The Essentials: Bad Bosses
“All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton
Corporations have a bad reputation. Most people see corporations as heartless entities that care only about their profits and not the employees who help make those profits or the consumers they serve. The men and women who wield power in these corporations often have a worse reputation. People see them as Satan in a suit. So it is no surprise that action movies love to make their villains members of the universally despised corporate world.
In this edition of The Essentials I am counting down my personal top ten list of evil executives from the action movie world. Let’s get started…
10. Mr. Vincenzo – Young Rebels (1989): Mr. Vincenzo from Young Rebels is a bad boss in every sense of the word. He is a truly evil man who traffics narcotics and kills people with reckless abandon but his temper causes him to make some really stupid decisions that can’t be helping his evil empire’s bottom line. The other members on this list would likely eat Mr. Vincenzo alive but I have a soft spot for him. I’d even go so far to say that he had me at “Shut up!”. He had me at “Shut up!”.
9. Brell – No Holds Barred (1989): Saying the entertainment industry has had its share of sleazy characters over the years would be a major understatement. Kurt Fuller’s memorable performance of evil network executive Brell in No Holds Barred was probably inspired by some of those real life Hollywood scumbags. Brell is totally driven by the ratings and ad revenue and he’ll do anything (within the context of a PG rating) to get both of those numbers up. When he can’t sign away Rip (Hulk Hogan) the competition’s top star, he gets creative and creates his own show and enlists the help of a convicted felon named Zeus (Tiny Lister). But Brell took Rip’s refusal to work for him personally and instead of focusing on his hot new show, he became a victim of his own grudge match.
8. Robert Sawyer – Superfights (1995): In the combat sports game calling someone an evil promoter is often redundant. There is a belief that all promoters are evil and think of their fighters as pieces of meat meant to draw a crowd and make the promoter money and then discarded when they can’t fight anymore. Robert Sawyer (Keith Vitale) took being an evil promoter to a new level in Superfights. He did the usual promoter stuff, like wine and dine his prospects, promising them big things. Then he would get them to sign a contract filled with enough legal mumbo jumbo to make their head spin. But Sawyer also feeds his performers “vitamins”. These vitamins did not just include illegal performance enhancers but a little mind control drug for good measure. When Robert Sawyer wanted to control your career, he wanted to control your career. Sawyer was not afraid to get his hands dirty and get in a fight himself… come to think of it, he reminds me a bit of one of the greatest heels in sports entertainment history.
7. Terry Silver – The Karate Kid Part III (1989): Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) is the original undercover boss. As the head of Dynatox Industries, Terry Silver made his fortune in the toxic waste disposal business. But Silver trades in his pin striped suits for the clothes of a common man all to pull off an elaborate ruse that drove a wedge between Daniel LaRusso and his beloved mentor Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid Part III. Silver’s motivation in all this was to help out his old friend John Kreese. That may seem noble, but all Silver was really doing was enabling Kreese to harbor resentment instead of helping his friend move on.
6. Venarius – Enter the Ninja (1981): The most eccentric member on this list would have to be Venarius (Christopher George) from Enter the Ninja. How eccentric is he? Well he has in ground swimming pool in his office complete with bathing beauties. But Venarius proves to be as smart as he is eccentric. Venarius knew that only a ninja could defeat a ninja, so when good guy ninja Cole (Franco Nero) starts interfering in Venarius’ business, Venarius hires himself the best evil ninja money can buy, Hasegawa (Shô Kosugi).
5. George Grove – Remo Williams (1985): George Grove (Charles Cioffi) is the classic wolf in sheep’s clothing. The image he portrays to the public is that of a true patriot, a philanthropist and a man that loves all things USA. Grove Industries is a major supplier for the United States Armed Forces, but Grove is not above playing the system in fact he is an expert at it. Grove knowingly sold the Army unsafe and inferior rifles but with high ranking officers in his pocket Grove feels like his is untouchable and he was until he crossed paths with Remo Williams.
4. Damon Killian – The Running Man (1987): Fame can often lead to power. Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) is the host of the hottest show on television, The Running Man. When millions of people are watching you every week, when you have the Justice Department on your speed dial and big corporate sponsors kissing your ass, it can go to your head in a hurry. Killian abuses the power that his fame has afforded him. When it comes down to it, Killian is a bully. Killian talks down to people, he verbally abuses his staff on a regular basis, he even had a hard working janitor fired. What a jerk!
3. Peter Dellaplane – Action Jackson (1988): If you were going to describe automobile magnate Peter Dellaplane (Craig T. Nelson) using one of the seven deadly sins it would have to be greed. Dellaplane has enjoyed great success in the automobile industry, but he wants more and he is aiming high. Dellaplane wants to control the automobile workers union and use the power of being the boss of the most powerful union in the country to become the puppet master of his hand picked candidate for the President of the United States. Dellaplane is also greedy in his personal life, the guy has a drop dead gorgeous wife named Patrice (Sharon Stone) but he still feels the need to keep Sydney Ash (Vanity) as his smoking hot side piece. Much like George Grove, to most of the world Dellaplane is a successful businessman and the general public has no idea Dellaplane is a stone cold killer.
2. Vilos Cohaagen – Total Recall (1990): Not to start any conspiracy theories, but I would not be shocked if some of the biggest corporations in the world have people on their payroll trying to devise ways that they can control our air supply and then charge us for the air we breathe. I would also not be shocked if they got this idea after watching Vilos Cohaagen (Ronny Cox) deprive the inhabitants of Mars of their all important oxygen in Total Recall. When you think about it, Cohaagen had the inhabitants of an entire planet under his thumb. Nobody else on this list can make that bold claim.
1. The Old Man – RoboCop (1987): When it comes to The Old Man (Dan O’Herlihy), I’m not sure if he knows he is evil. That is not meant to be a crack about old people often being confused, but an example of him being in the corporate world so long he has lost touch with the real world. The Old Man’s dream to create Delta City is a noble one. He wants to give Detroit and the people a fresh start. On paper that sounds great, put into practice and you realize how cold and heartless tearing down an entire city would be to the people who have called it home. This is why to me he is the best of the bad bosses… well that and the fact that he promoted that asshole Dick Jones to second in command of OCP.
Honorable Mentions: The Big Boss from The Big Boss, the movie was named after him for God’s sake. He might want to consider investing in some refrigerated trucks so he could expand the scope of his “dope in ice” delivery system however… Wayne Newton as Weldon from Best of the Best II, representing all those businessmen who started underground fighting rings in the 1990’s… Mr. White from The Intruder. The fact that he has a whores to your door delivery service makes him a straight up baller!