Robert Rodriguez met Mickey Rourke for the first time when he was writing the script for Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The first thing Rodriguez noticed about Rourke was that he had a little Chihuahua tucked under his sleeve. Rodriguez thought it was charming, so he wrote the part of Billy Chambers tailored made to Rourke’s delicate sensibilities. In the film, Rourke plays a criminal who plans to rat out the Mexican cartel he works for. But character description comes a far second to Rourke’s hilarious antics in this movie. He moves slowly, always with dog in hand, always presented in ridiculously lush suits (which were Rourke’s personal threads). If nothing else, Billy Chambers never fails to provoke a laugh.
4. Animal Factory (2000)
Jan the Actress
It’s no big secret that Mickey Rourke is a bit of a diva. On set, he’s known to be very demanding, insisting on outrageous conditions in order for him to act in whatever film he’s acting in. My point is, I have no idea how the hell director Steve Buscemi convinced Mickey Rourke to dress in drag and play a prison bitch in Animal Factory. Granted, Rourke isn’t in the film much (which is to say, not enough), but it’s still shocking to see him done up in full drag. It’s a gimmick, sure, but one that Rourke dives right into. Hey, if you’re going to play the part, you might as well play it all the way.
3. The Rainmaker (1997)
J. Lyman “Bruiser” Stone
J. Lyman “Bruiser” Stone earns his name for good reason; he’s a shady and ruthless personal injury lawyer, the worst kind of ambulance chaser, a lawyer who gives lawyers bad names. This is a scenery chewing, deliciously tacky role that Rourke simply kills. Watching him bark out orders with the panache of a heavyweight boxer is simply incredible. There’s a great scene in which Bruiser’s former employee, Deck (Danny DeVito), calls up Bruiser, only to find that he’s hiding out on an anonymous Caribbean island to avoid a racketeering charge. In short, Bruiser is the type of role that allows Rourke to ham it up as much as he wants. And boy does he ever.
2. Buffalo ‘66 (1998)
“So whaddya say… why don’t we give this story a happy ending?”
Bill Brown owes. After betting big (and losing bigger) on the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl, Bill is now in debt to a man known only as The Bookie. And in one terrifying scene, The Bookie calmly spells out what will happen to Bill and his family if Bill doesn’t do exactly what The Bookie says. But this isn’t done directly. Instead, The Bookie recreates the scenario by telling an indirect story of Bill’s circumstance. It’s an amusing narrative trick that I haven’t seen done many times. At first, we don’t know who The Bookie is talking about, but when the camera cuts to a scared shitless Vincent Gallo, it’s clear that The Bookie is telling an all too familiar tale.
1. The Pledge (2001)
Sean Penn’s The Pledge is about an obsessed man looking for a child killer. In his ceaseless search, Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson) comes across a slew of people void of hope. The most memorable of which is James Olstad. Olstad’s young daughter went missing some years ago, and Black believes the man he’s looking for may be responsible. When Black visits Olstad, he’s sitting alone, smoking, looking aimlessly out a window, lost. Black carefully begins to question Olstad, and the camera cuts to Rourke, who presents his character as a shell of a man, absent of any connection. Moments later, Olstad begins to break down and sob uncontrollably, blaming himself for his daughter’s disappearance. He viciously snorts away his tears, and attempts to regain his composure. Black just stares, because really, what is there to say?
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