4 December 2011

A Sign Of Ignorance

Once upon a time, we honkies couldn't be bothered to work- we therefore had the ingenious idea of making non-whities do it instead. For us, things were perfect until eventually that bloody Lincoln came along and told us to get off our arses and do it our bloody selves. Since then we've figured out that actually we're all equal, and us crackers have got some apologising to do. We look back on that time and admit that maybe we were a little bit racist. Well, the way that we regret that is the same way our children will one day regret our treatment of Ray Winstone.

I know it's a slightly different situation. I'm not suggesting that we make poor old Ray plough our fields or that we shipped him from the plaines of his native London in order to trade him for money and bags of sugar at the docks. Unlike the slaves, we don't judge his worth on the quality of his teeth. However what we actually do is discriminate against him based simply on his appearance.

No matter who or what he plays, Winstone is described as being a hard man, but this isn't always the case. In fact, Ray generally plays quite sympathetic decidedly un-hard characters. Every film he's in he plays somebody completely different but somehow the world is blind to this. Instead they judge his performance simply on the assumption that most of us would die if he punched us.

I mean no offence to Ray, but he's not a thin man. I think he's one of the greatest actors of our time and in fact, one of my favourites, but I wouldn't believe it if he was playing roles such as a lifeguard, a long term holocaust victim, a school boy or a Chinese woman. He's a man forced to choose characters who fit his build, but just because they could kill with their bare-hands, doesn't mean they will.

I think it doesn't help that I perceive the term 'tough guy' or 'hard man' as being derogatory. To describe his performances in that way, to me, sounds dismissive and conjures up comparisons to someone like Vinnie Jones who- lets face it, is not an actor. He's a shaved gorilla that sometimes manages to say some words in an almost cohesive way. Throughout his career, Winstone has played a variety of different characters displaying a variety of personalities and emotions. Throughout Vinnie Jones career he's played a variety of the same character that very occasionally doesn't sound like a retarded, foreigner learning to speak English for the first time.

One example of Winstone playing a non-hard man would be the character 'Gal' in Sexy Beast. Okay, yes, he's playing a criminal, but he's not exactly tough is he? He spends the entire movie completely petrified of everybody else, walking on egg shells and doing his best to not be a thief. He's individually bullied by both Gandhi and fucking Lovejoy for gods sake! You don't spend the entire film wondering when 'Gal' is going to freak out and hit someone; you empathise and feel sorry for him. By the time Sir Ben screams, “No”, at him a hundred times on the spanish patio, 'Gal' is a broken man. The kindly old man from Schindlers List is pissing on his bathroom floor and kicking the shit out of his kitchen fittings and all Gal can do is push his decision as hard as he dares.

Compare his performance in this to say, the character of 'Ray' in Nil by Mouth and Winstone's range might become apparent. 'Gal' is a likeable bloke who, when not being forced to commit crime, makes jokes, loves his wife and just comes across as the kind of guy you'd like as a mate. 'Ray' however, is a different kettle of cunts. He's not a tough guy, he's a coke snorting, evil fucker who, in a Joe Pesci “funny how” moment kicks the living shit out of his pregnant wife. I've seen Two Girls, One Cup but Nil by Mouth is by far the hardest film I've ever endured watching. Like a cockney Ringu, the fear of 'Ray' smashing his way out of the television and killing me seemed to be becoming more and more possible. It got to a point when I wondered if I'd actually be able to get through the last thirty minutes without needing trauma therapy.

I read in De Niro's biography that his particular talent is in acting angry. Well, in his entire career, his anger is no more than a hissy fit when compared to the pure rage that Winstone channels. 'Ray' likes to say 'fuck' and 'cunt' even when he's happy so when he gets mad, he has no way of vocally venting his frustration. You can physically see the hatred and venom as he shouts and screams in a way that just doesn't look like acting. The genius, however, is that despite the abhorrent things that he does, he thinks that he is the victim. After beating his wife into having a miscarriage, 'Ray' has a breakdown. He smashes up the house and then tells his scummy friend about how his Dad never showed him love. You can see as he talks that he genuinely feels sorry for himself, without acknowledging any responsibility for the horror that he has just inflicted on his wife. This evil prick is quite a distance from Sexy Beasts 'Gal', with both of them being quite different to 'Captain Stanley' in The Proposition.

'Captain Stanley' is a noble man in a desperate situation. Set in the 1880's he is determined to civilise the Hell-hole of Australia, regardless of what it might cost him personally. Unfortunately though, his slightly unorthodox methods of brother-love top-trumps cause the whole town and his wife to turn against him. Quickly, he finds himself shouldering the burden of trying to tame that country against the wishes of those that live there. Considering Australia is now most famous for Crocodile Dundee, psychotically dangerous animals and the goddess-of-gay Kylie Minogue, maybe the fucking stupid locals should have tried it his way.

In a way, 'Captain Stanley' shares the burden of stubbornness in the same way that 'Gal' does. However both men are completely different particularly in their treatment of their wives. In 'Gal's case, his wife is his confidant and the one looking after him. When Sir Ben is causing shit, it's her that supports him and in the end it's her that stands up to Gandhi to save 'Gal's' life. 'Captain Stanley' however, is doing his best to keep his wife the fuck out of his business and where 'Gal' is only truly himself when alone with his partner, poor old 'Captain Stanley' has to remain partly on duty at all times.

I mentioned these three performances as they just happen to be three of my all time favourite films. On top of these, Winstone has also impressed with his range as a young six foot viking warrior, a Borstal inmate, a cancer ridden special-agent and Mr Beaver (from Narnia, not the porno). I suppose the point of this is to just highlight how unappreciated one of our greatest actors really is. I'd like people to pay more attention to the nuances of the performance and less to the fact that he's a stocky, middle-aged Landaner. In a way, I just wish that the world was a little less Ray-cist*

*Awful... What a terrible pun. I actually made myself a little angry with it... cunt.

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1 comment :

  1. Interesting points and well made.
    I personally haven't seen many of Winstone's movies, but what I have seen I have enjoyed.
    I find it interesting that you did not mention his accent. I find his accent and the way he talks at times, to sound a little threatening - thus coming across as being "a tough guy". Although I'm sure he's lovely, I can't help but feel that this slightly scary accent is one of his defining features.
    Just a thought....