Deluded brats: The American dream

Every few years American cinema turns its eye on its youth. Kids that have lost their way (or maybe never found it in the first place) with too much money and time on their hands they find themselves, quite quickly, in a world of idle trouble and wanton criminality.

Here are a few for your consideration, some based on fact and some fiction.

Bully (2001)
Based on the 1993 murder of Bobby Kent in south Florida, this Larry Clark film starred Brad Renfro and Nick Stahl and featured a bunch of kids hanging out and getting wasted; who then cook up a plot to murder their ‘friend’ with pretty much no thought for the consequences. An intense performance from Renfro in one of the last before his tragically early death.

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Alpha Dog (2007)
Like Bully, this film is based on a true story, this one focusing on the killing of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz in 2000. Directed by Nick Cassavetes it featured an impressive cast of up-and-comers and established names (Bruce Willis, Ben Foster, Justin Timberlake, Emile Hirsch, Anton Yelchin) and was a compelling albeit harrowing watch from start to finish.

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Spring Breakers (2012)
Fiction this time, but not wholly implausible. Directed by Harmony Korine and starring Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine as four girls on spring break – pretty much permanently in bikinis – who descend into a world of drink, drugs, guns and crime, mostly thanks to James Franco’s wannabe gangster called Alien.

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The Bling Ring (2013)
Another true tale, this time focusing on a group of teenagers who, looking to emulate celebrities, robbed their homes in 2008 stealing around $3 million in cash and belongings. Directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Emma Watson this didn’t reach the heights of some of her previous work, but nevertheless was a fascinating and darkly compelling tale.

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Will the real Gary Oldman please stand up?

drexl-spivey-true-romanceGary Oldman isn’t the original bad boy. That title would probably go to James Dean or someone similar. But, at least in terms of myself growing up, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for good old Gary in concentrated psycho mode. Obviously there’s Leon, but specifically I’m thinking Drexl in True Romance – sheer scene stealing brilliance.

And I imagine most of the guys I’ve listed below look up to Oldman, wishing their careers would follow a similar path. Indeed, Tom Hardy openly said so in interviews when he was just starting out. So, if Gary was in the room right now he’d probably graciously tilt his head to young chaps following in his mad and intense footsteps. At least, I like to think so. Either that or he’d throw his Chinese food at them and launch an insane attack in their direction. God bless him.

Here are the guys I think deserve that subtle Oldman head tilt:

James Franco as Alien (Spring Breakers)
Definitely mainlining pure essence of Drexl in Harmony Korine’s vacuous offering. Described by The Huffington Post as Scarface meets Britney Spears, Franco’s take on a wannabe rapper-cum-gangster is the film’s only redeeming quality. And that’s saying something when you’ve got Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in bikinis for most of the movie.


Tom Hardy as Charlie Bronson
(Bronson)
Fearsome and frightening, even more so when naked and covered in white paint. Hardy is probably one of the best out there at the moment when it comes to intensity. A phenomenal and unrelenting performance as one of Britain’s most notorious criminals in Nicholas Winding Refn’s excellent (and somewhat underrated) film.


Sharlto Copley as Kruger
(Elysium)
Up to now he’s been the everyman trying to survive (District 9) and the funny man (The A-Team), so who knew Copley could do creepy and sadistic quite so well. In Neill Blomkamp’s follow up to 2009’s District 9, here Copley goes into full menace mode as mercenary agent hitman chappie, facing off against Matt Damon.


Paul Bettany as Young Gangster
(Gangster No. 1)
He does intense well, does old Paul. This film – which went largely under the radar in 2000 – had an impressive cast: David Thewlis, Eddie Marsan, Saffron Burrows and Malcolm McDowell. And don’t think ‘Young Gangster’ means his was a minor part, he drove the movie.


Vincent Cassell as Mesrine
(Mesrine: Killer Instinct/Public Enemy No. 1)
Arguably a career-best performance from Vincent Cassel in this two-part film that came out in 2008, charting the life of one of France’s most notorious criminals, Jacques Mesrine. Over both films Cassel’s portrayal of Mesrine was both charismatic and unnerving in its ferocity.


Michael Shannon as Curtis
(Take Shelter)
To be honest, you can take pretty much anything from Shannon’s filmography: Boardwalk Empire, Man Of Steel, The Iceman – over the last few years he’s been building his reputation as Hollywood’s go-to guy for unpredictable and explosive rage.


Obviously there’s others out there that perhaps deserve that special Oldman head tilt, but that’ll do for now – enough intensity for one evening. Now… who’s for some Disney?