If there’s one thing we all seem to love, it’s an anti-hero. Usually a bit damaged, or a largely unlikeable or questionable person, they often defy convention, or overcome murky pasts to conquer all! That or they remain thoroughly unlikeable, do terrible things and still have us rooting for them. It’s a tricky area, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Liam Neeson’s flawed, but ultimately heroic character Bill in aeronautical action thriller Non-Stop is no exception. A former US Air Marshall, he turned to drink to deal with his daughter’s illness (or rather not deal with it), neglecting her in the process, and is, by his own admission ‘not a good man’.
With the DVD and Blu-Ray out on Monday, it seems as good a time as ever to have a look at some of television and film’s most morally troubling heroes…
The ultimate ‘maverick cop’, the Die Hard series follows the erratic and often hilarious pursuits of one John McClane, who’s demented ‘zerofucksgiven’ approach to law enforcement often land him in trouble, and more often see him hurtling through by the skin of his teeth, narrowly avoiding death (and somehow, dreadful hangovers). He makes being a written warning away from losing your badge look like a LOT of fun, and as justice is always served in the end, he’s a favourite pick for anti-heroism.
It wouldn’t be a piece on anti-heroes without Heisenberg in here now, would it? More the ‘doing terrible things and being thoroughly unlikeable’ end of the spectrum, no matter what deplorable acts he carries out, from cold-blooded murder through devastating emotional manipulation, you spend the entirety of Breaking Bad sort of wanting Walter to triumph in the end. Although whether he did almost entirely depends on whether you accept his claimed familial motives over any Machiavellian tendencies.
There’s an unfortunate lack of female anti-heroes, although you could say that bowling through life acting like a bit of a tool and being rewarded for it is part of the male privilege – but enough of the superficial feminism – Young Adult’s Mavis Gary is a great shout for our list. Initially presenting as a truly dreadful excuse for a human being, she manipulates, condescends, and alienates everyone in her hometown. It eventually transpires that there’s a vulnerability lurking, and, true to the anti-hero stereotype, you’re in her corner all the way.
Sin City’s hulking great chunk of terrifyingly beat-up BLOKE is, on paper, pretty ‘orrible. He bloody loves a bit of brutal torture, and would seem to only ever be a couple of missed meds away from a full murderous rampage, but if we’re looking at the means to an end, it’s all for the ‘dames’ he cares so very much about. Of all the scumbags in Sin City, it’s fair to say he’s one of the good guys.
The concept of Dexter is an extremely enticing one. A serial killer who works in blood-spatter forensics, he’s well placed to get away with carrying out the whims of his ‘dark passenger’ (anyone else think that sounds like needing the loo?) – but schooled in his adoptive father’s ‘code’, he channels his energies into taking out society’s unpunished pondscum. The thrill of the net closing is fun to watch, but Dex is very much an anti-hero – despite his deeds, you just want to see him get away.
Non-Stop is available for Digital Download now, and out on Blu-Ray, DVD, and Limited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook on Monday 30th June.