Saturday, March 18, 2017

Top 5 Films Featuring Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton

This list is in no particular order

These are just some of my favorite films that Bill Paxton, the actor and one of the stars of the new film Mean Dreams has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on their performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that they happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

Bill Paxton was an 80's icon for me. He may not have been the leading man in very man films but every single film he was in he made an undeniable impression. If he wasn't taunting Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Terminator he was crying game over in Aliens, but the most fascinating thing about the man was his ability to play obnoxiously cocky idiots and make them likeable. Take for instance his small but very memorable role in True Lies as the sleazy playboy used cars salesman whose personality should make us despise him but in fact we love the guy for just how deliciously sleazy and pathetic he is. But Paxton was also a gifted filmmaker with his directorial debut Frailty being both a haunting look at a family torn apart by a unique set of circumstances and also delivering a remarkable twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan envious. Bill Paxton was and always will be fondly remembered for all the fantastic characters he provided to us and these are the films I will always think of first when recalling his extensive and robust body of work both in front and behind the camera.



The first of only 2 films Paxton took the directors chair on but arguably one of the most underrated films of its day. Starring both Bill Paxton and a very good Matthew McConaughey, Frailty is both family drama and supernatural thriller with some serial killer trimmings thrown in for good measure. Paxton is always at his best when he plays characters with a hidden rage inside and his father personality here is earnest and heartfelt in just about all the wrong ways. The terror he puts his boys through as he systematically hunts down people he believes are devil spawn in human form is frightening yet also humorous in some weird ways mostly due to his interactions with his kids (his father son talk with his youngest about his list of demons from school is a classic moment). Most of all though Paxton shows some real talent behind the camera boasting a fine cast, some clever misdirection and a finale that is destined to stick with you long after it is over.

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I could seriously fill this one with just a bunch of quotes such as "Why don't you put her in charge!?", "We just got asses kicked pal!", "Someone said alien and she thought they said illegal alien signed up" and of course the immortal line known to even those who have never seen it, "Game Over!". Aliens is ripe with memorable characters played by an assortment of talent but Paxton's iconic Hudson is without a doubt the cream of the crop. His arc is difficult to notice amidst the onslaught of whining and chest bumping but he does eventually reach a point where he goes from complete pussy to gung ho badass which in many ways makes his journey to his eventual fate that much more saddening. Aliens is highly regarded as one of the best sequels ever made and while there are many things to point to that herald its many successes it is Paxton's Hudson that brings the whole thing together.

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A Simple Plan

Bill Paxton was mostly known as someone who played lovable idiots or some variation there of but in director Sam Raimi's wholly under appreciated A Simple Plan we get to see him flex his dramatic acting muscles. He plays Hank, a husband with a child on the way in a small town where not a whole lot happens...until he, his brother (played with supreme excellence by Billy Bob Thorton) and another friend stumble across a plane crash filled with money. The rest of the film plays out in a way where one tragedy generally leads into another and as the dominoes continue to fall we too see Hank's humanity fall as well. Paxton is brilliant as a man who holds the destiny of his friends and loved ones in his hands and watching him struggle with his own morality versus his greed transforms him into one of the most complex characters the actor ever tackled before or after. The ending then serves as an appropriate gut punch that suitably undercuts everything that he did in service of the blood money responsible that was once the answer to his prayers but quickly became his worst nightmare.


One False Move

One False Move is a deceiving little movie where it sells itself short by coming off as just another bad guys on the run with the local cops hunting them down story you have seen time and time again. Even the trailer makes it appear rather by the numbers but none of that could be further from the truth. A distinct lack of traditional star power (Billy Bob Thorton hadn't really broken out yet as a star) fueled by some of the best written characters you are likely to find in such a simple cops and robbers style flick provides Paxton a pedestal to shine brightly as the arrogant local sheriff who gets in way over his head seeking fortune and glory as he hunts down a small band of criminals who are far more dangerous than they first appear. This little lost gem of a film offers one of Paxton's best performances in a film that is actually worthy of the effort.



Definitely not his most critically acclaimed film nor one of his best either but let's face it, it's impossible to NOT think of Twister when thinking of Bill Paxton. Twister stands as Paxton's sole starring role in a traditional Hollywood blockbuster event flick and arguably set the bar for special effects disaster films from that point forward (at least in regards to its dazzling visual effects which still hold up pretty well today). The "story" is pretty lightweight as is the romance between Paxton and Helen Hunt which is generally what everyone points to when trashing it but let's be honest here, this is a disaster flick and no disaster flick in the history of cinema has ever delivered a good story with well written characters (aside from maybe The Poseidon Adventure). Twister was made to entertain with big action and tons of special effects wizardry and it delivered as did both Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt in giving us some fun albiet bland characters to ride along with as they rode head on into film history.


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