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Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Five Most Powerful Pre-Murder Monologues In Film

For reasons that will become very clear as this article goes on, Daniel Day Lewis' recent Oscar win for There Will Be Blood prompted me to think of the art of the monologue and specifically, the pre-murder monologue. Murder plays to two binary aspects of our psyche: It both shocks the conscience and titillates us. This phenomenon of simultaneous revulsion and excitement goes as far back as the days of the Colosseum and stays with us in the modern age, every summer as we go to see the latest action killtacular blockbuster film.

People kill for all sorts of reasons. For pleasure, for power, for revenge, for fun. And when murderers open their mouths right before they do so, they give us insight into the will and the heartlessness that it takes to kill a man. Often the results can be profound, funny, and/or tragic. Here are the five most powerful pre-murder monologues of film:

Pulp Fiction: Ving Rhames Gets Medieval on Hillbilly Boy's Ass

Murderer: Marsellus Wallace - Murdered: Zed

This scene manages to combine the horror of rape, the hope of salvation, the thrill of the kill, and the threat of torture into a single sequence so tense that you could cut the tension with a sword.

Text: What now? Let me tell you what now. I'ma call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin' n**gers, who'll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin', hillbilly boy? I ain't through with you by a damn sight. I'ma get medieval on your ass.

American Psycho: Christian Bale Shows It's Hip to Be Square

Murderer: Patrick Bateman - Murdered: Paul Allen

A lot of people didn't get that American Psycho was not supposed to some serial killer thriller, but rather a sharp satire of the materialism and relentelessness of the 1980s. In this scene, Patrick Bateman murders Paul Allen because Allen is able to get a table at a restaurant that Bateman can't. The fact that he decides to regale Allen with a brief history of everyone's favorite 80s band before chopping him to bits demonstrates that Bateman is a character who not only lacks of morals, but only has disgust and ambition where morals should be.

Text: Do you like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He's been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humour...In '87, Huey released this, "Fore," their most accomplished album. I think their undisputed masterpiece is "Hip to be Square", a song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it's not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it's also a personal statement about the band itself.

Pulp Fiction: Samuel L. Jackson Dares You To Say "What" Again:

Murderer: Jules Winnfield - Murdered: Brett

The deliberate pacing, quick back-and-forth dialogue, and crescendo in volume and tone make this perhaps one of the most well-known killing scenes of our time. The assassination of Brett by Jules Winnfield demonstrated not only that Samuel L. Jackson is a complete badass, but that Quentin Taranatino can write monologues loaded with juicy witicisms like nobody's business.

Text: There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. "The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!"

There Will Be Blood: Daniel Day Lewis Drinks Your Milkshake

Murderer: Daniel Plainview - Murdered: Eli Sunday

Daniel Day Lewis' chilling portrayal of Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood was one of the best performances of the year, one which garnered him much-deserved acclaim and dozens of awards. But few can argue that his most memorable moment from the film came during this final scene, in which he launched into a bombastic tirade against Eli Sunday. All of a sudden, all of Plainviews pent up anger.

Many people read There Will Be Blood as an allegory. If so, this scene is the ultimate triumph of secular humanism and capitalist greed over religion, expressed in the haunting line: I drink your milkshake. Go here for the full, spoiler-ific scene.

Text: DRAINAGE! Drainage, Eli you boy. Drained dry, I'm so sorry. If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake. And I have a straw, there it is, my straw reaches across the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I drink your milkshake! I drink it up! Did you think your song and dance and your superstition would help you, Eli? I am the third revelation. I'm smarter than you! I'm not a false prophet, you sniveling boy! I AM THE THIRD REVELATION!

Ralph Fiennes Shows Us The Face of True Evil

Murderer: Amon Goethe and the Nazis - Murdered: The Jews of Krakow

Who could have guessed that one of the most abhorrent villains from all of film is actually a based on a real person? Amon Goethe's sadistic streak is presented in monologue form as, in one fell swoop, he dismisses the achievements of all the Jews and foretells their heartless murders. Every time I watch this scene, it still chills me to my bone.

Text: Today is history. Today will be remembered. Years from now the young will ask with wonder about this day. Today is history and you are part of it. Six hundred years ago when elsewhere they were footing the blame for the Black Death, Casimir the Great - so called - told the Jews they could come to Krakow. They came. They trundled their belongings into the city. They settled. They took hold. They prospered in business, science, education, the arts. With nothing they came and with nothing they flourished. For six centuries there has been a Jewish Krakow. By this evening those six centuries will be a rumor. They never happened. Today is history.

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(photo by Eduardo, via CC)

Update: Several people (in the comments and on the digg posting) have made reference to Dennis Hopper's monologue in True Romance. Please note: These are pre-MURDER monologues (i.e. monologues delievered by the murderer). For a list of notable pre-DEATH monologues in film, check back next week.

Update 2: "Dag" from the comments brought up a great point - the excellent speech by Robert De Niro in The Untouchables. I'm including it below. If there are any more I missed, feel free to leave it in a comment and it will be added here if it's a good choice. Thanks for the comments!

The Untouchables: Robert De Niro Plays Baseball With Guy's Head

Murderer: Al Capone - Murdered: Mobster

Text: A man becomes preeminent, he's expected to have enthusiasms. Enthusiams... What are mine? What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy? Baseball! A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what? For individual achievement. There he stands alone. But in the field, what? Part of a team. Teamwork.... Looks, throws, catches, hustles.Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on. If his team don't field... what is he? You follow me? No one. Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say? I'm goin' out there for myself. But... I get nowhere unless the team wins.

Update 3: Unforgiven: Eastwood Decorates the Saloon (Thanks Ozymandias!)

Murderer: William Munny - Murdered: Little Bill

Text: Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch! You just shot an unarmed man!

Well, he should have armed himself if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend...I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I'm here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.

Original here

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