Malcolm McDowell did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alex DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange.
Malcolm McDowall portrays the young hell raiser named Alex who although is apparently still of school attending age spends his free time with his gang of thugs beating old people, beating other gangs, committing home invasions and beating men as well as raping women. McDowall here unlike Michael Caine as Jack Carter who is the utmost professional in his violence, shows a man whose violence is where he gets most of his joy in life. Every single scene where he commits a horrible act McDowall portrays them all in the same fashion that shows Alex never stops getting a kick out of what he does.
McDowell is brutal and uncompromising in his portrayal of Alex because he never strives away once from the idea that he has absolutely no moral compass, the only thing that does not seem too deprived for him is disrespecting the work of Ludwig van Beethoven that's it, McDowell always makes it clear that anything else is absolutely fair game for him. McDowell makes his performance and Alex so disturbing because he shows that there are no second thoughts in Alex's behavior no matter how horrendous it may be, McDowell makes it for Alex just an every day completely unspectacular event something like riding a bike for a less deranged individual.
McDowell in these early scenes has a visceral, and unmistakably disturbing power in his performance. McDowell seems to almost have an unlimited amount of energy in his performance, all of his energy being used to make every scene he is as disturbing as possible being the only clear centerpiece in the middle of Stanley Kubrick's wide angle lens. He technically speaking is the only normal looking person since everyone else is a bit stretched out or disproportional in some way. McDowell though within his performance though makes Alex in more off putting that the wide angles, his unforgettable demented looks are more than enough to do this.
What is so disturbing of his performance is the youth of his character is always very much attached to McDowell's performance. Every thing he does is not the works of a criminal mastermind by anyway but that of a mad brat. In his demented smile McDowell always shows there the glee of a child's happiness. This is most certainly quite bizarre, but McDowell brings into his performance brilliantly. This is really what makes Alex's face as much of an unforgettable face as his is. Although this is the face of a violent killer, McDowell always blends it with the face of just a coming to age young man, that makes it all truly demented.
A strange thing about this performance, although I would say this is most certainly helped by Stanley Kubrick's unique direction is that he pulls you into this character not matter how off putting Alex is in everyone of his actions. There is even a strange bizarre charisma in McDowell performance as Alex to keep on watching him through all of his horrible acts. This is bizarre performance to say the least and McDowell is on one thin tightrope throughout the entire performance, but he manages to give one effectively frightening performance without overplaying it, and somehow without being unwatchable by being excessively off putting even though he certainly is very off putting.
After Alex gets caught though and is put in prison and is forced to undergo reformation. McDowell is quite excellent here as well when he is prison pretending to really change. There really is no change in Alex actually and just wants to get out and continue his own ways. Here in these scenes McDowall still shows the same exact man still contemplating whatever terrible things he can do, there still is that same evil glint in his eyes, he is not doing an evil directly but instead here he shows it just burning underneath, that he puts it under just so he can escape prison.
Alex though is really forced to change when he undergoes an experimental therapy method in which he is forced to have aversion to his sexual depravity, and his tendency toward violence. Although McDowell technically speaking is almost used as like a prop through Alex's treatment, McDowell brings the horror of his treatment to life. Although in the pivotal moments with himself strapped down and his eyes kept open with hooks constantly have eyes drops added, McDowell absolutely still delivers the pain Alex is going through as well as making us believe he would develop this aversion.
After this though Alex is changed man forced into a change, and McDowell certainly portrays this in an odd fashion, but fitting of the odd treatment of Alex. McDowell practically turns Alex into a nonentity there is nothing to him anymore and there really is just a shell of a man, here is always very small, and clutching himself, and showing none of that energy from before. This is perfect portrayal of the way the life has literally been sucked out of Alex, and McDowell brilliantly shows his aversion to violence as one big gut wrench for Alex.
His performance ends though with Alex finding himself once again as he was, and the way McDowell portrays this is a brilliant end to his great performance. Since Alex is in a quite a few casts it is all in his face, which shows the return of the same joy and youth that had disappeared from his face after his reformation, that of course is made all the more memorable that shows that when Alex is happy he is a horrible person whereas when he was miserable he at least did not hurt anyone. This is a terrific way that McDowell bring Alex full circle back to his own self, and a truly remarkable ending to this great performance.