Mark Strong is far too strong to just play villains, so I’m thankful for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and, even more virtuously, the voice of the Borrower Dad in Arrietty.
But he is, nonetheless, our finest go-to villain currently, like Alan Rickman or Claude Rains before him – and he’s great at it. Without dampening down his dark charisma and mellifluous tones, he finds new notes on top; where Septimus in Stardust is pop-star, pantomime evil, Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes – who could have been pretty much the same – has a sinister, snaggle-toothed nerdiness, hinting at Hitler; much more spooky.
The crime boss Frank D’Amico in Kick Ass had karate chops and a solid New York accent, although the acting honours for that film, of course, go to Nicolas Cage. And special mention to Chloe Moretz, for ruining her whole life just for that Banana Splits moment.
Strong’s accent in Kick Ass is more reliable than James McAvoy’s Lahndon twang in Welcome To The Punch, the last film I saw him in. And Strong’s performance here was reliable too, of course, although I didn’t think the film was good enough to get the best out of him.
For me, Welcome To The Punch was too chock-full of Acting with a capital ‘A’. McAvoy and Strong were mainly called upon to cry, shout and breathe raggedly. I bet it made them feel nostalgic for the first few days of drama school.
In fact, only one actor came out of Welcome To the Punch with his track record for being effortlessly terrifying – whether he’s in a gritty drama or a Harry Potter – intact; the mighty Peter Mullan.
But that’s another villain for another day.