Villainy in film is hard to get right. You run the gamut of smooth talking Europeans who happen to be vastly entertaining in their villainy (Alan Rickman in Die Hard) to utterly characterless and boring villains (Timothy Olymphant in Die Hard 4). In the case of someone like Hans Gruber, he’s funny and he’s more than a little evil, but he’s a total movie villain (I concede that makes sense since we’re watching you know…a movie). But he’s still just the right side of pantomine, and doesn’t really threaten to be real. Which is why I nominate my greatest villain in film to Keifer Sutherland’s ultimately small but important role in Stand By Me.
Now, just to explain, the reason he strikes a chord with me so much is because he feels so real. We’ve all known that character, the older tougher kid who’s too old to be in School and too young to get any real job. So he spends his time dicking about and fucking with younger kids. Because, who’s going to stand up to him right? Also, it helps that Sutherland looks like the type of kid that, when you see him in the street you look away and hope he finds something else to hold his interest. That surviving an encounter with him is like jumping a fence to get away from a rabid dog, you’re elated that you’ve got away, but terrified at the thought of what could have been. Make no mistake, he’s little more than a bully, but it’s the bullies we remember throughout our lives. I bet that you’d struggle to remember the names of countless people you’ve had conversations with, but if I ask you about the school bully chances are you’d be quick to say his name.
He swaggers around Castle Rock like he’s the King. Who knows what goes on at home, or when he just gets out of sight. But to these kids, and to the other kids he’s the one to avoid like a real life boogeyman. His main act of villainy, despite just generally being a shit, is stealing the beloved red Cap of Gordie’s older and much loved Brother Denny. It’s always a moment that’s got to me, I mean who likes having something, anything, forcibly taken from them? But that the Cap has such sentimental view to Gordie (And to us) makes the act that much worse. Of particular note is the relish in which he does so. He knows what he’s doing, and rather than be put off my Gordie’s pleading it just makes the act all the more sweeter. To add insult to injury he tosses it away later, an act which is almost as bad as taking the cap itself.
What a bastard.
Still, he’s eventually bested by a boy with a Gun, or at least he’s put off for the time being. It makes sense that he wouldn’t be beaten up by some sort of new found physical strength as I’m sure a lesser film would do, but instead finds himself on the recieving end of a threat that he recognises as being all too real. I doubt that in anyway ended his reign of terror. But it was a small token of Victory for our motley crew of young protaganists.
So here’s to Keifer for being such a magnificent shithead, and in what probably amounts to about 10 minutes of screentime is far more menacing than anything he pulls off in The Lost Boys.