Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Heroes Without Capes

I grew up idolizing superheroes. Spider-Man was my first, as I watched the old television show version climb up buildings and shoot rope webs from the contraptions on his hands. I had Marvel action figures, DC action figures. I had comic books. I had underoos. I'm a nostalgic sort of person, which is why I really wish I could get more into the MCU and DCU movies. They're a bit too blockbustery for me, as I prefer the darker and grittier Netflix versions of Daredevil and The Punisher. By any account, I see heroes everywhere I turn in movies, more specifically in the more unconventional types of heroes. Some may not recognize them the same as I do, but I thought I would highlight a few of my favorites.

10. Leo (Mute)
After his girlfriend and the love of his life, Naadirah, goes missing, Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) embarks on a mission of silent justice to get her back. After a childhood accident leaves him unable to speak, Leo coasts his way through a futuristic Berlin cityscape with Naadirah at his side. She's chosen a difficult living for herself, but Leo doesn't care, totally and completely loyal to her foreign charms.

Costume: Traditional Amish dress
Weapon: Bed post he carved for Naadirah
Cause: To Find Naadirah at any cost
Weakness: Inability to speak
Sidekick: None
Arch Nemesis: Cactus Bill (Paul Rudd)

9. Zorro (The Mask of Zorro)
Zorro has been around for a long, long time, and here, we see the retired one, Don Diego de la Vega (Anthony Hopkins), pass the torch to career criminal Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) to stand against a Spanish tyrant. Zorro takes on the colonial powers that be, a Robin Hood of sorts to the people in Old California. De la Vega trains his new pupil well, and they fight back to back as they try to win the affections of Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones).

Costume: Black outfit and hat
Weapon: Spanish rapier
Cause: The fight against tyranny and to avenge his brother
Weakness: Anger over the loss of his brother
Sidekick: Don Diego de la Vega
Arch Nemesis: Don Rafael Montero and Captain Harrison Love

8. Sadie (A Vigilante)
If Sadie (Olivia Wilde) isn't a superhero for the modern age, I don't know who is. As a life's mission, she helps battered women escape the clutches of their abusive husbands by training as a boxer and beating the snot out of the callous men. She then gives the women everything they need to start a new life for themselves whilst disappearing into a cloud of car exhaust. A Vigilante is an intense movie, but it comes full circle for Sadie, showing us just why she feels compelled to do the work she does.

Costume: A plethora of disguises
Weapon: Boxing skills, handgun
Cause: Emancipating victims of domestic abuse
Weakness: Grief over the death of her young son
Sidekick: None
Arch Nemesis: Her survivalist ex-husband

7. Liu Siu-Jian (Kiss of the Dragon)
In Kiss of the Dragon, Jet Li plays a Chinese intelligence specialist on assignment in Paris. He's cooperating with French intelligence to bring down, and to bring home, a Chinese criminal passing through The City of Love. When they double-cross him, kill his mark, and then try to kill him, he crosses paths with Jessica Kamen (Bridget Fonda), an indentured servant to intelligence office Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard (Tcheky Karyo), the same one trying to kill Jian. Jian is a hero because it eventually becomes less about him and more about reuniting the battered Jessica with her daughter, the one being held captive by Richard.

Costume: All black outfit
Weapon: Kung-Fu, acupuncture needles
Cause: Clear his name, help reunite Jessica with her daughter
Weakness: Limited resources
Sidekick: Jessica Kamen
Arch Nemesis: Inspector Jean-Pierre Richard

6. Sean Donovan (Boy Wonder)
Sean Donovan is a regular, reserved teenager bent on avenging the car-jacking death of his mother. He starts small, fighting every day crime in his city, but it will all lead him back to his ultimate quest. He's not a seasoned vet by any means, which is why he leaves a few clues behind, setting him into the cross hairs of newly-anointed detective, Teresa Ames. What's a good hero story without the constant threat of being caught?

Costume: Black jacket, hood, face paint
Weapon: Handgun
Cause: Avenging his mother's murder
Weakness: Inexperience
Sidekick: Detective Teresa Ames
Arch Nemesis: Larry Childs

5. Leon Montana (The Professional)
The Professional is a dark, gritty movie with a tenderhearted relationship at its core. Leon is a Italian assassin living in Little Italy who's very particular about his plants. Matilda (Natalie Portman) bears witness to the murders of her family at the hands of crooked DEA agents, led by the drug-infused, highly unpredictable Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman). After they strike up an unlikely connection, Leon and Matilda are soon hunted by Stansfield and his goon squad, which kicks the finale into overdrive.

Costume: Trench coat, hat, sunglasses
Weapon: Silenced handguns, high-powered rifle
Cause: Protecting Matilda
Weakness: Love for Matilda
Sidekick: Matilda
Arch Nemesis: Norman Stansfield

4. Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China)
Along with Indiana Jones and John Rambo, Jack Burton tops the list as far as '80s action heroes go. He's what you get when you mix John Wayne with a hyper-reactive teenage girl, tough, sure, but often can't seem to get out of his own way. He makes his buddy Wang's problems his own, following the Chinese-American into the bowels of a Chinatown hell. He faces weather-inducing baddies, Kung-Fu minions, an age-old sorcerer, and Little China street gangs to get his truck back, and to rescue Miao Yin from David Lo Pan.

Costume: Chinese-themed sleeveless shirt, jeans, knee-high boots
Weapon: Sub-machine gun, boot knife
Cause: Rescue best friend's girlfriend
Weakness: Himself
Sidekick: Wang Chi
Arch Nemesis: David Lo Pan

3. Max Rockatansky (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Successor to the character Mel Gibson made famous in the '80s, Tom Hardy takes over the mantle of Mad Max in Fury Road, where the crazed, Valhalla-obsessed sons of Immortan Joe rule the desert wasteland of dystopian Australia. Max Rockatansky gets in the way and is used as an unorthodox hood ornament. That is, until he crosses paths with Imperator Furiosa and the innocent, freedom-craving young brides of Immortan Joe.

Costume: Dusty leather jacket and pants, boots
Weapon: Double-barrel sawed-off shotgun
Cause: Freeing the brides of Immortan Joe on Fury Road
Weakness: Haunted by his past
Sidekick: Imperator Furiosa
Arch Nemesis: Immortan Joe

2. Eric Draven (The Crow)
Eric is the only member of the undead to the make the list, but that doesn't stop him from being an unconventional hero. A year following the unrightful deaths of he and his fiancee, Shelly, Eric is resurrected by a crow to wreak vengeance on the killers, and the guy who calls all the shots at the top. He has a lot of pieces to connect before he can get there, but the crow is his guide, giving him the supernatural powers he needs to rights all the wrongs done to him.

Costume: Black outfit, leather jacket, face paint
Weapon: Invincibility
Cause: Avenging the death of Shelly
Weakness: Vulnerability of the crow
Sidekick: Detective Albrecht
Arch Nemesis: Top Dollar

1. Driver (Drive)
As soon I saw Drive, I immediately thought of Driver as a hero. The notion comes not only from the soundtrack song, "A Real Hero" by College, but by the scorpion insignia on the back of his jacket, and by his actions. He's not trained in the arts of heroship, but Driver will stop at nothing to protect the young woman he's fallen in love with.

Costume: Jeans, boots, scorpion jacket, leather driving gloves
Weapon: Hammer, car
Cause: Protecting Irene and Benicio from harm
Weakness: Trust
Sidekick: Shannon (Bryan Cranston)
Arch Nemesis: Bernie Rose

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