R0BTRAIN's Bad Ass Cinema: The Bad Asses of '09, Part 1

There were a lot of surprises when it came to Bad Ass Cinema in 2009. There were movies that I fully expected to be awesome that ended up disappointing me (Ninja Assassin); movies I expected to be ok that ended up being terrible (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen); and movies that I desperately wanted to see that ended up getting pushed back to 2010 (The Expendables). A lot of what should have been tent pole releases ended up being duds and some sure things didn’t quite live up to expectation. So with all that said, why aren’t I more upset about 2009?

Because it turned out, 2009 was as satisfying as any movie year I’d had in a long time.

It wasn’t perfect, but as I said in my Top 10, there was plenty to love, and perhaps with some of the giant releases not coming through, that opened up room for some big surprises, and there were plenty of those. In fact, for the first time in a while my Bad Asses list had to have a certain cutoff point, and I wasn’t able to include everyone I wanted to, but that’s the nature of the business sometimes. 2009 was a great year at the movies for me, and I think this list is going to reflect what a terrific time I had.

As per usual, I had a special council that came up with and voted on this list, including my best friend, 6 ex-Green Berets, 2 Shaolin Monks, 4 Navy Seals, 5 ninjas, 3 SWAT team members and one shadowy figure that asked me not to reveal anything about his identity. Each character on here is the best of the best, or at least shows an aptitude for the art of ass kicking.

So, without further ado…

The Bad Asses of 2009

25. (tie) Ronnie Barnhardt, played by Seth Rogen – Observe and Report

“The world has no use for another scared man. Right now, the world needs a f****** hero.”

Someone should have guessed that Observe and Report wasn’t going to do very well at the box office. As a movie, its mean, raw, and just plain wrong at times, and it’s pretty hilarious. At the center of it is Ronnie Barnhardt, played by Seth Rogen as a manic depressive with fits of rage and delusions of grandeur. Sure, he’s just a mall-cop who keeps embarrassing himself when trying to woo the woman he obsesses over or when he’s trying to catch criminals, but when the screws are put to him, Ronnie Barnhardt explodes into action in a Travis Bickle or Oldboy kind of way. Scumbags messing with Ronnie get sent to the hospital, prison or to the morgue, it doesn’t matter if he has a flashlight or a .45 in his hand. Don’t believe me? Check out the beat down Ronnie hands out to a bunch of thugs in the middle of this movie.

25. (tie) Zhou Yu, played by Tony Leung – Red Cliff

“You are knowledgeable in the arts of war.”

There are very few actor/director pairs that are as exciting to watch as John Woo and Tony Leung. If Chow Yun-Fat and Woo are like De Niro and Scorsese, then Leung is Woo’s DiCaprio. Leung is always soulful in his performances, but only in John Woo films does he get to ride horses, catch arrows and then fire them back at the enemy. Leung’s Zhou Yu leads his army into battle with strength and cunning, but he’s a man who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and do some of the ass kicking himself.

24. Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale – Public Enemies

“What keeps you up nights, Mr. Dillinger?”

As a cop, Melvin Purvis just won’t seem to give up on the man he’s chasing. Whether he’s tracking down John Dillinger or taking down Pretty Boy Floyd at 200 yards with a bolt action rifle, the man is as deadly as he is dedicated to his job at the FBI. Personified by Christian Bale, Purvis is not an infallible man, but not one to be messed with either, making you feel a little sorry for anyone that stands in his way.

23. John Dillinger, played by Johnny Depp – Public Enemies

“You wanna know if we’re armed? We’re armed.”

In the hands of Johnny Depp, it’s easy to see why John Dillinger “the outlaw” became John Dillinger “the legend”. While the movie doesn’t paint him as a complete Robin Hood-type figure, his cool is undeniable, and little moments, such as when Dillinger refuses to take the money of a bank patron, solidify why the man became so revered. Handy with a Tommy gun or with just a smile, Dillinger seems unstoppable, and no jail bars in the country seem to be able to hold him.

The best scene in the movie, and probably his most triumphant moment, doesn’t even involve him shooting anyone, though. It involves him walking right into a police station, and taking a stroll around the offices of the task force assigned to catch him. More concerned with the Cubs game than the fact that the man they’ve been looking for just walked in the door, the cops hardly even look up when he asks what the score is. It’s the audacity in that moment that absolutely encapsulates everything the public loved about its favorite public enemy.

22. Marcus Wright, played by Sam Worthington – Terminator Salvation

“If you’re going to point a gun, you’d better be ready to pull the trigger.”

It’s too bad that a muddled script and backstage politics really killed Terminator Salvation before it could really get off the ground, because at the core of the movie I feel there’s a really likeable performance from Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright. Everyone who saw the trailer already knew going in what this character was about, but Worthington really makes the most of what he’s given and is pretty electric onscreen. Wright also gets to play savior several times in the movie going against rapists and terminators alike and each time out punches and rips his way onto this list with some terrific ferocity and a lot of charisma.

21. Guan Yu, played by Ba Sen Zha Bu – Red Cliff

“We need good spirits to win this war.”

There’s a moment early on in John Woo’s Red Cliff where the good guys are losing a battle, and are in desperate need of reinforcements. As the villains charge, it looks like all is lost for a moment, until a break in the line reveals Ba Sen Zha Bu as Guan Yu, and all hell breaks loose. Armed with only a spear, Guan Yu decimates the enemy forces by the score and is so bad ass that when he finally is captured the enemy lets him go, because they realize that they can’t hold him for very long and to kill him would be to waste one of the greatest warriors they’ve ever seen. You know you’re awesome when the enemy refuses to kill you just on the off chance that you might someday join them.

20. Wikus Van De Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley – District 9

“Get your fokkin’ tentacle out of my face!”

For a long time into District 9, it doesn’t look like Wikus Van De Merwe is going to be a viable candidate for this list. The guy is a coward, selfish and a bit stupid. In other words, he’s just a regular guy. On the other hand, when his back is against the wall and he’s got to choose between saving the one soul that’s helped him along his strange journey or possible annihilation, Wikus does what I’d hope I would do in the same situation, and gets to kicking some racist ass. The final battle with a robotic suited Wikus versus a small army is some of the best action I saw all year, with Van De Merwe wiping out scumbags Robocop-style. If there was one truly human character on this whole list, it would definitely be him.

19. Chev Chelios, played by Jason Statham – Crank: High Voltage

“Who’s got my f–king strawberry tart?”

Statham’s second outing as Chev Chelios is vile, violent, sophomoric, insane, and kind of awesome at times. Never mind that someone took out Chelios’ heart, it’s going to take a lot more than that to stop him, and it doesn’t matter how many wannabe gangsters come out of the woodwork, he’s going to get his heart back no matter what it takes. At one point, Chelios is fighting a bad guy in a power plant, gets electrocuted and becomes a giant Godzilla-like monster. It may just happen in his head that way, but Chelios is such a killing machine, that that’s exactly the way all the bad guys in this movie probably see him.

Alright, that’s all we’ve got for this edition. Check in with us next time when we feature more ancient warriors, superheroes, ninjas, American Jedis, and one of the most enduring characters in the history of American pop culture.

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