Characters with firecracker tempers provide edginess and unpredictability in movies and these captivating performances make for some of the finest displays. Here is a selection of five of the most powerful examples of characters with short fuses.
Tony Montana (Al Pacino) Scarface
Considered by many as the craziest gangster in movie history, Pacino’s role as Tony Montana in the 1983 classic ‘Scarface’ is sensational. Montana starts off on the streets of Miami after emigrating from Cuba and builds himself a criminal empire, which eventually leads to his downfall.
You see glimpses of Montana’s feistiness when he refuses a job collecting marijuana in favour of a cocaine deal, which subsequently results in the death of one of his partners. After falling under the wing of major cartel drug lord Alejandro Sosa, Montana starts to take more and more risks and becomes reckless with people his senior, eventually leading to Sosa sending his henchmen to gun him down in his own house.
Throughout the film, Montana is portrayed as a loose cannon and when he makes his fortune from huge cocaine deals he becomes addicted to the drug making him paranoid and violent. After killing his best friend Manny in a cocaine-fuelled shooting, Montana sits at his desk surrounded by a banquet of cocaine. Not only is this one of the most famous parts of the movie, you can actually see his mind running on overtime coming to terms with his rash actions and the resulting consequences.
The final bloody shootout in Montana’s mansion portrays his truly mad side when he is shooting henchmen from all angles while taking numerous gun shots himself.
Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) Trainspotting
Everyone has a mate who is a bit of a liability when they have a drink. Francis Begbie is a 24 hour borderline alcoholic/walking nightmare. Robert Carlyle plays a stellar role as this nutcase in Danny Boyle’s Scottish belter Trainspotting.
Begbie is one of four complete reprobates who happens to be the only one of the group not constantly high on heroin. What narcotics he doesn’t do, he certainly makes up for in his two fingers to everyone attitude.
Boyle gives Begbie the chance to lose his marbles on numerous occasions including assaults with snooker cues and glassing an Englishman in a pub after spilt drinks.
A classic flip out comes when Begbie turns up at Renton’s (Ewan McGregor) new London flat unexpected. When Renton makes a sly comment about one of Begbie’s recent embarrassing conquests he sees Begbie lose the plot by flicking a cigarette into his face and threatening his manhood with a knife.
Carlyle plays a classic nutter as Begbie and the character adds to the carnage of the plot throughout the movie.
Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) Goodfellas
Joe Pesci plays a terrifying tough man with a tendency to go off the rails at any moment in his part of Tommy DeVito in mob classic Goodfellas. DeVito works for Paulie and the Capo Mob and carries out brutal acts of violence on a regular basis.
If he is ever questioned or insulted he loses his temper with the flick of a switch. Brutality is part and parcel of the DeVito’s nature, which is shown through his brutal murder of Billy Batts by pistol whipping him to death. He also stabs the corpse on numerous occasions in the back of the car after movements were heard from the trunk.
DeVito does not respond well to being wound up, as a young barman finds out at a poker game. After a brief argument between the two, DeVito shoots the barman in the foot before later gunning him down for another minor insult.
What makes Pesci’s performance so frightening throughout the movie is that his temper is on a knife edge all the time so you can’t tell what he might do in every situation. This is a stunning performance for which Pesci won an academy award for best supporting actor.
Brick Top (Alan Ford) Snatch
Actors playing London hard men can sometimes fail to capture the gritty nature of the role but Alan Ford absolutely nailed it as ‘Brick Top’ in Snatch. The seasoned gangster enforces sufficient threats to anyone who messes him about through huge henchmen armed with baseball bats and his pig farm, where people in his debt have ended up as feed.
Brick Top is not just visually tough, he has the minerals too, shown through burning down Mikey’s (a traveller boxer who Brick Top has money on) caravan while his mother is inside because he didn’t obey orders.
What makes Ford’s performance so encapsulating is his steely calmness in times of imminent violence; inciting that he has seen many incidents like it before.
Marv (Mickey Rourke) Sin City
First impressions of Marv in the movie indicate that despite his brutish appearance he is a caring man who looks out for the vulnerable females in Sin City. This is quickly replaced by the psychotic cold blooded killer who begins his quest to find the murderer of his latest love fantasy ‘Goldie’.
Portrayed as a mountain of a man it becomes apparent that without his regular dose of medication he will go completely off the rails, but that doesn’t stop him from savagely working his way to the top by killing various henchmen and fellow killers by any means to gather more information about who is behind Goldie’s death.
What makes Marv so frightening is his relaxed persona when he kills his victims but we see him flip out on a couple of occasions, such as when he visits his parole officer Lucile to stock up on his meds. He appears extremely agitated and pumped up, regularly clenching his fists and grinding his teeth when talking about his current predicament.
Mickey Rourke plays a terrifying killer with his performance as Marv but he keeps the character likeable throughout as despite his lunacy he believes he is doing the right thing by hunting for the truth.
There is no doubting that these powerful performances give an exciting edge to their respected movies and each character has their own way of portraying their unpredictable personas. Whether it’s Begbie or Tommy DeVito, you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of these fellas.