Battle Royale: Coens Brothers' Characters

Eight cool kerfuffles from the kings of kook...

 

The Coen Brothers' A Serious Man hits cinemas today.

So we've decided it's time for some of the Coens' coolest characters to start hitting each other. Seriously.

So, roll up, roll up for one of the quirkiest royal rumbles we've ever put together.

From bikers to bowlers, lawyers to barbers, gangsters to killers every man and woman and Chigurh is ready to... FIGHT!

 

H.I. “Hi” McDunnough (Nic Cage) – Raising Arizona (1987)

Hi means well.  He just can’t make ends meeting without… bending the rules a little.

He certainly doesn’t mind doing time now and then. But it cuts to the core that his record means he and his wife Edwina can’t adopt the child they crave.

So it’s only natural that old habits die hard and, see, he might as well just help hisself....

Model parent-to-be: 5

Law-abiding citizen: 5

Crazy hair: 10

Receives a lesson in mother love from...

 

Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) – Fargo (1996)

Marge is a sunny-hearted soul.  A real-people person, the greatest happiness she knows is when husband Norm’s painting skills get recognised and rewarded.

And she’s eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child, which is swell.

It’s just a shame that – as Brainerd Chief of Police – she has to come into contact with the shadier sides of humanity.  Often, she just don’t understand how some folk can do such bad things in the world.

Model parent-to-be: 10

Law-abiding citizen: 10

Crazy hair: 5

Let battle commence...

Hi is baby-hunting in Minnesota and breaks into Marge’s nursery.  Empty – damn.

Marge bursts in, heavily pregnant and sees Hi.  She gawps at him in disbelief.

Hi panics and starts throwing stuffed toys at her, which bounce harmlessly off her belly.

She waddles towards him and he’s caught in an ethical dilemma.  He can’t really hit a pregnant lady.  Not when kids are so precious ‘n’ all.

A gust of icy wind blows into the room.  Hi turns, chilled – his Hawaiian shirt isn’t the best thing for this climate.

While he’s distracted, Marge bumps into him and he topples out of the window, head-first into the snow outside.  She sits down for a breather: she can go and arrest him once she’s tidied the toys back up.

Next: Ulysses Everett McGill vs. Ed Crane[page-break]

 

Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney) – O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000)

Dapper Dan man Everett is as slick as the pomade he wears to keep his hair pristine and his mustache waxy.

Sure, his fast tongue gets him in trouble with the law, his missus and just about anybody he comes in to contact with while on the run – he’s well-known for being in a tight spot.

But if his rogueish charm suggests a criminal mastermind, think again.  Truth be told, he’s a bit of an idiot.

Follicular know-how – 9

Loquacity – 10

Consistency – 2

Gets a close shave from...

 

Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) – The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Ed doesn’t say much, but he lets his hands do the talking – he knows every hairstyle from the Heinie to the Duck Butt.

That kind of precision would make him an expert killer... but he probably wouldn’t do anything so out-of-the-ordinary unless it was under extreme provocation.

What does he want outta life?  He probably couldn’t tell you that himself, although he does dream of being whisked away from Earth by aliens.

Follicular know-how – 10

Loquacity – 0

Consistency – 10

Let battle commence...

Everett is out for revenge.  Ed used Fop pomade on his hair – Fop! – instead of Dapper Dan.

While Ed is sweeping, Everett sneaks up behind and attempts to strangle him with a hairnet.

With well-practised dexterity, Ed cuts himself free with a pair of scissors and lunges at Everett.

Everett shields himself with a pomade container; Ed is temporarily distracted, thinking it’s a flying saucer, and Everett dodges to the right, only to be backed into the corner.

“Damn, I’m in a tight spot!” he cries as Ed tries to pin him to the wall with razors, but livewire instinct keeps him from harm.

Then Ed throws the last item: the electric clippers, still plugged in.  They hit Everett on the head and zig-zag across his hair.

Everett turns and sees his ruined ‘do in the mirror.  As he grabs at his hair with his hands he leaves himself defenceless.  Ed stabs him in the ass and Everett runs, howling in pain, from the salon.

Next: Anton Chigurh vs. Walter Sobchak[page-break]

 

Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) – No County For Old Men (2007)

There’s no mistaking Chigurh.  With his pudding-bowl haircut, waxen pallor and burning stare, you really wouldn’t want to get into a conversation with him.

And you certainly wouldn’t want to know why he’s carrying around a gas cylinder, which is attached to a tube that he’s pointing at your head.

And if he asks you to call a coin toss, whatever you do – get it right.

Practical hair – 7

Calmness – 10

Artillery – 10

Has to put up or shut up with...

 

Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) – The Big Lebowski (1998)

Things haven’t been so great for Walter since ’Nam. The wife’s left him, he can’t be sure the bowling team share his dedication for the cause, and those anger management issues are getting worse.

Why won’t people just obey the rules?  It’s such a world of nihilists he’s living in now, folk don’t even have an ethos.

But one thing’s for sure.  If they try to cross Walter, they’ll be entering world of pain.

Practical hair – 10

Calmness – 0

Artillery – 8

Let battle commence...

Walter is at the Laundromat, getting his dirty undies cleaned, when Chigurh challenges him to a coin toss.

A game of chance: just like ’Nam.  Walter accepts. 

Chirgurh tosses, Walter calls: heads.

It lands, slightly askew on a pair of undies: tails.

Chigurh gives an almost imperceptible shake of the head and raises the tube of his cattle gun to Walter’s head.

Walter swats it to one side and wags a finger at Chigurh: the coin didn’t land straight, so the toss is void.

Chigurh glares and calmly tries to position the tube into a killing position. 

Walter, starting to rant about respecting the rules, pulls a gun.  Stand-off.  The two men go eyeball to eyeball.

Eventually, Chigurh relents with a bow, scoops up the coin and tosses again.  Walter makes the same call.  It lands cleanly: heads.

Chigurh gives Walter a sardonic look and begins to walk away.  But Walter, who has fundamentally misunderstood the rules of this game, takes that as permission... He unloads his piece into the back of that pudding-bowl head.

Next: Johnny Caspar vs. Carl & Gaear[page-break]

 

Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) - Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Caspar holds three things dear in life: friendship, character and ethics.

Sure, he’s a mob boss, but as crooks go, he’s pretty straight.  Caspar likes things simple and fuss-free.  Even his favoured kill shot, ‘one in the brain,’ is direct and to-the-point.

He’s almost cuddly.  But try and give him the high-hat, and you’ll find one hell of a temper unleashed.

Friendship / Character / Ethics: 10

Gets the high-hat from...

 

Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) and Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stomare) - Fargo (1996)

Ethics?  Don’t make us laugh.  These thugs for hire don’t see much beyond money and hookers (in Carl’s case) and, for Gaear, pancakes and the possibility of killin’  

Character?  They barely have one between them. Carl’s weasely and irritating, while silent giant Gaear is... unsettling.

Friendship?  They don’t even like each other.

Friendship / Character / Ethics: 0

Let battle commence...

Caspar has sent Carl and Gaear to execute an associate who stole from him.  When they return, they claim there was no money to be found.

Caspar starts thumping his pudgy fists onto his desk.  He won’t stand for this.  They’re giving him the high-hat.

Carl begins to remonstrate, jabbering away with obvious insincerity.  Gaear watches silent and dispassionate.

Caspar stands up – there’s a baseball bat in his hand.  Carl pleads with him but Caspar swings the bat straight into his solar plexus and, winded, he collapses.

Next up: Gaear.  He hasn’t moved.  He hasn’t even reacted to his colleague’s injury.  He’s simply towering over Caspar, with the merest trace of a thin, cruel smile visible. 

Caspar looks up, more puzzled than angry, to see a smoking gun in Gaear’s hand.

He looks down: in his chest, a smoking hole, from which blood is starting to pour.

Gaear reaches down with one little finger and pushes against Caspar’s head.  The fat man falls straight back, wheezing uncomfortably.

Gaear turns and walks out.  Carl watches him leave with an expression of outrage and disbelief, before gingerly crawling after him.

Next: Professor Dorr vs. Marilyn Rexroth[page-break]

 

Professor Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr (Tom Hanks) – The Ladykillers (2004)

Dorr is an uncommonly erudite adversary. His old-school decorum and stalwart manners suggest a gentleman, but in fact they mask a fiendish criminal mind.

Bewitching unsuspecting stooges with his phony authority, dandyish bravado and mastery of language, he’ll ingratiate himself into homes from which to pull off the next big heist.

Smooth-talker: 9

Cunning: 8

Beauty: 4, unless the Colonel Sanders floats your boat

Hopes for better, ends up worse with...

 

Marylin Hamilton Rexroth Doyle Massey (Catherine Zeta-Jones) – Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

What better match for a ladykiller than an expert man-eater?

Marilyn seeks out the wealthiest, vainest husbands.  Once she’s got ’em, she puts them where they’re most useful – between a rock and a hard place.

Eventually, she knows, they’ll stray from the matrimonial bed.  They always do...and that’s when she pounces.

Brains and beauty – it’s a formidable combination.

Smooth-talker: 10 – just the one language, but it’s the language of luurve

Cunning: 10

Beauty: 10

Let battle commence...

It’s a battle of the sexes, this one.

Marylin’s gaffe is the perfect base for Dorr’s latest job – but she’s done her homework and knows //exactly// what’s at stake.

So, while Dorr’s turning on the old-school charm to gain access to Marylin’s house, she’s giving an equally assured performance as his loved-up fiancé.

They wed: the day of the big job.  Dorr tunnels into a neighbouring house and comes back with millions in diamonds.  But Marylin’s waiting at the entrance: she knocks him cold and films him inflagrante with a hired prostitute.

For the lawyers, it’s an open-and-shut case of infidelity – and Marylin gets the diamonds in the divorce settlement.

Next: Norville Barnes vs. Chad Feldheimer[page-break]

 

Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins) – The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Norville Barnes is set to take the business world by storm.

Why, he’s got a bona fide diploma from the Muncie College of Business Administration, backed up by the can-do fightin’ spirit of dear old Munce.

He’s enthusiastic, he’s totally unfazed by set-backs and – though you wouldn’t know it to look at him, he’s smart, too.  This right here is a real life Ideas Man.

Slackness of jaw: 10

Puppy-dog enthusiasm: 9

Hidden intelligence: 9

 Feels the burn from...

 

Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) – Burn After Reading (2008)

Chad is an artist, but bodies are his canvas.  His fitness routines will get the adrenalin pumping and keep those abs //ripped//, baby.

He sure lives the life of an Adonis: only the best designer clobber will do, his quiff is iron-tight and he keeps himself healthy with a regular Berry Blast.

Chad think he knows about a lot of other stuff too…but don’t be fooled by his eagerness.  He doesn’t.

Slackness of jaw: 9

Puppy-dog enthusiasm: 10

Hidden intelligence: 1

Let battle commence...

Norville comes to Hardbodies Gym hoping to sell his latest invention – “y’know, fer toning.”

Chad’s untutored imagination goes into hyperdrive when he sees the plans for Norville’s thingamajig.  Is that – a weapon?!  And is Norville – a spy?!

He immediately goes into a karate crouch.  A delighted Norville thinks he’s found a Muncie man and starts the hometown dance, a weird mix of grunting and flailing arms.

What deadly technique is this?  Chad runs for cover and grabs a spare dumbbell.  Norville responds enthusiastically by pulling out his prototype Hula Hoop.

Terrified, Chad throws the dumbbell at Norville’s head.  Smack: he’s out for the count.

The Hula Hoop rolls away, out the door and off down the street.

Next: Loren Visser vs. Charlie Meadows[page-break]

 

Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) – Blood Simple (1984)

Visser’s a private investigator, but he’s not the kind of guy you’d entrust your privacy to.

He knows exactly which rocks to turn over for secrets, probably because he acts like he’s just crawled out from under one.

Let him into your life, and he’ll cackle with glee at your every misfortune – especially those he causes himself.

Nosiness: 9

Obesity: 9

Madness: 9

Is cut down to size by...

 

Charlie Meadows aka Madman Mundt (John Goodman) – Barton Fink (1991)

Charlie’s just a common man, the average working stiff.  Hearing other people’s stories keeps him happy.

That’s why he does what he does: selling insurance door-to-door.  Charlie gets to meet all kinds of folk; in return, he likes to help ‘em out by providing them with peace of mind.

The only catch is that Charlie’s idea of peace of mind tends to involve relieving his clients of their heads.

Nosiness: 10

Obesity: 10

Madness: 10

Let battle commence...

The two men are staying at the same hotel, and Charlie invites Visser to his room for a shot of whiskey and a chat.

But it’s Visser who has something to say: he knows Charlie’s secret, and the only way he’ll keep it a secret is if Charlie pays up.

Charlie’s good-natured eyes narrow; his face bulges in apoplectic rage; he bellows furiously. 

Visser cackles nervously and pulls a gun... but Charlie is surprisingly nimble and pins him with a wrestling move.

Under all that weight, there’s little Visser can do except continue to guffaw at the absurdity of it all – until Charlie cuts the laughter short by cutting off Visser’s head.

Next: Jesus Quintana vs. Leonard Smalls[page-break]

 

Jesus Quintana (John Turturro) – The Big Lebowski (1998)

Jesus stands out. Amongst the grungy casualwear and check shirts of his fellow bowlers, the Quintana look is stylish and startling: dressed top-to-toe in purple Lycra, ponytail swept back under a hairnet.

And when he bowls, he moves with such feline grace he must surely be the master of the lanes. However... he’s also a pervert.

Unrepentant about his sins, his in-your-face attitude courts controversy in order to ward off potential vigilante attack

Fashionista: 10

Unfuckwithability: 10

Actual unfuckwithability: we’re guessing 4

Is about to get fucked with by...

 

Leonard Smalls aka the Biker of the Apocalypse (Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb) – Raising Arizona (1987)

Nobody knows where Smalls came from.  He just rode out of a desert on his bike with the look of a man who means business.

A manhunter by trade, his cat-like senses, fearsome arsenal and unerring accuracy can destroy his prey regardless of size and distance.

And don’t go crying for mercy – even ickle bunny wabbits can’t escape his wrath.

But by God he needs a makeover.

Fashionista: 0

Unfuckwithability: 10

Actual unfuckwithability: 10

Let battle commence...

Bowling night.  Smalls crashes through the entrance on his bike, a shotgun wielded in each hand, and zooms towards his target: Quintana.

Jesus throws a well-aimed bowling ball and knocks one gun away.  The other fires and singes Jesus’ ponytail... but Smalls is unbalanced and falls from the bike.

Jesus runs, slipping, up the lane, trying to grab the pins to use as weapons. 

But Smalls, now at the top of the lane, produces a grenade.  He pulls the pin and, with surprising elegance, bowls a perfect line. 

As Jesus reaches the pins, so does the grenade – KA-BOOM!

Mark it a strike.

Any Coen's characters you'd like to see go toe-to-toe? Let us know!