Skeezy Sleazebags Who Think Smarm Equals Charm
What is it with high rise buildings beset with a wrinkle in the evening’s agenda that brings out the A-hole in some people? It’s always a safe bet it’ll be the smug mugged wanna be alpha male playing peacock in the first act. Double down the clown gets doomed by his own hubris.
As an instant game-changer to the action genre, DIE HARD gave great gravy. Good guy versus bad guys, gun play, plus a little Yipee kai yay went a long way with audiences and transformed a television actor into a movie star. Yet before the shit hits the fan and the holiday party starts racking up a body count, the movie first serves up a real piece of work jerk in the form of Harry Ellis.
We’re introduced to Harry in the midst of sniffing some white Christmas. Or rather “making a call” is the ain’t-fooling-nobody excuse the slick suit uses, oozing crudeness as he scoots from behind boss man’s office desk. Instantly, we know just what kind of cheesy sleaze ball is in the mix. Sealing the deal for the people in the cheap seats, we get the Harry Ellis laugh.
Licitly split is how quick it takes to pencil the math on this white line dining Prince Smarming. There’s little doubt he’s going to be a liability. It’s only a matter of how and when. Those answers both reach their foregone conclusion not long after Hans Gruber and crew prove they’ve more in store than being a buzzkill.
When John McClane’s mucking fuckery includes detonating C4 explosive to the tune of some huge boomage, it’s not just Nakatomi Plaza that takes a shake in the foundation. Clearly unsettled, Harry Ellis becomes a man who takes a stand. Actually, he takes a few toots of the nose whisky, then makes a stand. A sweaty, jittery stand.
Operating on coke fueled nutso gusto containing little to no regard for his own safety or anyone else’s for that matter, Harry Ellis, for a few half-way decent minutes, becomes the hero of DIE HARD. Making the most of his face time with Hans Gruber, Ellis takes on a cocksure swagger that’s half John Wayne, half mensch. His “White Knight” speech is nothing short of spectacular.
It doesn’t take long to dawn on Harry he’s read the room wrong. Really, REALLY wrong. All of his hot shot bravado drains from his face as Harry realizes Hans Gruber is nobody’s bubbie, baby. Face fauceting flop sweat from the eminent case of lead poisoning popping up on his calendar, a heroic last attempt is made… to finish his soda?
In the end, it can be said Harry Ellis died as he lived: coked out of his delusional mind.
On paper, the role of Harry Ellis reads a bit one note. In the hands of a lesser actor, Ellis could’ve wound up as a five alarm smarm cliche. Luckily for us, the producers wisely went with Hart Bochner. One might say Bochner was destined to portray the doomed schmoozer since he’d already played a variation on Ellis already.
BREAKING AWAY (1979) is a coming-of-age drama following four friends looking for direction in life after high school. Living in a college town provides readily present adversaries in the rich college kids. Cast as Rod, the privileged jock and ring leader of book learning bullies, Bochner perfectly epitomizes the droll asshole attitude of rich fraternity assholes. Rod is quick to derogatorily call them “Cutters” as a constant reminder of an awaiting fate working in the rock quarry.
In the confrontational clip below, the Cutters encroach on the college cafeteria, looking to settle a score. Ron and a few fellow frat packers approach for a territorial pissing match. I’ll give you one guess on what happens next.
Check out Bochner – decked out in the pink Lacoste shirt – playing Ron as if he’s been marinating in a tub of smugness. It’s a performance pitch perfect in its mixture of consending smarm and reeking elitism. While watching it, one might imagine Rod as a young Harry Ellis, whole assholish life ahead of him. Before the beard… the blow… and that bad bubbie Hans Gruber.