Hitmen, assassins, call them what you will. They have made for some entertaining movie characters over the years. Some just plain funny, others downright scary.
Tom Cruise for instance in Collateral is a little of both. Big Tom’s never really been known to strike fear into the hearts of viewers - even when he was a blood-sucking vampire, which was probably due to his long girlie hair (no offence girls).
But, Scientology’s No.1 guy makes a decent fist of playing the ruthless hitman Vincent in Michael Mann’s 2004 thriller – once you’re finished having a bit of a chuckle at the dyed ‘do’ he sports.
He has made this list of yours truly’s most memorable professional killers from the movies …
There may be a few surprises. They may be a few missed. There won’t be any bounty hunters or spies. There won’t be any Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Mr and Mrs Smith work or Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne.
So, what do you think - these hits or misses?
11. Michael Sullivan
Played by TOM HANKS
Featured in ROAD TO PERDITION (2002)
‘Every father is a hero to his son’
the INTRO The Hankster goes completely against type in this 1930s crime caper from Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) by playing a mob enforcer hitman – though he is still the good guy, with a heart of gold.
the PLOT Things go a little awry for Hanks’ Sullivan after ‘Go to Work with Daddy’ day. At the demand of his boss and mentor, John Rooney (Paul Newman), Sullivan’s 12-year-old son Mike Jnr, is to be ‘rubbed out’ after he witnesses his father doing what he does best. After his wife and younger boy are killed, Sullivan is forced to go on the run with Mike Jnr in order to stay alive and also exact revenge on former Rooney. Jude Law co-stars as another hitman on the trail of Sullivan.
bit of TRIVIA The final feature film for Newman, who was always first choice for the part of Rooney.
end QUOTE “There are only murderers in this room! Michael! Open your eyes! This is the life we chose, the life we lead. And there is only one guarantee: none of us will see heaven” – John Rooney.
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10. Martin Q. Blank
Played by JOHN CUSACK
Featured in GROSSE POINTE BLANK (1997)
‘Even A Hit Man Deserves A Second Shot!’
the INTRO A movie featuring Cusack as a hitman just has to be a black comedy. He’s not someone who would put the fear of god into you. But in this quirky comedy from the pen of one-time screen-writer Tom Jankiewicz, Cusack shows he can get the job done – and some.
the PLOT Cusack’s Blank is starting to question what he does for a living. He’s developing a conscience, seeing a shrink, Dr Oatman (Alan Arkin), and botched his last two assignments. Things take an interesting turn when he accepts his next job, which just happens to in his old home town of Grosse Pointe, and coinciding with his 10-year high school reunion – not to mention him becoming a marked man himself. An older hitman named Grocer (played by Dan Aykroyd of all people) are among those out to get him.
bit of TRIVIA The goon stalking Martin Blank is Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez, a world-champion kickboxer who was also John Cusack’s kickboxing instructor.
end QUOTE “Oh, the reason I called… Could you find out who else is in town? I’ve made two spooks and a ghoul already, so if they’ve double-booked the job, and/or they’re going to kill me, I’d like to know. If you could find that out, that’d be great” – Martin Q Blank.
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9. Ghost Dog
Played by FOREST WHITTAKER
Featured in GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI (1999)
‘All assassins live beyond the law… only one follows the code’
the INTRO Written specifically for the at times brilliant Whittaker, the character of Ghost Dog is an African American hitman who models himself on the old ways of the Samurai. A loner he keeps company with his homing pigeons and a French-speaking Haitian he can’t understand.
the PLOT His master, who just happens to be heavily involved in the mob, wants to send an expendable ‘Ghost’ to doggie heaven after the old man’s daughter witnesses the assassin making an execution.
bit of TRIVIA When Ghost Dog introduces himself to the gangsters at the secluded hideaway, he says his name is “Bob Solo”, a combination of two Harrison Ford characters, Bob Falfa (from American Graffiti) and Han Solo (from Star Wars).
end QUOTE “Yeah. He calls himself Ghost Dog. I don’t know, a lot of these Black guys today, these gangster-type guys, they make up names like that” – Louie.
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8. Jack Carter
Played by MICHAEL CAINE
Featured in GET CARTER (1971)
‘What happens when a professional killer violates the code? Get Carter!’
the INTRO Not to be confused with the lame Sylvester Stallone attempt at a remake in 2000, Caine’s original is classic hitman, classic vengeance. From Mike Hodges, the director of Flash Gordon (1980), Morons From Space (1986) and a Get Carter clone I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003), starring Clive Owen.
the PLOT Caine’s Carter is a vicious London-based gangster who returns to his home town of Newcastle to attend his brother’s funeral – and relentlessly exacting brutal and bloody revenge on those who sent him to an early grave. Caine shows in his younger days he could be as intense as the best of them – and really kick some bad guy ass.
bit of TRIVIA Hodges had Ian Hendry in mind for the part of Carter. Hendry got the part of Erik, but according to Hodges, Hendry never forgave Caine for taking his role and this caused resentment between the two stars on the set, resulting in the undisguised friction seen on the screen.
end QUOTE “You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape. With me it’s a full time job. Now behave yourself” – Jack Carter.
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Played by TOM CRUISE
Featured in COLLATERAL (2004)
‘It started like any other night’
the INTRO Playing one of the most professional hitmen to grace the big screen – and well dressed in his grey suit – this is Tom Cruise at his most absolute bad-ass best in a typical gritty no-holds-barred offering from director Michael Mann (Heat).
the PLOT Of all the cabs in LA, he had to get into mine. A down-on-his luck taxi driver named Max (Jamie Foxx in an Academy Award-nominated performance) is forced to drive around the city streets at night so a contract killer without a conscience, Vincent, can go about his grizzly work. It’s a busy night for the pair with five executions on Vincent’s list of things to do, including the attractive assistant DA Max had given a ride too just a few hours earlier.
bit of TRIVIA It wasn’t until Russell Crowe became interested in playing Vincent, that the long-gestating Collateral began seeing the light of day. Crowe brought Mann on board, but the constant delays meant Crowe left the project. Mann immediately went to Tom Cruise with the idea of him playing the hitman and Adam Sandler as the cabbie.
end QUOTE “Did you join Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Whales, Greenpeace, or something? No. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit” – Vincent.
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6. Chev Chelios
Played by JASON STATHAM
Featured in CRANK (2006); CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE (2009)
‘Poison in his veins. Vengeance in his heart’
the INTRO Jason Statham was seen very briefly as an associate of Tom Cruise’s Vincent in Collateral, but gets his own hitman on a mission movie here. Chev’s pretty much like any other Statham character – is pretty cool, straight to the point, takes no shit – and speaks with a British accent.
the PLOT Chev is about to give up the hit man game so he can live a normal life with girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart) when he is poisoned by a rival Verona (Jose Pablo Cantillo). He will die if his heart-rate drops, so, while trying to track down his would-be killer, must also keep ‘things’ relatively exciting, such as shagging in public.
bit of TRIVIA In the public sex scene, all the non-actors’ reactions to the scene were real.
end QUOTE “Well, I’m glad to hear that. Listen, I’ve been fatally poisoned, there’s probably a psychopath heading over there to torture and kill you as we speak, but don’t bother getting out of bed, I’ll be there in a flash… Maybe you could fry me up a waffle or something, kay?” – Chev Chelios.
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5. The Bride
Played by UMA THURMAN
Featured in KILL BILL PART 1-2 (2003)
‘Here comes the bride’
the INTRO Writer-director Quentin Tarnatino’s epic tale of revenge that was so big he needed to split it into two parts. Speaking of splitting things into parts, Thurman’s character of Beatrix Kiddo aka The Bride may look innocent enough – at least that’s what the hospital orderly thought - but she is a deadly assassin/hit woman who slices and dices her way towards achieving her ultimate goal – which of course is killing Bill.
the PLOT Wanting out from a life as a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, The Bride is left for dead by her former associates and their boss and her pissed-off former lover, Bill (David Carradine) on her wedding day. After waking from a coma, she plans her own ‘hits’ on her would-be killers – and anyone else who gets in her way.
bit of TRIVIA Tarantino delayed the start of the production because Thurman was pregnant. Also, her yellow track-suit is a direct homage to the one worn by Bruce Lee in Game of Death (1978).
end QUOTE “Those of you lucky enough to have your lives, take them with you. However, leave the limbs you’ve lost. They belong to me now” – Beatrix Kiddo.
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Played by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Featured in THE TERMINATOR (1984)
‘Your future is in his hands’
the INTRO James Cameron’s sci-fi classic that has spawned three sequels – with at least two more to come – as well as a TV series and billions of Arnold Schwarzenegger impressionists, stating ‘I’ll be back!’. Cyborg hitmen (and women) have come and gone, but big Arnie’s is the only one that really counts. And he will be ‘back’ in the upcoming Terminator Salvation.
the PLOT A former Austrian body-builder poses as an actor posing as a cybernetic organism composed of a hyper-alloy combat chasis covered in living tissue … posing as a human, and is sent back in time 45-years from 2029 to ‘terminate’ Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Sarah, you see, is the mother of the resistance leader who is trying to bring about the destruction of an army of machines (like you didn’t already know that). But, of course, she only ends up giving birth to John Connor due to the fact he sends back Kyle Reese in order to protect her from the T-00 and ends up shagging her, thus becoming his dad. Lucky he didn’t send back another Terminator, like in the sequels, to act as body guard … He may not have been born.
bit of TRIVIA O.J. Simpson was considered for the role of the Terminator, but the producers feared he was “too nice” to be taken seriously as a cold-blooded killer. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.
end QUOTE “Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead” – Kyle Reese.
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3. Jules Winnifield
Played by SAMUEL L. JACKSON
From PULP FICTION (1994)
‘Just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character’
the INTRO The role that made Jackson a motha-fucken Hollywood star. He was nominated for an Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the cool, calm and collected hitman who sports an afro, swears like a son-of-a-bitch and likes burgers.
the PLOT Jules and partner Vincent Vega (John Travolta) work for mobster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) and after executing some small-time criminals, and recovering a stolen briefcase, find themselves in a number of bizarre situations, such as experiencing ‘divine intervention’, cleaning itty-bitty pieces of skull of the backseat of a car and discussing just how filthy pigs actually are.
bit of TRIVIA Director Quentin Tarantino wrote the role of Jules specifically for Samuel L. Jackson, however it was almost given to Paul Calderon after a great audition. When Jackson heard this, he flew to Los Angeles and auditioned again to secure the role. Calderon ended up with a small role as Paul.
end QUOTE “Yolanda, I thought you said you were gonna be cool. Now when you yell at me, it makes me nervous. And when I get nervous, I get scared. And when motherfuckers get scared, that’s when motherfuckers accidentally get shot.” – Jules.
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2. Anton Chigurh
Played by JAVIER BARDEM
from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)
‘Nothing you fear… can prepare you for him’
the INTRO Brilliant movie from The Coen Brothers highlighted by the performance of Bardem as the cold-blooded killer with the really bad hair-cut, Chigurh. The Spaniard was honoured for his efforts by winning a Best Supporting Actor, not to mention a host of other awards.
the PLOT Chigurh has been hired by Dallas businessman (Stephen Root) to track down $2million in missing drug money – and the working class Texan who has stumbled across it in the desert, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin). Chigurh leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake – mainly courtesy of his multi-purpose airgun and including a bounty hunter, Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), who has been hired to try and control the situation.
bit of TRIVIA The Coen Brothers used a photo of a brothel patron taken in 1879 as a model for Anton Chigurh’s hair style. Looking at its weirdness after getting the hair cut, Javier Bardem said “Oh no, now I won’t get laid for the next two months”.
end QUOTE “Do you have any idea how crazy you are?” – Carson Wells.
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1. Mister Shhh
Played by STEVE BUSCEMI
Featured in THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD (1995)
‘They can die quickly. They can die slowly. But they must die!’
the INTRO King of quirk and Coen Brothers favorite, Steve Buscemi is one of my favorite actors, who, while likened to more comedic parts such as in The Big Lebowski (1998) and Fargo (1996), can be down-right creepy such as in Con Air (1997) and here in this under-rated crime pic that has after an initial light-heartedness has a sense of impending doom, mostly brought on by Buscemi’s character.
the PLOT Andy Garcia’s Jimmy ‘The Saint’ Tosnia has been assigned one last job by crime boss The Man With The Plan (Christopher Walken), but after assembling his old crew made up of an eclectic mix of characters, botches it. Badly. So The Man sends in the silent but deadly Mr Shhh to take them out. One by one. No matter where they are all hiding. Mr Shhh is a little man with a big reputation, who is just as deadly with a briefcase as he is with a knife or gun.
bit of TRIVIA Buscemi was stabbed in the throat, head and arm during a barroom brawl at the Firebelly Lounge in Wilmington, North Carolina in 2001. The brawl also involved Vince Vaughn, who was arrested for brutalizing one of Buscemi’s attackers. He suffered a deep cut to the face and now has a noticeable scar on his cheek. Heavy make-up is used to hide it in movies.
end QUOTE “You have a choice; you can tell me where Earl Denton is, or you can tell it to the worms” – Mr Shhhh
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Honorable mentions …
Danny Aiello (Dosmo Pizzo) in 2 Days in the Valley (1995)
Josh Hartnett (Slevin Kelevra) in Lucky Number Slevin (2007)
Lola Larson (Bambi) and Trina Parks (Thumper) in Diamonds Are Forever (1971)