Friday, 22 February 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1968: Oliver Reed in Oliver!

Oliver Reed did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bill Sikes in Oliver!.

Oliver Reed plays Bill Sikes in this musical version of Oliver Twist, and although the film won best picture he was never going to be nominated as he plays what might be the least favorite type of Oscar character. Bill Sikes is just a despicable character, but without any "redeeming" style in the way he goes about being despicable. Although this is a musical adaptation and many of the characters are fairly lightened up through this adaption particularly Fagin and Artful Dodger, Oliver Reed's portrayal of Sikes makes no concessions for the fact that there is all sorts of singing and dancing around him.

Sikes actually had a song in the original musical, but it was removed from the film. This might have been done because Reed could not sing, but it was probably a good idea to remove Sikes singing making him stand out as a character who does not have a song in his heart. Reed plays Sikes insanely straight, and his portrayal of Sikes would have worked in a down and dirty adaptation of Oliver Twist. He goes for playing the character as Charles Dickens envisioned him. Reed portrayal of him does not ever try to avoid creating the extreme brutality that lies right within the character.

Oliver Reed is quite effective in his performance as Sikes as he brings a quite menace to the part that works for two reasons. One is that he shows the great possibility of violence that Sikes is capable of, and does indeed act upon later in the film. The silence also works because although the menace is there Reed manages to make it believable that the good hearted Nancy (Shani Wallis) would stay with him at all. The reason is in his silence it seems that very well she could easily accept him, and even believes that she loves him as the vicious criminal is not always rapidly apparent.

Reed though carries his menace well into when he talks as well and we see the full extent of the killer inside. He is particularly chilling in the scene where he threatens Fagin by telling what chickens do when their necks are rung off. Reed delivery of this scene is incredibly good, and shows exactly what there is to Sikes. Reed is good in the role because how base evil he is as Sikes who is just a criminal thug, not a mastermind, but capable of horrible deeds anyway. Reed is great as Sikes in the quiet scenes, but he also succeeds at the end of the film when Sikes is a man on the run after having murdered someone.

Reed succeeds well in his last scenes showing Sikes lose his more restrained demeanor at the end, as he becomes almost like an animal in corner as he is chased. Reed is quite good in this scene because after he does the murder it would have been easy enough to show Sikes just keep his demeanor from before. Reed does much more by showing that Sikes definitely knows what he has done.  He might not show remorse exactly for his action he expresses that Sikes understands there is no turning back from what he is done. Reed gives this moment a lot more weight by doing this, and does far more here than was honestly required of Sikes as character. It is a good performance, and despite being the one character who does not sing in this musical he honestly gives the best performance in the film.


moviefilm said...

I really loved the film, but didn't think Reed was something special...

houndtang said...

An under-rated zctor, surprising he didn't get a posthumous nod for Gladiator

Unknown said...

Yeah. Oliver Reed delivers in the role of Bill Sikes just about the best villain ever seen in a movie. Maybe Jack Palance was better in Shane, but it's close.

What is amazing is that Reed does this with so little dialogue. When Sikes first appears he says absolutely nothing, but you just know that this is an evil man. But with odd touches of humanity. He has a girlfriend and a dog, whom he treats with unaffected kindness. In the end, when he shows fear, you almost feel sorry for him.