Ray Winstone is one of those actors who blends so effortlessly into scenes – at least when he’s well-cast – that it’s often easy to forget just how great an actor he is. Having carved out a firm niche for himself as one of the quintessential “hard men” of cinema, it’s a role Winstone commits to with absolute relish every time we see him. Thus while it’s easy to pick out a handful of great performances, it’s difficult to pick out ones that are objectively bad; while he’s guilty of slumming it like just about every jobbing actor going, he’s typically the victim of a poor script and poor direction rather than a lack of effort on his own accord.
Nevertheless, with the big-screen update of The Sweeney in cinemas this week, here are our five favourite and five least-favourite Winstone performances to date.
5 Awesome Movies…
5. The Proposition (2005)
John Hillcoat’s fine-tuned Aussie western remains one of the best recent examples of the genre, in which a violent rogue, Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) is told that if he can track down and kill his vicious older brother, Arthur (Danny Huston), then he will be pardoned for his crimes, and also save the life of his younger brother, Mikey (Richard Wilson), who is scheduled to be hanged. It’s all at the behest of Ray Winstone’s Captain Stanley, a rigorous authoritarian who wishes to wipe out violent crime and tame the unforgiving wilderness by having its most violent example done away with.
This is a rare instance where Winstone, in effect, plays the “good guy”, though like any good morality play, it’s never as simple as that. While Winstone is far away from the typical hard-nosed gangster he is accustomed to playing, his Stanley is still harsh and ruthless, albeit in the pursuit of a more admirable cause. While Pearce bears the burden of the internal struggle and emotional weight, it is Winstone whose monstrous performance dominates the film from start to finish. His character is complex but relatable; a kind man nevertheless compelled to rule by force, bearing everything that this entails.
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