If you aren’t aware, my avatar is Saint Clair, the sleazy head of the slave auction from the Liam Neeson “Albanians Stole My Daughter” flick, Taken. (If you have not seen this movie, do it now. I’ll wait.) Played with smugnificence by Gerard Watkins, I think Saint Clair has become a sort of mascot for me. Justin has determined that he is my spirit animal, and I have to agree. When I meditate, and go to my “happy cave,” he’s waiting for me, reassuring me that this white slavery thing is “just business.”
I cannot emphasize enough how condescending Saint Clair is. It’s as though he is genetically engineered to be the biggest asshole on Earth. He’s at least the biggest asshole in France, and that’s saying a lot. But what makes him so entertainingly chokable? How does he cross the line from common villainy to cartoonish douchity? Let’s break it down:
- His face: All apologies to Watkins, as I’m sure he’s a good guy, but he’s got a face you can’t help but punch. Ferne Cassel and Nathalie Cheron, great job.
- His accent: Or rather, lack of accent. Neeson’s in France, destroying any French or Albanian motherfucker that crosses his path, and yet Saint Clair, who has about as French of a name as anyone in this movie, speaks with this unsettling American accent. You expect Jean Reno, and get some guy from Idaho. It’s like Oldman in Fifth Element: when you first saw his character, you thought he’d have some seething British accent, and then when he spoke, he sounded like Andy Griffith.
- His demeanor: In sharp contrast with the gun-happy thugs whose limbs Neeson spends the movie snapping, Saint Clair is a calm, cold businessman. Rather than fight Neeson physically (something he has no chance of success with), he’s just going to clearly state, in plain language, that despite Neeson’s best attempts, this whole “selling his daughter” thing is happening, as is the “putting a bullet between his eyes” thing. No discussion, no anger. “Keep it quiet, I have guests.” I’m fairly sure his own mother would receive the same treatment if she were to break up his teenage girl eBay party.
- His pronunciation of “clientele”: Regular, red-blooded Americans would pronounce it “cly-un-tell.” He says “clee-on-tell.” ASSHOLE.
- “Oh my…”: The exact moment where you figure out that Saint Clair is a sniveling shithead is his response to Neeson telling him that the last girl in the auction is his daughter. He just looks down for a moment, then says with mock concern, “Oh my….” No remorse, no fear. It’s just an unfortunate complication. He explains to Neeson that he, too, is a family man, but you can tell he doesn’t give a shit, really. There’s a very palpable “I can buy and sell you and your dumbass daughter tenfold” subtext to his conversation.
All these things converge to create one of the most fascinating and irritating villains in recent action film memory. He’s not even the top guy in the food chain, but when he gets his, it’s truly the cathartic moment of the movie. Every smug Eurotrash stereotype is condensed into the one small, partially-balding man who actually presents a threat to Neeson.
Saint Clair: you are a giant douchebag, and I salute you.