It really has been a tough year to be a film lover. The latest big screen icon to shuffle off his mortal coil is Richard Kiel, who died on Wednesday in hospital aged 74. A man with undeniable presence, Kiel made the most of the incredible stature he was born with, and his acting career was long and fruitful. He will of course be best remembered as one of the most iconic adversaries of Roger Moore’s James Bond, the metallic grinning behemoth Jaws, and to celebrate his most famous role, I thought I’d count down my Top 10 Killer Henchmen on film. I wonder who could be at number 1…
10. The Twins (Adrian & Neil Rayment) – THE MATRIX RELOADED (2003)
Not a whole lot in THE MATRIX RELOADED worked, but the Wachowskis did bring us a pair of pretty fun henchmen. Decked dreads to toes in white, unbelievably fast and with the terrifying ability to phase into wraith form, they are a royal pain in the asses of Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) as they try to get valuable ally The Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) to safety along a packed freeway…
9. Kevin (Elijah Wood) – SIN CITY (2005)
What kind of opponent would be worthy of fighting the hulking Marv (Mickey Rourke)? Frodo, that’s who! Elijah Wood has now played his fair share of psychos since he left Middle Earth, but Kevin was his first and arguably his best. Deceptively nonthreatening with his slight physique and casual clothes, this killer is completely silent, with cat-like agility and has a shudder-inducing taste in midnight snacks.
8. Cunningham (Tim Roth) – ROB ROY (1995)
I’ve always preferred ROB ROY to BRAVEHEART, and the villains are a huge part of that. John Hurt is the big bad, but Tim Roth takes the uber-bastard henchman role as Cunningham, a foul fop light on his feet and quick with a blade. The way he flounces around in his floppy shirts, tights and powdered wig, you’d be forgiven for underestimating him. Then, he kicks Liam Neeson’s ass in fine fashion!
7. Savin (James Badge Dale) – IRON MAN 3 (2013)
I loved pretty much everything about Shane Black’s IRON MAN 3, but the chief henchman Savin, a strutting, mischievous heat projecting terminator, was one of my favourite elements. James Badge Dale just looks like he’s having so much fun and gives him such charisma as he morphs seamlessly from cocky hired intimidator having a pissing contest with Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan to superpowered Presidential assassin/decoy.
6. Oddjob (Harold Sakata) – GOLDFINGER (1964)
He’s a smiley Japanese man in an Edwardian suit who carries his master Goldfinger’s (Gert Fröbe) golf clubs and kills opponents with a razor-sharp bowler hat. He’s fun, he’s larger-than life, he’s ridiculous, what more could you want from a killer henchman?
5. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) – X-MEN (2000)/X-MEN 2 (2003)/X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
It’s easy to forget that before Jennifer Lawrence inherited the role for the prequels and turned Raven Darkholme into a misunderstood anti-hero, blue shapeshifter Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) was a cold-hearted killer bitch. She was great as Magneto’s (Ian McKellen) spy/seductress/muscle, and Romijn gave her great physicality and deadly intensity. She stole the show in X-MEN and X2, and then Brett Ratner got hold of her and found her surplus to requirements. Moron.
4. Kroenen (Ladislav Beran) – HELLBOY (2004)
Nazis have been the go-to no explanation required bad guys at the movies for a long time, and the genius that is Guillermo del Toro gave us the best we’ve seen in ages. Kroenen is a silent, mutilated zombie with a penchant for fancy blades and fancier designer gas masks. He’s nigh-on unstoppable, lethal and an undeniably cool-looking dude.
3. Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama) – KILL BILL: VOL. 1 (2003)
Nobody is better at elevating low art to high art than Quentin Tarantino. In KILL BILL, The Bride (Uma Thurman) easily cuts her way through an army of disposable manpower in Kato masks, but before she can claim revenge against O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) she must also face some walking fetish fuel carrying a meteor hammer. As the film’s narration quite clearly establishes, Gogo (Chiaki Kuriyama) may look innocent but she is also quite mad and very good at what she does, as the brutal duel that follows proves.
2. Hammer Girl/Baseball Bat Man (Julie Estelle/Very Tri Yulisman) – THE RAID 2 (2014)
Gareth Evans produced two of the best deranged supporting villains outside of a Bond film, and certainly the most memorable of the past decade. A brother and sister team who love each other very much, and love being paid to put their unique weapons of choice to good use even more, Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle) and Baseball Bat Man (Very Tri Yulisman) provide the ultraviolent action highlights to the excellent THE RAID 2.
1. Jaws (Richard Kiel) – THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977)/MOONRAKER (1979)
Who else? Jaws is a masterful supporting character performance from Richard Kiel. He could easily have been just another blunt instrument, but Kiel brings out something much more than his innate imposing physique. He becomes a character who is relentless, determined and increasingly frustrated at his inability to squash a much smaller posh man. He’s one of the best things about one of the best of all Bond films, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, but even in the laughable MOONRAKER, Kiel gives Jaws added depth. You don’t tend to care about many henchmen on film, but you can’t say that about Jaws – he’s a strangely loveable killing machine. SSP