Just hear me out.
Before we begin, however, I acknowledge this method could be applied to any number of films and probably work just as well, but THE FIRM (1993) is my favorite Tom Cruise movie and after rattling around in my head for years, it’s nice to finally put these thoughts to paper.
If you’re reading this, I assume you know THE FIRM, but here’s a brief synopsis in case: Mitch McDeere (Cruise), an eager young attorney fresh off graduation from Harvard, chooses a small law firm out of Memphis, Tennessee from a seemingly endless line of suitors only to discover that when something seems too good to be true…
Oh, and a quick thought on the ranking breakdown: roles in THE FIRM was weighed more heavily than their contributions to the horror genre. If you wonder why Cruise is absent despite INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994) and LEGEND (1985), or why Holly Hunter was excluded with titles like THE BURNING (1981) and COPYCAT (1995) under her belt and knowing good and damn well that Tammy Hemphill is THE FIRM’s undeniable MVP — well, hopefully you’ll understand more after reading the article. QUICK CLUE: with this writer, a certain sci-fi television series will always win a coin flip).
Now, shall we join Bendini, Lambert & Locke for a little barbeque?
5 — JERRY HARDIN as ROYCE McKNIGHT
The least sinister or shady (insert whichever adjective you prefer that begins with the letter “S” here) amongst the firm’s hierarchy, the reality is that “any lawyer worth that offer” should’ve had Mitch sniffing things out when Hardin said he’d bribed a clerk in the Harvard law office so he could add 20 percent to MiDeere’s tender. Alas, that’s not what we’re here for. Hardin appeared in 11 episodes of THE X-FILES as the mysterious Deep Throat, who provided Agent Mulder (David Duchovny) cryptic information in the early stages of a show that, if you’re of a certain age, was without question appointment viewing.
4 — TOBIN BELL as THE NORDIC MAN
Asking “why are you asking questions about dead lawyers” whilst brandishing a silencer and wagging a finger like a disapproving Dikembe Mutombo would send a shiver down the spine of the most stoic among us, but let’s get down to brass tacks. Look, the Nordic Man’s albino ass was absolutely terrifying, but as discussed in the open — it’s about the heft of character from THE FIRM — so as a trigger man, Tobin lands (rather appropriately) in the clean-up spot. Bell is certainly the heaviest-hitter on this list as the anchor for one of horror’s goliaths. Beginning with the OG in 2004, Bell has starred in the dual role of Jigsaw / John Kramer in eight of the SAW franchise’s nine films to date and is reportedly tied to the tenth installment due this October. Because, if you’ll recall, “if it’s Halloween, it must be SAW”.
3 — HAL HOLBROOK as OLIVER LAMBERT
At first glance, Holbrook cut quite a father figure, one that held sway with McDeere, but it didn’t take long for Mitch to learn that Lambert was behind the wheel of a deep, dark motor vee-hick-uhl chase that resulted in crash and burn for four lawyers–none of them over the age of 45–in less than ten years. Holbrook was nominated for an Oscar (INTO THE WILD, 2007) and his trophy case required Emmy and Tony Awards be dusted, but we’re going to focus on a pair of performances where you wouldn’t have expected him to be the bad guy: Father Malone in John Carpenter’s THE FOG (1980) and Henry Northrup in George A. Romero’s CREEPSHOW (1982). Holbrook just had a gentle way about him, and much like his role in THE FIRM, so why would you even consider this dude was up to no good? Well, some menacing mariners and Fluffified Adrienne Barbeau would like a word.
2 — GARY BUSEY as EDDIE LOMAX
As our fearless leader Patti Pauley often points out, Gary Busey wrestled a godddamn werewolf. Do me a favor and read that out loud again, Maybe three times. But before I forget, Busey played a seedy private detective who had done time with Mitch’s brother Ray (it was so hard to leave David Strathairn off this list because DOLORES CLAIBORNE, 1995). Busey only got two scenes, but made the most of them, and brought Mitch and Tammy (Hunter) together, which if we’re honest, was why Mitch’s “more of a way through” succeeded in the first place. That said, back to wrestling a werewolf. Busey’s Uncle Red keeps us coming back to SILVER BULLET (1985). The one-liners — “I feel like a virgin on prom night” — never get old and though he took a bit of convincing, Red never lost faith in his niece and nephew when he easily could have just buried himself in a bottle of booze — which as I believe you do recall — Uncle Red was very good at. And if we could get back to wrasslin’ for the briefest of moments? It took a lot for me to rank anyone above Busey. I just needed to say that.
1 — WILFORD BRIMLEY as BILL DEVASHER
Even if Brimley had only been provided the opportunity to appear in the scene featured in the GIF above, he would have nailed the role of the firm’s frightening head of security. Not-so veiled threats and that glance before asking a question that required no answer. Don’t, for a single, solitary moment, allow yourself to believe that a dude who once peddled oatmeal (and battled diabeetus) couldn’t scare the ever-loving shit out of you. When it comes to Wil’s horror pedigree, we needn’t look further than Outpost 31. As Blair in John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982), Brimley again made the most of few words: “how long were you alone with that dog?”, “that thing wanted to be us!” and “I said watch Clark and watch him close.” The good doctor not only believed in the voodoo bullshit–but to bring the Quaker Oats full circle–knew sabotaging his own crew was the right thing to do. Brimley ripped the spotlight away from superstars like Cruise and Kurt Russell in both roles and stands atop the medal podium for his efforts.
HONORABLE MENTION — PAUL SORVINO as TOMMIE MOROLTO (with apologies to Ed Harris’ dance routine from CREEPSHOW)
“Avery, who’s in Chicago?” I’ll tell you who — a legend who gave us “we’re under attack by a popular dessert!”(THE STUFF, 1985) and knock-you-on-your-ass roles like Rotti Largo in REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA (2008). There was zero chance — ZERO — this scene didn’t make the cut.
Agree? Disagree? Have another non-horror movie in mind with a stellar spooky cast? Hell, shoot us ideas on topics you’d like to see tackled in this Quintessential Quintuplets series. Sound off in the comments and we’ll see you next week!
MICHAEL MYERS (RIP George P. Wilbur)