It is no small compliment to be referred to as a man of action. In terms of the real world, it means that you are someone who refuses to rely only on words, but is instead prepared to back up those words in a visible, tangible way. In terms of the movies, which is always the favorable dimension of discussion in my humble opinion, the term “man of action” takes on entirely new meaning. Suddenly, that moniker is earned through a character’s proficiency with a gun, a sword, or even his bare fists. This week, as The Three Musketeers is due to hit theaters, we profile one of the film’s stars, Ray Stevenson; a man of action if ever there was one.
Punisher: War Zone
Though considerably sillier than any Punisher film to date (and that’s even counting the Dolph Lundgren version from the late ’80s) Punisher: War Zone is by far the most thoroughly entertaining film adaptation of the Marvel Comics character. Ray Stevenson plays former law enforcement agent Frank Castle who has been driven to bloody vengeance after the deaths of his wife and child. Stevenson cuts to the quick of the comic book character by foregoing any moody self-pity and instead portrays Castle as a concentrated ball of fury and revenge. For god’s sake, he blows up an Irish Rastafarian in the middle of a Parkour move and punches through a man’s head!
Horror films, like superhero films, take on a whole new identity when some sort of actual historical context is added. Case in point: 2008’s Outpost could have been just another haunted house movie, but the fact that the haunted house is actually a bunker haunted by the spirits of dead Nazis makes the film something far more interesting. Ray Stevenson plays DC, the leader of the team sent to the titular outpost. His bloodthirsty desire to constantly be engaged in a fight is what compels him to accept such a mysterious, vague, and dangerous assignment to begin with. Stevenson has no problem bringing this internal desire to the surface with his dementedly eager performance.
Kill the Irishman
This independent film chronicles the story of Danny Greene, an Irish racketeer who rose to power within Cleveland’s underworld in the 1970s. After initially teaming with the Italian mafia, Greene decided he wasn’t earning as much money and respect as he deserved and struck out on his own. Stevenson is electric as the charismatic, but insanely violent Greene. The swagger and power that Stevenson brings to this role is formidable and makes it easy to believe that the mafia had such a difficult time getting rid of him. He survives assassination by both bullets and bombs without breaking a sweat. Against supporting talent like Paul Sorvino, Christopher Walken, and Vincent D’Onofrio, Stevenson effortlessly holds his own.
This breakout HBO series is what truly put Stevenson on the map. The series used several different characters from several different castes of ancient Roman life to catalogue the fall of Julius Caesar and the trials of his successor. Stevenson plays Titus Pullo, a soldier in the Roman legion. Pullo is a blunt instrument whose capacity for complex thinking may be a bit limited, but woe is the fool who dares cross him. Stevenson manages to temper the beastly Pullo by also making him fiercely loyal. The relationship between he and Lucius Vorenus (played by Kevin McKidd) is not only what drives much the series’ plot, but also what grounds the emotional crux of the show.
Though not in the film nearly as much as I would have liked, Stevenson appeared as Volstagg in Marvel’s recent film version of Thor. A member of the Warriors Three, Volstagg is, like Pullo, a masterful warrior who is unflappably loyal to Thor. Stevenson is also able to provide some comic relief by playing up the character’s bullheadedness and massive appetite. Hopefully in the next Thor film we will get to see more of Volstagg. Stevenson’s performance in Thor is further proof that no matter the setting, the era, or even the plane of existence, he is truly a man of action; one not to be trifled with in any way, shape, or form.