Monday, July 4, 2011

Movie Web Monday: Luke Goss

Movie Web Monday: Each week, I'll look at a specific actor's roles across three good movies. The third movie will in turn tie into the first movie of the next week's actor, whose third movie will continue the pattern. I will go through actors and movies at this rate, with the following limitations in mind: every movie(or television show) invoked will be one I either own, or wish to own; no movie or actor will be invoked twice. So sit back and enjoy as you fall into the nerdery's movie web. (Oh, and I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, telling you just enough to know if you'll enjoy the movie)

Luke Goss: Mister Sensitive as a Villain

Movie: Blade II (Own it) SPOILERS SHALL FLOW

Blade II is generally considered the best of the trilogy, and I think much of that is a result of it having the most engaging antagonist out of the three movies. Nomak, played by Luke Goss, is a hideous, hate-driven character that is twisted and scarred within and without. And yet, through del Toro's artful direction and Goss' superb ability to craft subtle layers into a very physical role, there's a sympathetic (or, more accurately, pathetic) element to the character that gives it a truly tragic theme. Each of the three movies has the element of the villain trying to appeal to Blade, but in Nomak's case it is the most successful because he tries to compromise in the midst of the action and because Goss' character is the only antagonist who has the sense to try to win over the audience as well as the protagonist. In his first fight with Blade, he begins on a note of common ground: he is slaughtering vampires, just like Blade.

Notice that discoloration on his forehead? That a healing wound from where Blade shot him in the head moments before. The fight resumes right on the tail of Nomak's words, but it shows that he genuinely wants to relate to Blade even in a moment where fighting him is imperative. That gives Blade's character some doubt, but what works to make the audience sympathize with Nomak is the fact that his father deliberately used him as an experimental subject, turning him into the monster they call a Reaper. There's a Shakespearian timbre to his lament over being rejected and hunted by his father and sister, and when he kills dear old dad, his words are poignantly beautiful and cold: "I've spared you my fate. You will die. Out of this wound your blood--your life--will flow." It's a marvelous line and, thanks to Goss' delivery, comes across with a depressed sensitivity mingled with wounded hatred. Few actors could pull it off, but Goss does so wonderfully.

Movie: Silverhawk/Fei ying (Own it)

Silverhawk (or Fein ying in China) is a campy, light-hearted action movie with superhero elements. Starring Michelle Yeoh as the somewhat Batman-style vigilante, the film really struggles between some exhilarating moments and too much camp and humor over things like a cross-dressing cop getting hit in the fake boob. Luke Goss is once more the villain--this time cyborg mastermind Alexander Wolfe. He really lifts the quality of the movie for me, as his dastardly plan is all pulled off with a congenial rationality. His plan itself is to use a nerd's bossy butler program to augment a sci-fi line of bluetooth headsets to make a mass market of mind-control devices. Despite how contrived and very Saturday-morning-cartoon his plan is, the rationale he gives to the captive nerd is essentially what many politicians today feel:

Of course, he employs gangs of goons and a couple of low-level villains that use an entertaining couples-only fighting style, but the sensibility of his approach is refreshingly well realized. When the programmer informs him that what he's doing will cause brain damage, he replies with a smirk, 'so?' The implication being that people who aren't as intelligent or sensible as himself--who don't use their brains--don't deserve to have fully functional ones. It's a neat little theme that feels especially edgy given the current tension of politics in America. When you consider it was made in 2004 China, it seems fairly inflammatory and bold for a movie that otherwise doesn't seem to have much ambition. And, at the center of that quality brain-protein is Luke Goss, smugly acting circles around the rest of the cast.

Movie: Hellboy II (Own it) SPOILERS SHALL FLOW

Ah, Hellboy II. I love Guillermo del Toro and own most of his movies, and I have most of Mignola's Hellboy graphic novels that have been released so far. But their are a few elements of Hellboy II that I find awkward or detrimental to the overall plot and themes of Hellboy as a character. That said, what really sells me on the movie, what gets me excited every time I see it--other than a beer-glazed Abe and Hellboy singing Can't Smile Without You--is Luke Goss as antagonist Prince Nuada. Once more featuring as a prince with dad and sister issues in a Guillermo del Toro movie, Goss plays the physical grace and doomed melancholy of the evil elf to the next level. When he comes to the surface world to begin waging his war on the modern world, there's so much dense emotion crammed into his words that it's hard to digest at once:

Living a life that is itself a lament of his own sublimation to mankind, envious of their dominion, sorrowful of their lost potential, and nostalgic of forgotten wonders, Nuada's words resonate in a delicate tenor that gives the audience volumes of information. Earlier, when his twin sister pleads with him to accept the fate of the elves--of magical beings in general--he replies in a choked, tender voice, "We will not fade." Carefully enunciating each syllable, Nuada's words betray the subtext of the siblings' relationship. There's a hint of perversion in their relationship, and when he looks at his sister and rejects the fate that everyone else has accepted so readily, it becomes clear that Nuada's swath of vengeance on the world of men is at least as much about making a world for her as it is about a selfish megalomania. As the twins die at the close of the movie and Nuada looks at his sister one last time, his words to Hellboy resonate in a tremendous way: "We die, and the world will be poorer for it." Thanks to the tremendously powerful performance Luke Goss delivered throughout the movie, the audience can truly believe his last words.

Movie Web Monday will continue next week with a new actor, picking up with some other prolific player from the last movie listed above.

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