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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Screening Room's top 10 movie psychos

By CNN's Mairi Mackay

(CNN) -- This month it's all about killer attitude.

Funny guy: Joe Pesci (left) as Tommy DeVito the gang sociopath in Scorsese's mob masterpiece, "Goodfellas."

Funny guy: Joe Pesci (left) as Tommy DeVito the gang sociopath in Scorsese's mob masterpiece, "Goodfellas."

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As the Joker in the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" reignites fascination with the celluloid psycho, "The Screening Room" has compiled a list of its favorite on-screen monsters.

Don't agree with our list? Think we've missed one? Share your views by using the Sound Off box below and we'll publish the best responses.

1. Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) "Sexy Beast"
(Jonathan Glazer, 2000)

Glazer casts Kingsley completely against type as Cockney nutjob Don Logan who travels to the Costa del Crime to force Gary 'Gal' Dove (Ray Winstone) out of retirement for one last bank job. Pint-sized Logan uses vicious mind games -- childish petulance one minute, "I won't let you be happy, why should I?" and bursts of antagonistic rage the next -- to wear down mild-mannered Gal. Even his last breaths are expletive-littered gurgles of belligerence as if dying doesn't matter -- he'll just bide his time in Hell and get Gal in the next life.

2. Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) "No Country for Old Men"
(Ethan and Joel Coen, 2007)

Silly hairdos don't normally accompany on-screen evil but in this case Bardem's bob is as terrifying as his performance. He's a cold-blooded killing machine whose menace only grows when you realize that if he doesn't have a reason to kill someone he decides their fate on the flip of a coin. He may be a relative newcomer on the psycho scene, this pageboy-sporting villain who dispatches victims with a cattlegun connected to a tank of compressed air, but he's still worthy of his high ranking.

3. Frank Booth (Denis Hopper) "Blue Velvet"
(David Lynch, 1986)

If David Lynch is the high priest of freaky cinema then Frank Booth is his masterpiece. He's a sleazy, monstrous toddler, getting wasted on helium that he inhales through a medical mask and crawling across the floor moaning "Mommy" to his abused girlfriend.

4. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) "The Shining"
(Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

That Jack Torrance is relatively normal in the beginning makes it all the more disconcerting watching the American everyman (with a few issues -- he's a recovering alcoholic with a few anger management problems) being driven into insanity by malevolent spirits in the remote hotel he has taken his wife and son to. When he flips out completely, starts hacking into the door of the bathroom where his terrified wife is hiding and sticks his head through shouting "Heeeere's JOHNNY!", he becomes a cinema icon.

5. Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman) "Leon" (aka "The Professional")
(Luc Besson, 1994)

Like many a genius British actor, Gary Oldman has forged a career playing villains in Hollywood and his portrayal of drug-addled, amoral copper Stansfield is one of the best. "I like these calm little moments before the storm," he sighs outside the apartment door of Matilda's family, who he's about to butcher for skimming a little off the drugs they are meant to sell for him. Oldman plays the pre-carnage facial ticks, all dead-eyed stare and shuddering, as well as his post-massacre insouciance.

6. Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) "Goodfellas"
(Martin Scorsese, 1990)

Despite Robert de Niro taking top billing, Pesci takes center stage as the gang sociopath who shoots first and wisecracks later, thinking nothing of unloading his gun into any punk who disrespects him while the rest of the gang howl with laughter 'cos "he's a funny guy." But in the end his casual disregard for human life is his downfall and the bosses have him bumped off as carelessly as he shoots a waiter who fails to get him a drink.

7. Rupert Pupkin (Robert de Niro) "The King of Comedy"
(Martin Scorsese, 1982)

Think it should have been Travis Bickle from earlier de Niro/Scorsese collaboration "Taxi Driver?" Maybe, but de Niro plays one of his greatest roles as Rupert Pupkin in this overlooked black comedy about an aspiring stand-up comedian whose ambition far outweighs his talent. Pupkin's obsession has created a talk show set in his basement complete with a cardboard cutout presenter and audience members where he can live out his fantasies. From there he joins forces with equally cracked stalker Masha (Sandra Bernhardt) to kidnap and hold to ransom his idol, late night talk show host, Jerry Langford for a slot on the show.

8. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) "Night of the Hunter"
(Charles Laughton, 1955)

Even if you have never seen Laughton's feature, you will probably recognize Robert Mitchum's Preacher Powell -- the smooth-talking snake oil salesman with "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed on his knuckles. He hasn't been an acquaintance of the good Lord for a long, long time when he marries and murders the wife of a condemned man who has $10,000. The almost expressionistic images -- like Mitchum's satanic preacher casting a shadow on the kids' bedroom wall -- just add to the shivers.

9. Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) "Ichi the Killer"
(Takashi Miike, 2001)

When "Ichi the Killer" had its international debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, the audience was warned about the ultra-violent content and offered complimentary sick bags. And it is Kakihara the sadomasochist yakuza enforcer who is responsible for a whole lot of that horror and gore. He has piercings, has scarified his cheeks and there are also the slashes at the corners of his mouth, held closed with rings that he blows cigarette out of. Perhaps his crowning psycho moment is when he cheerfully cuts out his own tongue to apologize for talking out of turn.

10. Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) "American Psycho"
(Mary Harron, 2000)

Bateman is a modern, American monster, a Wall Street yuppie who has all the trappings; the right suits, restaurants and business cards. But at night he dons a butchers' apron and chases prostitutes around with a chainsaw and lectures the audience on the superiority of Genesis with Phil Collins as opposed to Peter Gabriel. Arguably the culture Bateman is living in is as diseased as he is: he makes no secret of his amoral 'hobbies' -- "I'm into murders and executions" -- but then everyone else is so self obsessed that they don't pay any attention.

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