Sunday, February 7, 2016

Underrated Bond: Villains

There have been many great Bond villains. Here are a few that do not get as much love.

Emilio Largo, Thunderball

Wedged between Auric Goldfinger and Donald Pleasance's iconic (though grossly overrated) Blofeld, Largo is the forgotten badass of the Connery years.

Largo fixes my one bug bear about the Bonds (and action movies in general): in most of the movies, they make the head bad guy a brain, but delegate the muscle to other characters. For once, this is not the case. Largo does not need anyone else to do his dirty work, and is more than happy to join his men in their tasks (retrieving bombs, fighting US navy divers), and in the final showdown, he throws down with Bond all by himself. In fact, Largo wins the fight and has Bond dead to rights, with a gun aimed right at him -- until he gets a spear to the back.

If it were not for the fact that he royally pissed off his mistress, Largo would still be alive and James Bond would not have lived twice (nailed it!).

Max Largo, Never Say Never Again

Sure, he fulfils the same function as the villain of Thunderball, but Max is a completely different fish. Where Emilio was a big, swaggering brute with an appetite for women and gambling as big as Bond's, Max is a quiet, smiling psychotic.

Klaus Maria Brandauer is a terrific actor, and his subtle choices in performance gives the unstable Max an unpredictability that is electric to watch.

Franz Sanchez, Licence to Kill

This movie is not a big favourite of mine, but Sanchez ranks pretty high in the villain stakes.

The great thing about Sanchez is how menacing he is without any of the usual trappings: he has no big scheme, he just wants to continue to expand and profit from his business. To that end, he does not waste time when he has a problem -- he acts quickly get rid of it. 

No matter if that is recovering his mistress after she flees him; seeking bloody vengeance on the DEA agent who arrested him, or killing a rogue British agent who is trying to mess with his operation.
Although he feels more like the bad guy from an 80s action movie, Sanchez falls firmly in the Bond tradition. The writers dress up his character with distasteful bits of business from the Fleming books (whipping his girlfriend; feeding an enemy to sharks) which feel like natural outgrowths of his ruthless, ultra-paranoid personality.

Le Chiffre, Casino Royale

Forgotten after Raul Silva swaggered in nattering on about rats and coconuts, Le Chiffre still has a lot to recommend him.

One of the most straight forward villains in the series, like Sanchez, he has understandable motivations which make him far more threatening than your average megalomaniac. He also has no hesitations when it comes to eliminating obstacles -- like Bond, he is a professional who will do anything to complete his job. He is also incredibly mercenary when it comes to his compatriots. He will sell out anyone if it will help him -- even his loyal girlfriend.

With his back against the wall and creditors after his literal blood, Le Chiffre is far more driven than any other Bond villain -- unlike the others, he will do whatever it takes to get himself out of the red.

For other relevant posts:

Underrated Bond: Women

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