinchuk. The fucking guy is really cool, and we need to remember he was non-ideological, he was just engaged in a very simple struggle of “These guys are assholes, I'm not, so I'm going to stop them.” I always award style points for fighting the good fight. If this was college basketball, Vakulinchuk would be that one tiny-ass school with no guys who'll ever play in the NBA but who somehow make it to the quarterfinals every year. He doesn't win, but he endures his defeat with dignity and you'll be like “Hey, remember Vakulinchuk?” for a long time afterwards.
4—Michel, A bout de souffle, France
Okay, now we get to a more conventional portrayal of conventional ownage. You can't be talking about ownage in Europe without talking about Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of the great purveyors of same to ever breathe. Even if, in this, he's out of breath! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! (Ed. Note: fuck y'all, that was funny)
Michel owns a cop, fucks Jean Seberg, smokes a lot of cigarettes, does that awesome lip thing, and when he walks by the Bogart poster, he adjusts his shit to make sure his swag is tight. He's Jean-Paul Belfuckingmondo, people. There really ain't much more to say about the cat other than that he owns in just about the Frenchest way possible, which is ultimately why he's not repping Europe, because owning Frenchly means you get killed in the end, and although he dies one of the dopest deaths anyone ever pointed a camera at, still. Death is a bad move if you want to advance.
3—Bryan Mills, Taken, Ireland
Sure, they say he's American, but Liam Neeson was too busy killing the shit out of everything in sight to meet up with the dialect coach, which is why he gets to fly the green, white, and orange in this Cup. I needn't rehash all the reasons laid out in this post, so refer to that in case you somehow forgot how goddamn great Taken is, and how much ass Liam Neeson kicks in it.
So, you may be asking, why is he not the guy for all of Europe? Because the top two also-rans and the champion are just that fucking cool. So prepare to get your socks knocked off.
2—Jacques Mesrine (“C'est prononcé 'MAY-REEN' vous enculés!”), Mesrine, France
Ah, Vincent Cassel. He fucks shit up in just about everything he's ever been in, playing villains and heroes with equal skill, though he takes particular relish in being bad. Which is probably why he's so spectacular as Mesrine. It took two movies and four hours that were basically just an episodic account of thunderously badass (if occasionally embroidered) deeds, to tell Mesrine's story. Not all of it is pretty—him being a shitbag woman-beater is his eventual undoing in the Cup—but the number of times and ways the motherfucker broke out of prison, it's like he's a French version of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
He's more badass in the first part of Mesrine, “Killer Instinct,” than in the second, “Public Enemy No. 1,” but that's largely due to the director having to—I guess—return his tripod to the shop after filming the first part, because there's too much bullshit shaky-cam shit in part two, which suffers from being both more of the same from part one but being darker, since it's when Mesrine confronts his own mortality and decides he wants to be a leftist. Which is fine, I mean heaven knows we could use an actual Left in America, but when you're some dude who robs banks with his dick out and beats his wives, you might want to chill with the insurrectionary rhetoric. Sometimes you're not a resistance fighter, sometimes you just steal shit. And as the cops reminded Mesrine at the end of the picture, by lighting his ass the fuck up in broad daylight, they were in charge.
All that negativity should serve to point up the fact that the fucking prison break near the end of part one must have been tight as fuck (Ed. Note: the fucking prison break near the end of part one was tight as fuck) because that alone vaults him this high in the rankings. Also, he's Vincent Cassel. I like Vincent Cassel.
1—James Bond, various, United Kingdom
The odds-on favorite to win worldwide, 007's shocking upset in the Europe group stage set the cinematic sporting press aflutter, with many hailing this as the most surprising defeat in the history of sport. Or, you know, it would be if this was a real thing.
Whence 007's defeat? Playing him made Sean Connery a star, for which we should all be grateful, made Pierce Brosnan a star, for which we should all be . . . well, not as grateful. And it gave us Daniel Craig, and Daniel Craig fucking rocks. It's not his fault Cowboys & Aliens sucked balls, and that The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is probably going to be gloomy whack-off-in-your-hat bullshit despite his and David Fincher's best efforts. But James Bond never has that problem, right? He's always awesome, consistently shaken-not-stirred, always wins in the end, always gets the finest specimens womanhood has to offer . . . right?
Alas, even James Bond has his Achilles heel. In this case, it's the Roger Moore/Timothy Dalton years, which collectively consist of almost half the franchise's duration. During those years, Bond was a fucking dick (the Moore years) and a pussy (the Dalton years), the Bond girls were bland, and Bond was a fucking asshole to them. Let's break it down:
Connery—old-country chauvinist, but only hit women when they tried to kill him.
Lazenby—goofball, kind of the Ringo of the Bond franchise, but props for landing Diana Rigg.
Brosnan—charming cocksman, more of an ex-boyfriend than anything else.
Craig—tortured romantic, comparatively progressive though still quite the horndog.
It'd be one thing if it were possible to go strictly by the character and toss the actors out of the equation, but the character of Bond changed inexorably with every actor who played him. The Connery Bond owns all in his path, and if the franchise had ended with Connery we wouldn't even need a Cup. The Craig Bond isn't as sure a bet, since he's only done two, and the Quantum of Soporifics sucked, but Casino Royale is, no exaggeration, one of the best action pictures ever made and stands side by side with the best of the Connery years. Brosnan coasted on the fact that at least he wasn't Roger Moore. But goddamn. The Roger Moore years were really, really bad. Bad enough to be the stumbling block for James Bond's quest for the Cup. (By the way, I know I kid around a lot on this blog, but I'm dead serious about this: if you cross swords with me on the Roger Moore question, we are at war). This is basically the equivalent of a soccer player losing the game by scoring five own-goals, on purpose, to lose the game 5-4. For the non-soccer fans out there, doing that will get you killed in every country on earth other than the United States. Fucking Roger Moore . . .
(Ed. Note: Apparently he's a sweetheart IRL, so there's that. But holy Christ his Bond movies suck.)
And, finally, our surprising winner, the Cinderella of the Cup so far . . .
Moses, Attack The Block, United Kingdom
Since on the surface this looks like a case of something I saw recently seeming better because I just saw it, let's look at the objective merits of both this character and the movie itself. First, there aren't a lot of good SF movies in Europe, though “good” is a hard quality to pin down when dealing with some of the fucking insanely bad but extremely fun SF pictures made in Italy (side note, if Italian Spiderman was real, he'd have been #1 on this list no question.) Second, even in the handful of good SF movies in Europe (can anyone think of another one besides Tarkovsky's Solaris and Stalker, or maaaaaybe von Trier's The Element of Crime . . .?) there aren't a whole lot of own-or-get-owned showdowns with vicious carnivorous aliens. Third, even if Moses didn't own the bejesus out of an entire battalion of vicious carnivorous aliens single-handed, there's the added bonus of the fact that a black guy representing Europe will make racists' heads explode.
The thing that makes Moses so great is that he starts out at a place where he could very easily slip into a life defined by anger at his circumstances, taking his revenge on society at large until he got so deep in the game that there would be no way out except death. But Attack The Block catches him right at the brink, where his intelligence and ferocious tenacity can be channeled into the cause of saving Earth. Because, seriously? Those wolf-gorilla motherfucker aliens could have posed a threat to the entire planet. It's Moses, Pest, Sam, Ron, the hipster stoner dude, the girls, and the rest of them whose resolute defiance stops the thread from spreading, and Moses who stands out from the pack by being the one who lures the wolf-gorilla motherfuckers to their ultimate doom.
Look, what I'm trying to say is that the second Attack The Block hits DVD and groups of friends can smoke weed to it, it is going to take on once-in-a-generation classic status. Remember how The Big Lebowski tanked at the box office and became a cult hit on home video? Or Fight Club? Chances are, you barely do, because those pictures are regarded as two of the finest of their decade, and endure as classics to this day. I'm saying this right now and posting it online where everyone can see it, so if I'm wrong you all can laugh at me, but I'm not wrong. Attack The Block is going to be regarded as one of the classic movies of this generation the second people can smoke weed to it. I haven't smoked weed in well over a year and probably won't again for well over another, if ever, but I remember it (reasonably) accurately. And I remember this: people like SF when they're high, they like horror when they're high, and they like comedy when they're high, and Attack The Block is an unstoppable and seamless blend of all three. One of the biggest reasons why is because of its hero. And that's why Moses reps Europe.
Commentator: “Moses, how do you feel about representing Europe in the Cup?”
Moses (not making eye contact, smiling shyly): “Allow it.”