Bruce Payne was a perfect bad guy in the 90’s. The persona he affected was just straight up malevolent, mean, arrogant, and straight to the point and in your face. In other words the guy was the kind of bad guy that would do what he said and not mince words. The trouble is that as with all bad guys he did need to get defeated. For the 90’s he was brutal, and the villainous roles he took on after that were just as brutal, but eventually his time kind of faded. In fact it seems that after his role in Highlander: Endgame, that he really didn’t seem to do much that was given the kind of attention he should have been getting all along.
In the 90’s however things were elevated to such a level that being the perfect bad guy was no longer the guaranteed attention grabber it used to be. Being diabolical and straight up evil wasn’t quite enough if you can believe it, a villain had to be so over the top that they seemed outright ridiculous when it came down to it. That could be a big reason why Payne didn’t resonate as much. He was great in his roles as a bad guy but thanks to the ever-increasing demand of the fans when it came to the bad guy being someone that couldn’t be beaten, couldn’t be outsmarted, and was just all-around tougher than a coffin nail the competition was just a bit too stiff.
It should still be noted that there are reasons why this role should be considered one of his best and one of THE best bad guys ever.
He went toe to toe with one of Wesley Snipes’ characters.
As anyone ever noticed that when Wesley Snipes was in a movie he didn’t get roughed up nearly as much as other heroes? There are a few guys that this happens to in movies, they seem invincible and can beat up on the antagonist at will. Payne however went blow for blow with Snipes, and even though it’s fiction that was awesome to see since not a lot of bad guys have been able to match Snipes’ characters in a fight. That speaks volumes for Payne’s character and can be counted as a boon to his career.
If you thought this clip made him appear bad you should check out Highlander: Endgame.
Now this isn’t from the 90’s but it’s still a great representation of just how intense he can be as the bad guy. If you were keeping up for all these years when it came to the Highlander series then you’d know that only a few people ever gave Connor MacLeod that much trouble, and only a few people ever intimidated him. Sure, the back story of the Highlander series changed occasionally and it was hard to follow, but the villains were absolutely insane. The Kurgan was perhaps the number one villain since he was the epitome of war and lust, but Jacob Kell was worse on several accounts as he was patient, methodical, and had a strange hold over others that allowed him to take their lives and to command them as he wished. Kell was perhaps the only person that Connor ever found that he just couldn’t beat, because Kell was the one deranged individual that had the most reason of anyone to hate Connor, and to kill him.
The movie didn’t get a whole lot of rave reviews since the Highlander series was at his point kind of running into the “good God what are they doing now?” phase, but the story itself was still going strong enough that it was worth watching in order to see what would happen. And lo and behold, Jacob Kell became the creepiest, angriest, and baddest immortal on the planet.
His bad guy persona was great because it wasn’t too complicated.
If you look at his roles in Passenger 57 and Highlander: Endgame, you’ll notice they don’t get bogged down with a lot of back story. This tends to irritate people that want to know absolutely everything about a character in order to analyze them up and down, but for those that enjoy the story and can roll with a character without a ton of back story it’s great since it allows you to simply watch and be entertained without feeling as though you need to take notes on what’s going on. Bruce Payne delivered an extremely well-rounded bad guy without having to bore you to death with everything he’d done that turned him bad. He was bad, that was it, there was no need to take 45 minutes or more to understand what had turned him that way. Some folks might call it a lack of depth but in the 90’s it was how you kept up with the competition, at least in theory.