In terms of storytelling, what really defines a character as a villain? His actions? Well, consider Putnam, who spends the entirety of The Wizard (a feature length Nintendo commercial released in 1989) tirelessly pursuing an emotionally-traumatized runaway, intent on… reuniting him with his family. Sure, this would prevent young Jimmy and his brother Fred Savage from achieving their mutual goal of reaching California, but it hardly makes him a “bad guy.”
No, what makes Putnam a truly vile human being is the force that motivates his actions: greed. He’s so desperate to find the boys first and collect his fat paycheck, he even sabotages their estranged father’s independent search effort–slashing tires with a little too much enthusiasm.
Fortunately, Putnam isn’t what you’d call cinema’s most competent bounty hunter–heck, he’s seemingly incapable of recognizing something as mundane as a maintenance elevator (“What the hell is that?” he exclaims as our kid heroes begin their slow, slow descent). But for putting personal gain above the safety and well-being of children, he deserves to be called a villain.
[Originally posted July 19, 2012.]