Unlike my relative indifference to the naming of Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, I am actually pleased and excited about Vincent D'Onofrio as the Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk. It was not a casting that would have EVER occurred to me and yet when I heard it, I thought it was just an excellent choice. Now, there is, of course, a long road between strong casting and a great performance, but I am confident of D’Onofrio’s ability to bring Fisk to life.
I admit some disappointment that Kingpin will be a villain in the show because, as I have discussed previously, it would have been nice to have a Daredevil live action story that did not involve another iteration of Fisk. On the other hand, I kind of figured it was as close to unavoidable as anything can be and casting an actor I like who will probably bring a unique approach to the character softens the blow quite a bit. Based on this news, I am also resigning myself to an Owl-free production. I had kind of fallen in love with the idea of the Owl as offering the chance to do commentary on the current financial crisis in the U.S. but I suppose that that sort of thing might not be the best fit for a Marvel production anyway.
It is also clear that having Kingpin as a character can give the entire project an overarching puppet master who, through his villainy, necessitates the need for the Defenders. And, given Kingpin can be hands-on or hands-off depending on the situation, including him in the show does not preclude having other villains.
In any case, I once again must reiterate my enthusiasm for D’Onofrio being the one taking on the role. To give others who might not know him as well, or at all, allow me to suggest five films worth watching to see his range.
Full Metal Jacket- Stanley Kubrick’s (roughly) half great depiction of the Vietnam War is famous for a great many things, most of them taking place during the basic training sequences. While R. Lee Ermey as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman is the most quotable, and thus most imitated, aspect of those scenes, it’s D’Onofrio’s as Private Leonard “Gomer Pyle” Lawrence that lingers. Overweight and belittled at every turn, Lawrence is the passive punching bag on his company…until he very much is not. The performance sells every moment of Lawrence’s “journey” and the resolution of his time in boot camp is so undeniable that one wishes Kubrick chose to end the movie on that note rather than let it drag its way through relatively clichéd happenings in the theatre of war.
Men in Black- As Edgar/The Bug, D’Onofrio does a clinic on full body acting. Shambling, stuttering, and grunting with barely contained rage, he contorts his face and body to convey (with help from incredible makeup) a man suit rotting from the inside and somehow does not come across as film stoppingly silly.
The Cell- This is not a very good movie, a surreal, blood soaked take on the murderer/profiler genre that was about five years past that genre’s high point. However, it is a lovely looking picture (directed by noted creator of beautiful garbage Tarsem) and D’Onofrio’s work as the aforementioned serial killer is hypnotic and deeply disturbing. Decked out with enough ridiculous costumes to make Gary Oldman’s Dracula jealous, he comes across as a literal boogieman, oozing in and out of scenes with no warning and a bizarre predatory sexuality.
Happy Accidents- Sam Deeds is a nice guy, smart and sweet, who is in the process of sweeping perennially unlucky in love Ruby Weaver off her feet. The only wrench in the works? He insists he is from nearly 500 years in the future. It sounds bad on paper, but works wonderfully on the screen with D’Onofrio unexpectedly conjuring a believable version of the character. He works as a romantic lead, as an unreliable narrator of his own story, and as a possibly deluded man who is utterly dedicated to his version of reality. It is quite the balancing act and he somehow never drops a plate.
The Salton Sea- Readers know I love Val Kilmer (and for good reason) and it pains me to say this, but…D’Onofrio’s Pooh Bear is absolutely the number 1 reason to see this movie. Noseless and delightfully demented, Pooh is an addict and “crime boss” who delights in staging recreations of the JFK assassination. Initially goofy and ridiculous, he is easy to write off as an inconsequential lunatic. By film’s end, it’s clear why that is a pretty big mistake to make.
Five More That Don’t Quite Make the Cut
Adventures in Babysitting- Thor as a car mechanic. Iconic, but more or less a cameo.
Strange Days- Love the movie, but D’Onofrio’s performance is not quite big enough to make the list.
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys- A good coming of age movie with some interesting animate sequences (as drawn by Todd MacFarlane) spliced in, D’Onofrio is relatively lowkey as the head priest at the Catholic school the four titular boys go to. A performance that shows he does not need to blow the doors off to get a character and make him work.
Ed Wood- Nails the physicality of Orson Welles, but the performance is disqualified as D’Onofrio’s voice was dubbed over.
Escape Plan- This movie is dumb, dumb, dumb, but D’Onofrio’s dons an accent and a suit that makes me think he’s trying to play Brando playing Truman Capote (as seen The Score) and it’s delightful.