The backlash came and went pretty quickly from Gary Oldman’s June interview in Playboy. If you don’t recall, the celebrated actor was very candid and open about everything from the politics of Hollywood to whether or not Philip Seymour Hoffman could have been “saved,” and in between he revealed that he didn’t really care for some of his most popular films. For example, Oldman admitted that he “can’t bear it” when asked about The Fifth Element, and as for his roles in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise or the Harry Potter films, he replied, “It was work.” And don’t even get him started on Sid and Nancy.
Naturally, when the interviewer mentioned True Romance and The Professional, we got a little nervous, because those films are modern masterpieces in our eyes and hearts, so if Oldman had revealed that he hated them, it would have been a heavy bummer. Fortunately, he was a lot kinder, as he called Drexl Spivey “a nice little turn” and of The Professional, he said, “I could take it or leave it personally.” Considering he said that he could have done “most of” his career’s work better, that checks in as high self-praise.
But I don’t really care if Oldman liked The Professional or not, because I love that damn movie and was determined to celebrate its place in hitman movie history on this day, the 20th anniversary of its American release. The lasting legacy of Luc Besson’s film is truly remarkable, seeing as just the other day a friend of mine asked me who was going out for someone’s birthday dinner, and I shouted, “EVERRRRYONNNNNNE!!!” The performance of that line may have been meant as a joke, but the scene was epic for it.
But the thing that I love about The Professional more than anything else is that final sequence between Léon and Norman Stansfield, the corrupt DEA agent and coward who would murder the hitman by shooting him in the back. It was so beautifully scripted and filmed that you almost forget that you’re watching this guy die after he laid waste to a building full of cops. That made me wonder where such a scene – the hitman makes his name or gets revenge in the cruelest and most appropriate way possible – ranks among the best of a genre that I love so much. Thus, I used my time-honored scientific process to put together this ranking of hitman/assassin movie bad guy death scenes, based on qualifications that are too scientific to even mention.
Honorable Mention: The Jackal
I’m only mentioning this dumb movie because it was on the other day and if I catch it in time, I have to watch the Jack Black death scene. It might be my favorite death scene in movie history, because it’s so cathartic to pretend that Black is playing one of his most annoying characters and I’m watching that character meet his hilariously gory end. And then the movie goes back to Richard Gere’s terrible accent.
20) In Bruges
The Hitman: Harry
How’d He Do It? With a bullet to his own head, but only after a series of dark-yet-amusing events. Ray (Colin Farrell) was probably the mopiest and all-around worst hitman you could hire, but that’s only because he accidentally killed a young boy. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) was also pretty bad at his job, because he had a soft spot for Ray’s depressed, suicidal behavior, and that led to Harry (Ralph Fiennes) shooting him in the neck. However, while attacking Ray, Harry accidentally blew a dwarf’s head clean off and he believed that it was a child, so he shot himself in the head. Somehow, in spite of that morose description, it’s a really fun movie.
The Hitman: Robert Rath
How’d He Do It? People love to dump all over this box office bomb, but it’s a huge guilty pleasure of mine. Rath (Sylvester Stallone) just wanted out of the hitman business, and Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) was happy to oblige, because it meant that he’d be No. 1. So after they dispatched of the Cold War’s top assassin – and the man who contracted them to kill each other – Rath tried to walk away. But Bain couldn’t simply settle for being the default world’s best killer, so Rath had to put him down with a little behind-the-back action.