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Villains That Love Being Bad: Edward Pierce, The First Great Train Robbery

The dashingly handsome protagonist of Michael Crichton’s 1979 heist movie (played by the always-charismatic Sean Connery) isn’t necessarily evil–he is, after all, the protagonist. But as the cunning criminal mastermind behind the attempted robbery of a train carrying a fortune in gold, he’s certainly no hero, either (though the city’s poor, downtrodden masses worship him as Robin Hood reborn). When the judge asks him to explain his actions, he replies, with a shrug and an infectious smile, “I wanted the money." 

Somehow, I don’t believe him; he’s sly and manipulative enough to run less risky con jobs. No, he executes his brazen plot for the simple thrill of it. He enjoys infiltrating the drawing rooms and billiard halls of the wealthy and elite, effortlessly mimicking their mannerisms and rituals, seducing their daughters with thinly-veiled wordplay–all while barely suppressing a smirk of self-satisfaction. And why not–what other gentleman thief can honestly say he pulled one over on London’s rich and influential and got to walk along the roof of a speeding train in the process?

[Originally written August 6, 2012.]

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