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The Worst Movie Mentors

How far can one person be pushed to better themselves?
That's the question at the heart of Whiplash, the frankly brilliant and full-on film which opens in cinemas this week, charting the tribulations of a 19-year-old jazz drummer who gains entry to a prestigious New York City music school only to lock heads with one violently tempered teacher hellbent on perfection.
It is a piece of raw cinema that deserves to be seen. Quite rightly, JK Simmons recently snagged a Golden Globe for his snarling performance at the recent awards - but his character isn't the first on-screen mentor to wildly cross the line with a film's protagonist. Far from it.
For better or worse, but mainly for worse, we've assembled the most memorable movie mentors who we hate ourselves for liking.

Gunnery Sergeant Hartman – Full Metal Jacket

If any character in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket was suffering from a "major malfunction", it's thus one. Acerbically tongued, rapidly spoken, and played so convincingly by former Marine Corp drill instructor Ronald Lee Ermey, it was hard to gauge exactly how far the boundaries between realism and fiction stood as this guru of grunts misused his power and leadership to a blood-curdling degree.

John Milton - The Devil’s Advocate

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled? Convincing the world Keanu Reeves was a decent actor. Yes, what a film, with Al Pacino on top ‘Hoo Hah' form as the shouty Prince of Darkness heading up a New York law firm. He’s everything Reeves's upcoming lawyer wants in a boss: powerful, magnetic, fatherly, encouraging. Though when that encouragement verges on asking his son to copulate with his demon half-sister and spawn the Antichrist which will eventually pit the world into eternal damnation, it warrants a HR complaint at the very least.

George Simmons – Funny People

As a former stand-up who made it big in films before churning out inane, child-like and critically ravaged roles in unmemorable comedies, Adam Sandler played exactly to type in Funny People. Unfortunately for budding comedian Ira (Seth Rogen), hired by the big shot to write him jokes, he was also downright unlikeable, masking his own securities by taking them out on his new protégé, even unjustly firing him to hammer this home. Bitter, selfish, narcissistic - we're not sure he really deserved that final face-saving scene. It felt a little too Hollywood.

Sloan – Wanted

Only Morgan Freeman could narrate his own entrance and get away with it. In the excellent action flick Wanted, he makes his presence clear before he even comes fully into shot, playing the head honcho of The Fraternity, Sloan. Watched on by James McAvoy’s fresh recruit Wesley, he's soon instructing the youngster on how to use the raw superpowers he possesses; yet, much like his trademark marksmanship, Sloan isn't much of a a straight shooter, betraying Wesley when he gets the chance and thus setting up one hell of a finale. Seriously, if you can’t trust the boss of a secret society of assassins, who can you trust?

Mr Silver – Karate Kid III

Imagine Luke Skywalker joining the Sith - impossible, right? Well that’s how it felt when Daniel Larusso did the unconceivable and trained with the Cobra Kai for the third Karate Kid film. Having been goaded into a tournament Mr Miyagi refuses to train him for, the lad takes his thirst for vengeance to twisted benefactor Mr Silver, who’s been playing both sides in order to take advantage of Daniel. The iconic scene of poor Larusso punching wood is still just as wrenching to watch.

Avery Tola – The Firm

Crooked Lawyers? You’d have thunk it? Funnily enough not Tom Cruise’s hotshot Harvard law graduate, who’s only too eager to look past any suspiciousness by his MASSIVELY shady new employers if it means having a big TV and a fast car. The man helping fast-track him to greatness is Gene Hackman’s Avery Tola, a cocktails-at-lunch-sort of fella whose boozy afternoons makes it nigh on impossible for anyone to get any work done. Regardless, his financing of mob activity makes him an all-round bad egg in spite of his sage advice.

Ra’s al Ghul – Batman Begins

A few years before he found his USP punching kidnappers in the vocal chords, Liam Neeson played another sort of tough guy: Ra’s al Ghul, a warrior with a skewed sense of justice who helps a wayward Bruce Wayne embrace his inner bat. Given the pair's passionate bromance early on, dare we say one which fills a void in the fatherless Wayne’s life, it’s a bittersweet finish when the pair end up slugging it out for the fate of Gotham. Though let’s be honest, al Ghul was a maniac wasn't he?

Tyler Durden – Fight Club

“Tyler told me to do it.” It’s the sort of excuse which would barely help save you from detention in junior school, let alone from exploding major buildings across L.A for some anti-capitalism agenda. During the majority of Fight Club we figure this is the reason why Edward Norton’s nobody salesman goes along with Durden's lethal urban activism - he's simply so damned enegmatic, and he looks a little like Brad Pitt. Until, of course, we eventually discover he was just a figment of the protagonist’s imagination, which actually makes him an even more unreliable mentor in our eyes.

Rufus - Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

If you can look past the fact it’s possible for a couple of bodacious dudes to travel back in time using a battered phone box, you’ll wonder why the hell Rufus was ever entrusted in getting these Californian slackers to avoid changing the course of history. It’s exactly his doddering and mismanagement in showing the pair how it works – yeah, why don’t we travel back to a historical battlefield and irk Napoleon himself? - that leads to some of the hairiest moments. Save for doing his job terribly, the casting of the always funny George Carlin was a masterstroke.

Cameron Alexander – American History X

It takes a special kind of nasty to make even a white supremacist group appear meek. Cameron Alexander of American History X achieves this and some, manipulating all he can - including the brother of Edward Norton’s former Neo Nazi, who in this scene lets him know about it – in pursuit of building an empire. His nurturing of foot soldiers like Danny regardless of the bloody cost only underlines his evil streak.


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