A New Breed Of Badass

Anyone can run around with a gun and karate moves on-screen and be a badass (I’m talking to you Jason Statham). The true badass however, is the one who never has to lift a weapon (although, sometimes they do anyway). The true badass conveys it using his eyes, his face, his conviction. A true badass actor uses the oldest trick in the book to put this to the forefront on-screen: acting ability. These seven actors have all been around for a while, but have just recently found themselves as real household names because of this acting talent that is now becoming, as it should always be, appreciated fully in good old Hollywood.

Idris Elba

Known for: Thor, 28 Weeks Later, The Wire, The Office, Luther
Upcoming: Pacific Rim, Prometheus

Elba may be most familiar to American audiences for his role on The Wire or his small guest stint as temporary boss Charles Miner on The Office, but to British audiences, he’s been a familiar face for years. His biggest film so far, even though his role was miniscule, was this summer’s Thor in which he portrayed stoic badassed-ness as Heimdall. Elba is just as likely to play a comedic role as a dramatic one, and he can currently be seen in the British series Luther (which is like House but cooler and more British).

Bryan Cranston

Known for: Seinfeld, Malcolm In The Middle, Breaking Bad, Drive
Upcoming: Total Recall, World War Z

Who would’ve guessed all those years ago that Seinfeld‘s Tim Watley would be pulling in Emmy after Emmy for Lead Actor in a Drama Series? Cranston has re-invigorated his career (which at that point was defined by his stellar performance on the oft-good, sometimes great Malcolm in the Middle) with the role of Walter White on AMC’s ridiculously received Breaking Bad. Sure, he sometimes resorts to unspeakable acts of violence on the show, but look into his eyes in any of the promotional materials for the show and tell me you wouldn’t fear that man. And this is all before he even begins to give his always amazing performances.

Ryan Gosling

Known for: The Notebook, Remember the Titans, Blue Valentine, Half Nelson, Drive
Upcoming: Ides of March, The Place Beyond the Pines

By far the prettiest one on this list (only because Tom Hardy didn’t make the final cut), Gosling has been trying to shed his heart-throb image for years, and while I’m not sure anything can do it, he sure gave it a shot with Drive. What you may not know if you haven’t seen the film is that Gosling’s character is perhaps the most psychotic since Patrick Bateman. But while Bateman was so insane he couldn’t contain the absolute insanity in his mind, Gosling’s Driver keeps it under wraps for most of the time, only letting momentary lapses in sanity take over. He plays it so well that you don’t realize exactly how insane he is until the film is over. He delivers only a few words and commits only a few (quite grisly) acts, but you can feel something boiling just underneath the surface for the entire film, until it begins to seep out. And once it happens the first time, you can see it in Gosling’s face that he is not a man to be messed with.

Michael Fassbender

Known for: 300, Inglorious Basterds, X-Men: First Class
Upcoming: Prometheus, Untitled Jim Jarmusch Project

German-born, Irish-raised Michael Fassbender is the only one on this list (that I know of) who can be a badass in at least 3 different languages. After a role in the unfortunately executed 300, Fassbender sprung into public consciousness by playing perhaps the classiest badass of all time, Lt. Archie Hicox in Quentin Tarantino’s revenge-fantasy Inglorious Basterds. And then he goes and follows it up with an unexpectedly great performance in an unexpectedly great X-Men: First Class. Fassbender’s start is definitely on the rise, as he will take a huge career move with the starring role in the still-secretive Prometheus.

Mark Strong

Known for: Sherlock Holmes, Rocknrolla, Kick-Ass
Upcoming: John Carter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Black Gold

Mark Strong may (unfortunately) be best known for his work in Sherlock Holmes and Green Lantern, but it’s his stellar performances in Kick-Ass, Rocknrolla, and Danny Boyle’s Sunshine that first put him on my map. Strong has an advantage to his badassery that only he and Elba share on this list, their stature. They are both tall fellas with a little meat on their bones (whereas Fassbender falls more on the lanky side). Strong has the rare ability to be at his most badass while rocking a suit and speaking calmly, while you can read his eyes to see how serious and/or angry he is being. Strong’s biggest weakness however, seems to be his role choices. He can soon be seen in the truly awful looking John Carter.

Stephen Graham

Known for: This Is England, Snatch, Boardwalk Empire
Upcoming: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Best Laid Plans, Texas Killing Fields

Graham, perhaps now best known for playing Al Capone on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, first jumped on the film scene with a mostly comedic role in Snatch. But it was his role as Combo in Shane Meadows’ excellent, semi-autobiographical film This Is England (it’s like a Cameron Crowe movie, if instead of writing for Rolling Stone when he was 15, Cameron Crowe instead had a bi-polar, lovesick, neo-nazi as a surrogate father). Graham’s Combo goes nearly the entire film without laying a finger on anyone, but he is terrifying in his conviction, and you can see the hate and anger in his eyes. It is a truly great performance by Graham, giving a soul and spirit to what could be seen as one of the more despicable characters ever put to film. Graham can soon be seen in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy along with every other English actor.

Jeremy Renner

Known for: The Hurt Locker, The Town, 28 Weeks Later,
Upcoming: The Bourne Legacy, The Avengers, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Renner (who rose to fame after his fantastic performance in The Hurt Locker) has the most money riding on his future trajectory. He seems to be stepping into the standard action-hero path with the upcoming The Bourne Legacy and The Avengers, but has shown he has some serious chops in not only The Hurt Locker but Ben Affleck’s The Town. And standing out in The Town was no easy feat, with great performances by Pete Postlethwaite, Jon Hamm, and an absolutely deplorable performance by talking mannequin Blake Lively. We should know Renner’s value as a leading man soon enough, but hopefully, if his action-star path doesn’t work out, people will still believe in him to play more subtle, character driven, badasses. He’s shown he can.


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2 Comments on “A New Breed Of Badass”

  1. 09.22.11 at 2:17 PM #

    Great List, Jim!


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