4. Suganoichi, Blind Menace: Unlike Zatoichi, Shintaro Katsu’s more famous blind masseur, Suganoichi is rotten to the core. As a boy, he takes great pleasure in using his wits to rob the sighted folks that look down on him. As an adult, he graduates to extortion, rape, and murder–but that childlike glee never truly fades, making his crimes all the more chilling.
5. Lester Diamond, Casino: Quite possibly the least complicated character in Martin Scorsese’s extensive filmography, Lester is a perfect scumbag, plain and simple. Even just saying that name–Lester the Pimp–makes me feel greasy. Cold, manipulative, and abusive, he drives much of the film’s conflict from the shadows by turning Ginger into an emotionally-dependent, self-destructive, drug-addled monster. He also bullies a sweet (if spirited) little girl, so you know he’s irredeemably evil.
6. Norman Stansfield, The Professional: Gary Oldman’s manic, pill-popping, Beethoven-loving DEA agent is transparently, implausibly corrupt–but I love him anyway. He flies into fits of rage, dances as he merrily guns down his enemies, sniffs people during interrogations, terrorizes children, and says things like, “I take no pleasure in taking life if it’s from a person who doesn’t care about it.” You want to see this psycho get what’s coming to him–and director Luc Besson delivers one of the most satisfying, beautiful, memorable death scenes in action movie history, the kind of karmic end that ensures the character’s legacy endures.
[Originally written July 9, 2012.]