In the new crime biopic Public Enemies, Johnny Depp stars as John Dillinger, the notorious bank robber who became Public Enemy #1 in 1930s in the United States in the beginning years of the J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI. During the Great Depression, the real-life Dillinger was a two-time escaped convict who not only pulled two dozen bank heists across the MidWest, but murdered several police officers and led a dangerous gang of unsavory characters.
But in the film, we see a different side to this criminal underworld figure, one of a graceful, charismatic man. Depp’s character is someone you can actually believe was able to woo his beautiful young girlfriend into total devotion and get a gang of ruthless thugs to give him respect as their leader.
It’s the combination of Dillinger’s supervillain-like abilities and Depp’s charming portrayal of this machine gun-toting crime lord that makes this on-screen character so alluring. But this role of the bad guy with likable charm isn’t a new one, though, there’s been plenty in cinematic history. Here’s a look at 10 Charismatic Bad Guys in Film.
Keyser SÃ¶ze from The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects brought us so much as a movie. It exposed Bryan Singer to the mainstream, collated a lot of stars in a great ensemble cast (including one of Stephen Baldwin’s few good performances)… but most of all it brought us Keyser SÃ¶ze.
SÃ¶ze’s involvement in the criminals’ dealings is never actually confirmed at any point in the movie — everything we hear or see about him is pure conjecture. And this is what makes the character such a great bad guy. Verbal Kint describes him perfectly in the following sentence:
“Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for SÃ¶ze. You never knew. That was his power.”
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