In which Ron takes a part

Ron Perlman played second fiddle to Nicholas Cage in Season of the Witch and that’s pretty much par for the course where Perlman is concerned. While an actor who enhances any production with which he’s associated, apart from the Hellboy films (a role that seemed made for him), and the odd foreign language film, leading parts seem to have eluded Perlman. He’s more often the sidekick or somebody who takes a supporting role. I recently watched several films in which this was the case.

Outlander (2008)

Pretty much a by the numbers science fiction adventure story, this stars Jim Caviezel as the alien Kainan whose craft crashes to earth in a Viking dominated Scandinavia. Also on board is the monstrous Morwen, the last survivor of a race that has been exterminated by Kainan’s people. The Morwen goes on the rampage, killing the locals at a prodigious rate, while Kainan joins forces with the Vikings to help them hunt down and kill the beast, using the technology of the time (his ray gun gets broken, otherwise this would be a much shorter film). There’s also a love interest for our hero and a subplot involving infighting among the Viking kings, one of them played by Ron Perlman who doesn’t get to do much except swagger, swing an axe, and then die. It’s pretty much an undemanding popcorn guzzler of a movie, Beowulf with a science fictional bias, and the most interesting plot detail, having to do with the origin of the Morwen threat, isn’t explored in any depth. I watched it, I enjoyed it, and then I moved on.

Conan the Barbarian (2011)

Ron is Conan’s dad, teaching the young boy to hunt and kill and be a man, and then conveniently getting tortured and killed, so that his son has a life goal of vengeance. The warlord Khalar Zym is hell-bent on piecing back together the ancient Mask of Acheron, which will enable him to conquer the world and revive his dead wife, not necessarily in that order (the bad guy is addicted to love). He also needs to sacrifice a pureblood priestess, who the adult Conan ends up protecting, putting him on a course to conflict with the killer of his father. If I remember correctly this got panned on release, but I thought it was rather good, albeit not as good as the first Schwarzenegger movie. Star Jason Momoa looks the part, a leaner and trimmer version of Arnie’s Conan, so that you can believe in him when he vaults from one rock to another and dodges the death traps set by his nemesis. The plot is solid, and thanks to Zym’s love interest, the villain isn’t quite as one dimensional as he might have been. The best performance for my money came from Rose McGowan, as the wonderfully creepy Marique, Zym’s daughter and a powerful sorceress, who is suffering a little from mother-envy and needs to prove herself and win daddy’s love (at a push, you could argue that children and their parental role models/need for approval are a plot driver for this film). There are some exciting battle scenes and good special effects, and while I don’t rate it quite as highly as the first Arnie movie I had a good time with this, and will probably watch it again sometime. It made a fine double bill with Outlander.

Pacific Rim (2013)

Guillermo del Toro is probably the director who has used Ron the most frequently, and he does so again in this monster movie mash up, though only in a supporting role. The main plot line is pretty basic – sea monsters are coming through from another dimension and wreaking havoc, so to defeat them mankind develops giant robots, with human operators, but each victory costs more than the previous, and it’s a case of diminishing returns unless a more final solution can be found. And that pretty much is it – Shogun Warriors vs. Godzilla. There are some human interest angles, with the two main Jaeger pilots having to confront the issues in their past that stop them functioning to full effectiveness, but in the main it’s a spectacle movie in which big old machines wrestle with big old monsters, while we sit on the edges of our seats waiting to see just how the cute little bipeds of planet Earth will scrape through this one (there’s never any doubt that they will). Ron plays a black market trader dealing in body parts of monsters, someone the scientists trying to find that final solution have to deal with, adding an element of comedy to a film that is otherwise played straight. In fact I think Ron’s character, the nicely named Hannibal Chau, is the most engaging in the movie (well, the rest are pretty much robo-jockeys and little more than that), his presence injecting a sleazy Blade Runner vibe. And of course he dies (anyone noticing a pattern here?), or maybe not. To repeat myself, it’s a spectacle movie, with lots of battle scenes and a barrage of golly, gosh, wow effects courtesy of the CGI department. And for the time it lasted my eyes were fixed on the screen and sucking up every image thrown at me. Regardless, I could have done with a slightly more intriguing storyline and more engaging characters.

So, what ‘featuring Ron Perlman’ films have the rest of you guys enjoyed?

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2 Responses to In which Ron takes a part

  1. Rolnikov says:

    I quite enjoyed Primal Force, basically Jurassic Park with baboons, with an archetypal Ron Perlman character. He was great in Blade 2 as well. Nice to see on IMDB that he’s worked on all the Fallout games, including the newest.

    Jason Momoa was a terrific Conan, I thought, easily my favourite actor to have played the character. You believed he could be strong, but also quick and sneaky. Hopefully Aquaman will be a big hit and make Conan 2 a bit more likely.

    • petertennant says:

      I used to really like the Aquaman comic, so yes to that being a hit, and agree with you that Momoa made a good Conan, though I still have a slight preference for the musclebound but otherwise limited Arnie.

      I’d forgotten Ron was in “Blade 2”. He crops up everywhere – seems to always be in films on the Horror Channel, usually ones that I’ve never heard of such as “5Girls”..

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