Willem Dafoe: 5 Awesome Performances And 5 That Sucked

5 Awesome Performances...

5. Eric 'Rick' Masters - To Live And Die In LA (1985)

William Friedkin's career after The Exorcist is one of several occasional highs and many mediocre lows. Following his hysteria-inducing Oscar-winner, he suffered a massive setback with Sorceror; his ill-fated remake of The Wages of Fear came in massively over-budget and was released in theatres at the same time as Star Wars, meaning that it never stood a chance. Eight years later, however, he reaffirmed his worth with this film, which gave Dafoe his first truly meaty screen role. To Live And Die In LA is a crime thriller based on the novel by former Secret Service agent Gerard Petievitch. It follows two Secret Service operatives, the reckless Richard Chance (William Peterson) and the ruthless John Vukovich (John Pankow), who are on the trail of an elaborate and brilliant counterfeiter (Dafoe). The agents go to increasingly desperate lengths to bring Masters down, including going undercover and robbing an FBI agent in order to meet his demands for front money. Friedkin's film is a fast-paced, frenetic thriller which takes many familiar elements and imbues them with an unpredictable energy. But for all its great set-pieces, such as the counterfeiting sequence set to Wang Chung's distinctive music, Dafoe's performance is still one of its biggest assets. Dafoe resists the urge to overplay the cool threat of his character: he's confident, and clever, but he still keeps his cards close to his chest to confound the detectives. His performance elevates the film from being just another cop movie, and it's a very fitting place to start our countdown.

Freelance copywriter, film buff, community radio presenter. Former host of The Movie Hour podcast (http://www.lionheartradio.com/ and click 'Interviews'), currently presenting on Phonic FM in Exeter (http://www.phonic.fm/). Other loves include theatre, music and test cricket.