Vincent Cassel (23 November 1966 -)
Blue-eyed and ruggedly handsome, Vincent Cassel has made a reputation for himself as a tough, uncompromising actor who can exude menace at the drop of a chapeau. But as is the case with most “tough guy” actors, there’s much more to Cassel than his performances in, say, La Haine (1995) or the one-two punch that was Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct and Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1 (both 2008) – although he has been quoted as saying, “My father [Jean-Pierre Cassel] is best known for his light comedies, and I’m best known for crazy bad guys with short tempers”. Here are five movies where Cassel shows that his career has a lot more to offer viewers than just anger and violence (with one exception).
Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) – Character: Jean-François de Morangias
Christophe Gans’ bonkers martial arts/werewolf/historical drama sees Cassel give one of his most over the top performances as the villain of the piece, and yet it fits perfectly with the thrust of the movie, and allows him to play flamboyant, cunning, sly, mendacious, cruel, vicious, and even romantic (it’s true), against the fervid backdrop of superstitious, 18th Century rural France. A one of a kind performance and hugely enjoyable to watch (as is the movie).
Read My Lips (2001) – Character: Paul Angeli
In the same year as Brotherhood of the Wolf, Cassel made this arresting drama for Jacques Audiard, playing an ex-con who falls in with a deaf, put-upon office worker (played by Emmanuelle Devos) who’s looking for a way to improve the way she’s treated. The relationship that develops between them is an uneasy mix of mutual exploitation and dependency, and Cassel matches his co-star for vulnerability and pathos, as her need for revenge and his criminal background make for an uneasy combination.
A Dangerous Method (2011) – Character: Otto Gross
David Cronenberg’s look at the turbulent relationships involving Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Jung’s patient Sabina Spielrein (Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley respectively), also gives Cassel the chance to impress as the unstable psychoanalyst Otto Gross. It’s a pivotal role and Cassel is on terrific form as the man who felt that sexual passion should be wholly embraced and never repressed.
As You Want Me (1997) – Character: Pasquale
Cassel does comedy as well as drama in this enjoyable if not entirely successful movie that still benefits from the actor’s usual commitment to a role. He plays a policeman in Rome, who, during a roundup, finds his old friend from school, Domenico (played by Enrico Lo Verso) is now called Desideria and is transgender. Romance rears its confused head and Cassel does a great job in convincing the viewer that he could fall for his old friend even though he has a fiancé (played by Monica Bellucci).
Secret Agents (2004) – Character: Georges Brisseau
A psychological thriller that sees Cassel reunited with Bellucci, this sees them as spies working together to foil an arms deal in Africa. Cassel’s character is cool and methodical, but when the mission begins to derail around him, and Bellucci’s character ends up in jail, it’s down to him to get her out. It’s formulaic stuff but with a Gallic spin that’s aided by one of Cassel’s most instinctive performances, as he tries to remain focused while dealing with being betrayed.
Honourable mentions: The Pupil (1996), Black Swan (2010).