Saturday, December 03, 2005

In praise of Ronny Cox

It's been 15 years since Ronny Cox tossed a big, moist sack full of villainy at us in 1990's "Total Recall," which itself came three years after 1987's "RoboCop," both directed by crazy Dutch bastard Paul Verhoeven.

Something about Verhoeven elicits terrific performances from a number of his leads, i.e. Marshall Bell, Michael Ironside and the aforementioned Cox (Verhoeven's coterie of actors is worth its own analysis later). I can only imagine that Verhoeven had so much fun shooting in 1986 - and watching "RoboCop" today, that would seem evident - that he would want to work with his ur-corporate villain again.

Cox is "big" in both flicks, but not to the point of being broad. He is hammy and scenery-chewy in the best way possible, like the scene in "Robo" where his Dick Jones gets into a pissing match with Miguel Ferrer's Bob Morton in OCP's executive toilet:

"I remember when I was a young executive for this company. I used to call the Old Man funny names. Iron Butt, Boner... once I even called him 'asshole.' But there was always respect. I knew where the line was drawn. And you just stepped over it, buddy boy!"

Of course, Cox punctuates the "just stepped over it" line reading with a yanking of Ferrer's hair, putting the junior exec in his place.

His "Total Recall" heavy, Vilos Cohaagen, is a bit more over the top than "Robocop" - outer space allows that kind of wiggle room. Much like "Robo," his corporate brand of thuggery makes him the perfect menace; it's important to note that he doesn't personally resort to violence himself until the very end. And, in a wonderfully multi-dimensional touch, when he realizes he has no choice but to murder his old buddy Quaid (Schwartzenegger), Cohaagen gets this intense, stymied look on his face... seething, he smashes a fish tank in frustration. He does so wordlessly - marvelously efficient.

These days, it looks like Cox sticks to TV roles and cable movies, another casualty of a large pool of talent in LA and the desire of the older actor to work in more a predictable climate. And, I should point out, this is probably the only analysis of Ronny Cox that doesn't fixate on his participation in "Deliverance."