Thursday, April 20, 2006

Cocksucker!

Like most sensible people I am in awe of Pacino, De Niro, and the like, but my favourite actors tend to be subtle operators, capable of conveying more with a flaring of the nostril than most actors can with a full body contortion. I'm attracted to ambiguous characterisation, fully fleshed-out fictional beings that are at once appealing and repellent. Think James Gandolfini's finely-calibrated performance in The Sopranos: the guy can build or relieve dramatic tension with a slight modulation of his breathing. Think Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential, a performance that according to James Ellroy contained "some of the best self-loathing I've ever seen on screen". Think Walter Koenig in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. I for one came away believing that Commander Chekov was not only an actual Russian - as opposed to a hack American actor putting on an accent - but that he genuinely did want to find those "nuclear wessels".

Having watched the first few episodes of HBO's Deadwood, I can now add a new actor to my list. Ladies and cocksuckers, meet Ian McShane:


McShane plays Al Swearingen, Deadwood's foremost supplier of booze and whores. Al has the charm of a rabid wolf and morals to match, and even in a town where the word "cocksucker" is used to greet the wife at breakfast, Swearingen's potty mouth stands out:
"Now you lay there and shut your fucking yap. The only time I want you to open your yap is when I stick my fucking pecker in it."

"You owe me five dollars, seven if you ass-fucked her"
What a guy. But the thing is, for all that Al is an absolute cock(sucker), McShane is so cock-suckingly good an actor that you can't help but warm to the old pimp and murderer. He has these amazing eyes that can be as hard and grey as a starched dolphin in one scene (in which he cold-bloodedly murders a low-life business associate, for example), then in the next scene (in which, say, he contemplates the futility of the human condition, or maybe even adopts a puppy - I haven't watched the whole season yet so anything's possible) he looks as though he is about to cry, but he doesn't, which makes his big wet eyes all the more effective. So, Al's a crim with a heart, then, and I know this is not exactly original, but its incredible that McShane can pull it off given how much of a prick his character is.

If you're yet to check Deadwood out, it comes highly recommended. The Western hasn't been this much fun since Leone hung up his ultra-close-up lense. Although there are obvious parallels, it doesn't quite do for the old west what The Sopranos did for organised crime, but it comes pretty close. Great performances, excellent writing, "guest appearances" by Jeffrey Jones - you don't see shows of this quality every day.

7 comments:

TimT said...

Morning to you cocksucker, how's your ulcerous mouth bearing up? Feel like a drink this weekend?

Jon said...

Straight up: anyone who does not like Ian McShane sucks cock by choice.

comicstriphero said...

Lucky for me that my lend of a friend's series one box set of Deadwood coincided with a nasty flu. Watched the whole thing straight through.

Genius.

Wu said...

Cocksucker!

JPW said...

I've been a fan of Deadwood since year dot, mainly on the basis of the sheer power of McShane's performance (and of course the quality of the writing, and the sheer awesomeness of the thing overall). You can also catch a bit of him in the tremendous film Sexy Beast.

Amanda said...

Wait til you get to the last ep of Season 1. Al has a scene ..,. one of the most amazing I've seen in a telly show ...

Blogger said...

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