Con Air might just be a perfect movie. There is a scene where Cameron Poe, the story’s hero, played by Nicolas Cage, finds himself in a vulnerable standoff with U.S. Marshal, Vince Larkin, played by the nervously captivating John Cusack. Within this standoff, Poe utters the following line: “There’s only two men I trust. One of them’s me. The other’s not you.” Poe’s line shows a hero’s undying skepticism of all outside threats. Over the course of the movie, the two’s relationship turns from agent hunting convict to friend trying to understand friend. Poe, a free man at this point, refuses to simply walk away from an unfinished job, and instead chooses to fulfill his heroic duty. In the end sequence, Poe graciously gifts his daughter with a stuffed teddy bear, and as she shyly takes her father’s gift, she takes our hearts as well. This hero won, as most heroes do, so yeah, Con Air is definitely a perfect movie.
Like the lesson Con Air teaches, a hero can’t simply be a novice desk agent out in the field for the first time. A hero must come from a not so friendly background, filled with misfortune and fate’s unfortunate influence. A hero is an outcast in some form or fashion. A hero doesn’t just fight, he or she fights well, like ‘Apollo Creed walkout music worthy’ well. A hero can work for a government agency, but within that agency, the hero should be either disliked, excommunicated, and/or a habitual rule breaker. A hero must have a cool name, and more often than not, that name begins with the letter “J”.
Below is a list of film’s greatest “J” named heroes, beginning with the least deserving and finishing with the most worthy “J” named hero. The characteristics by which each hero will be ranked are as follows: background, abilities, and love life.
The Analyst – Jack Ryan
Disclaimer: In light of the numerous adaptations of Mr. Ryan, this ranking will only take into account the most recent reboot, featuring Chris Pine.
Right off the bat, Jack Ryan experiences a quite literal fall from grace in the form of a military helicopter crash that left him temporarily incapacitated. Medically discharged and subsequently relegated to a desk job as an investment broker, he refuses to be defeated and quickly rises to prominence within the CIA. Despite Ryan’s harrowing survival and recovery process post-military accident, Ryan never truly grows into his own self. Jack Ryan shouldn’t be Chris Pine, and Chris Pine shouldn’t be Jack Ryan. Let’s face it, Chris Pine belongs on the deck of the USS Enterprise wreaking havoc throughout space, Jack Ryan should be nursing his paper cut wounds back at his desk.
Ryan’s abilities include and are pretty limited to:
Following orders, crossing every “t” and dotting every “i”, overcoming paralysis, analyzing international financial transactions, telling the truth when least convenient, revealing his covert identity, “pattern recognition.”
In all honesty, Ryan isn’t a very committed spouse. He allows his wife to become paranoid that he is cheating on her. He foolishly forgets about a movie ticket stub in his pant pocket, allowing his wife to discover it and wonder who he saw it with. He unexplainably leaves for Moscow, which is a pretty clear indicator of an affair taking place, because all that takes place in Moscow are “affairs.” His wife then takes it upon herself to travel to Moscow, which immediately places her in direct danger. If there’s anything former Jack Ryan star, Ben Affleck, taught me in Gone Girl, it’s that a healthy relationship needs trust. Ryan’s little covert secrets don’t exactly blossom into a relationship built on trust.
Verdict: Most definitely not a hero
The Amnesiac – Jason Bourne
Throughout the early part of his life, Jason Bourne was never able to think for himself. Plucked from a healthy family lifestyle, Bourne was placed into a top-secret government program called Treadstone, or was it Blackbriar…Bourne’s memory was then wiped clean, allowing him to be a perfectly controlled, dependent killing machine at the service of the U.S. Government. Yet, due to his chronic amnesia, Bourne was able to escape the government and live as a fugitive. Bourne’s eternal struggle to find out who he truly is clashes with his innate desire to destroy every threat in his path. Bourne is like a Westworld robot that can’t make up its mind on what it wants, which leaves Bourne relying on help from outside sources, failing to be a true independent hero.
Allowing Jeremy Renner to have a role in this series, allowing his love interest to perish, failing to complete missions, forgetting his identity, supremacy, and ultimatum, hoarding passports and international currency, mumbling.
Bourne has predominantly retained his ability to fight, eat, and perform normal social activities. Yet, one “skill” that Bourne should have forgotten is that of relationships. Bourne’s idea of a date is forcibly directing a person of interest throughout a dense crowd en route to a personal makeover in a crummy motel. In a precarious turn of events, Bourne’s love interest is shot and killed by an assassin with quite terrible aim. Following a tragic death, a hero has two options. Number one: Bring the love interest back to life. Number two: Kill everybody and everything that has harmed you. Bourne does neither.
Verdict: Definitely not a hero
The Orphan – James Bond
Disclaimer: The only similarity Jack Ryan and James Bond hold is that their character has been played by more than one actor. This ranking will only account for Daniel Craig’s role as Bond.
Before the name was Bond, the name was Bound. Bound to the past, bound to rules, bound to promotion, Bond doesn’t earn his freedom till he’s deemed ready by higher powers. A product of a childhood tragedy, Bond deals with the loss of his parents and having to grow up alone. Like most heroes, Bond expertly fulfills the self-development away from general society requirement. Upon entrance into the Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, Bond quickly ascends in the ranks, culminating in his title: “Licensed to Kill.” In reality, a hero shouldn’t have to earn a ‘license to kill.’ It’s a sense of moral duty that intrinsically exists within one’s being.
Immortality, an exceptionally stunning poker face, always having a backup plan, crashing priceless automated vehicles, not following instructions, hypnosis, fashion.
James Bond’s approach to love is a lot like a snake charmer’s approach to serpents. A certain aspect of enchantment must be combined with caution and fluidity. Bond’s ability to gracefully navigate the treacherous water of women puts him, more often than not, in a position to complete his mission. Yet, as all snake charmers know, danger lurks within every twist. Bond seems to be aware, but he doesn’t care. You can show a hero his faults, but you can’t force him to change. And after multiple one-night stands, it doesn’t look like Bond’s changing anytime soon.
Verdict: Not a hero
The Underdog – J
Let’s get two things straight. NYPD Officer James Darrell Edwards III, effectively ran down a fugitive alien life form on his first try. NYPD Officer James Darrell Edwards III impressed Tommy Lee Jones on his first try. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is. Following an occupational transformation, our next candidate receives the second most heroic name on this list, simply the letter “J.” Tommy Lee Jones immediately thrusts the curious J into the intergalactic police force. J progresses from noble NYPD cop, notedly the most heroic police force in recent history, to the “Men in Black,” notedly the foremost authority on heroic police forces in all of history.” Rapid ascension is integral to a hero’s reputation. Jesus Christ pioneered it, James K. Polk performed it, J perfected it.
Uncontrollable Enthusiasm, exterminating bugs, athleticism, sarcasm, charming charisma, neuralizing, tolerance towards talking animals, performing alien births.
J a real “work first” kind of agent. Despite his tendency to approach disaster with sarcasm, J genuinely cares about saving the day. It’s clear to see that J doesn’t exactly have time for a life outside of work. J’s only encounter with a potential suitor comes as a result of a strictly “business” affair, and when asked if he has a “girl,” J simply responds in saying that, yes he does, he has his work. J’s priorities are clear and so is his perception of life.
Verdict: Well on his way to becoming a hero
The Vagrant – Jack Reacher
In a world where one’s rank means everything, Jack Reacher goes against the norm. Major Reacher, or “Ex-Major” as he would prefer to be called, shows little sympathy for those who flaunt their title. Reacher’s been there, done that. Much like LeBron James, Reacher’s rests in the regular season, saving his body for the postseason. That’s what the best heroes do, they perform when it truly counts. A drifter at heart, Reacher never settles. Constantly moving from city to city, Reacher cleans up whatever corruption he runs into, local or national. Reacher was a former Military Police Major, but as a ranking General puts it, “There weren’t enough medals to give him.” Reacher couldn’t police the military forever, they’re too corrupt in his eyes. So he turned to policing the only thing he knew how: himself. And in doing so, he saves the world, one day and one city at a time.
Keeping promises, being immediately aware of specific locations within unfamiliar cities, photographic memory, flexing his jaw muscles, defending himself when charged with murder, having “connections.”
In the Old Testament, a certain young hero by the name of Joseph is presented with a decision. This decision effectively alters his life. This decision hinges on his beliefs. This decision tests where his loyalty lies. This decision is one of adultery. Joseph decides to flee, saving his love for those who truly matter. Jack Reacher is Joseph. Similarly, Reacher flees the temptation of one-night stands. He saves his love, for it is a precious commodity. Reacher’s ability to love is tested when he is presented with the chance that he may be a father. Despite not knowing for certain, Reacher protects and provides for a young girl that may be his daughter. Even though he discovers that she is not his daughter, Reacher admits that part of him wanted her to be. Commitment is the utmost form of love, and if Reacher stays committed to protecting kids who aren’t even his own, who knows what he would do to protect his own daughter.
Verdict: Definitely a hero
The Retiree – John Wick
Fact: John Wick was an assassin for a Russian crime syndicate. Fact: John Wick left that life for another because of love. Fact: John Wick is still a man no one wants to mess with. Fact: John Wick has a nickname. Fact: No other hero nickname even comes close to being as intimidating, fear-inspiring, concise as John Wick’s.
Russian crime lords know him as “Baba Yaga.” His friends know him as the “Boogeyman.” We know him as the greatest hero film has ever seen. There is a moment where John Wick is told, “They know you’re coming.” Wick blankly stares, shakes his head, and replies, “Of course… but it won’t matter.”
Potty training a new puppy in a matter of hours, communication, reverse driving, carrying out ultimatums, perfectly tailored suits, vengeance, coming out of retirement.
John Wick and Helen Wick had one of the all-time greatest off-screen relationships. John only provides glimpses of Helen through a video of a boardwalk date shortly before her untimely death due to illness. Yet, as Helen’s parting gift, she gives John a beagle for him to remember her by. This might be the most heroic act ever. If I have an untimely death, I’m arranging for beagle puppies to be given to every important person in my life.
Verdict: Definition of a hero