Real movie lovers love mean. They relish revenge; or, at least, second-hand revenge. For some reason we prefer villains to heroes. That's because we are all helpless, futile creatures who crave vicarious catharsis. Here are some recent DVD releases to help you enjoy a delightfully mean season.
The Untouchables (1987, Fox Home Video)-Few movie villains can match Frank Nitti (the weirdly-visaged Billy Drago). Skull-like, he taunts family man Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), who is cleansing Chicago of scum like Capone (Robert De Niro). Nitti says that Ness's esteemed colleague (Sean Connery) squealed like a pig when Nitti killed him. Know what? That's mean.
The Warriors (1979, Fox Home Video)-Gang members don't come meaner or more colorful than they do in Walter Hill's engaging film. A Coney Island gang, led by Michael Beck, is wrongly accused of killing a visionary gang leader, and have to get home through different turfs. The gangs are great, from the suspiciously seductive Lizzies to baseball bat-wielding ghouls, and the fight scenes are beautiful.
Manhunter (1986, Anchor Bay)-Michael Mann's (Miami Vice) masterpiece adapts Thomas Harris' first book about Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox). And boy is he mean! Not near the huggable hero who makes James Bond puns in Hannibal. He even sics a serial killer, called the Tooth Fairy (Tom Noonan), on the FBI agent looking for him (the brilliant William Petersen). The film comes in a two-disc set packed with extras.
Death Wish (1974, Fox Home Video)-It's hard to tell who's meaner: the muggers and rapists who overpopulate a frightened Manhattan, or the mild-mannered architect (Charles Bronson in Clint mode) who becomes a rampaging vigilante, setting traps for moronic street scum. Look for Jeff Goldblum as a spray-painting rapist: "Look. I'm gonna do a thing."