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Battle of the Badasses, Vol. 1: Kurtwood Smith vs. Michael Ironside
As unbelievable as it may seem, Kurtwood Smith and Michael Ironside have never appeared together in a movie. ((So sayeth IMDb.com.)) I believe this is because the combined badassedness of the two would be nigh-impossible to contain in a single motion picture. Auditoriums in which the Smith/Ironside film was being shown would hemmorhage badassery, which would then flood the multiplex and take over every other film being shown. Two doors down in That Charming English Fop, Hugh Grant would suddenly pull a Scarface and fatten every stiff upper lip gathered ’round the delightful, period-accurate dinner table with a Louisville Slugger. Clear across the multiplex, the children watching Shrek 4: Ogre and Ogre Again would recoil in horror as the beloved green grump began to feast on exquisitely-pixelated human flesh.
Clearly, a head to head, no holds barred, balls to the wall showdown between these two men—men who define the very essence of badassishness—is out of the question, but I can always dream.
Kurtwood Smith may be most recognizable to contemporary audiences as Red Forman in the television series That 70’s Show. Red is the father of not only two children, but also the word “dumbass,” which he apparently created to describe his son. There is no question that Red is a badass, but the character is played for laughs, and most incarnations of Ironside-badassitude would wring Red Forman out like an overused snot rag.
To find the quintessential Kurtwood Smith badass it is necessary to leap forward one decade, to 1987. In RoboCop Kurtwood Smith portrayed Clarence Boddicker, ((RoboCop was almost the movie that would have oozed badassery: Michael Ironside was at one time up for the role of Alex Murphy, which ultimately went to Peter Weller, who—without the benefit of a cyborg body—barely registers on the Badass Scale.)) the man who was directly responsible for Alex Murphy’s transformation from ordinary police officer into the ass-kicking titular character. Boddicker began by obliterating Murphy’s hand with a pump-action shotgun, then turned him over to his men, who fired round after round into the helpless cop’s prone body. Boddicker himself then delivered the killing shot, a blast directly to Murphy’s right temple. The scene is one of the most brutal, vicious moments in cinematic history, and Clarence Boddicker scared the ever-loving crap out of fourteen-year-old me.
Whereas Kurtwood Smith’s image has been softened over the years, Michael Ironside remains a hardcore badass. One look at the man tells you two things: first, he’s fully capable of tearing your face off and nailing it to a wall; second, he’d enjoy it.
Ironside (Canada’s premiere badass) has had a career full of badass roles, from the malevolent Darryl Revok in Scanners (1981) to the malevolent Richter in Total Recall (1991) to good guy badass Sam Fisher in four installments of the Splinter Cell video games. ((Ironside as Fisher is the ne plus ultra of perfection in voice casting.)) Even when he’s not playing the villain, Ironside will break both your arms just to see you dance like Michael Flatley. Where Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker scared the crap out of me at fourteen, Michael Ironside as Michael Ironside scares the crap out of me at thirty-three.
Movie fans may recall the hype generated when badasses Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro appeared together for the first time on screen in Heat (1995). I submit that the meeting of those two powerhouses was not only anti-climactic but would pale in comparison to the jaw-dropping, nut-crunching spectacle of a Kurtwood Smith/Michael Ironside showdown. The event could only be described as an earth-shaking collision, the movie could only be titled Badass, and all other auditoriums in the multiplex would have to be evacuated any time it was screened.