These two are the highlights of the film in every way possible because they're the only ones who want to try to make this a fun sci-fi adventure. McMillan is terrific by embracing the grotesque nature of his character to the nth degree. McMillan just revels in it in the best of ways as he portrays such a sick glee in the Baron as he goes about scheming to destroy the Atreides but also just when he goes about randomly doing any evil act. McMillan is the excessively indulgent creep he should be as his performance feels like gluttony incarnate. McMillan wastes no image of himself as even the way he rises and floats, rather than walks, has this deliciously sick sinister quality to it. Sting's take is a bit different in just that he plays Feyd-Rautha as though he knows he's the main boss for the film, and I mean the main boss in video game terms. Sting provides this overpowering confidence in just his swagger particularly in his scene where he walks around in a speedo for some reason. Sting even makes that scene work in a way though because the sheer ego of his portrayal matches such an act.
The two of them together are a whole lot of fun and the film comes to life whenever they are onscreen. It rather struggles the rest of the time, but with either the Baron or Feyd-Rautha onscreen you are in for some real entertainment. Although they are almost kind of in a different movie, that's fine because it's a much better movie. In that the two turns are fitting for a crazy science fiction adventure film rather than a boring one. McMillan is a great villain in his scenes as he captures a real menace by portraying such disgusting sadism so effectively. McMillan makes his scenes compelling by so intricately realizing the vile nature of the Baron in such an entertaining way. McMillan's work here, though again with a sci-fi bent, feels like a proper personification of Lynchian insanity, something that is sorely lacking or strangely underwhelming in so many other aspects of the film. I wish the rest of the film was able to match the wavelength that McMillan is on as the Baron. The only person who is there for him is Sting who again is built up so much until his final scene which is not wasted by him. Sting comes in with such cockiness and just everything about him provides the perfect smugness for his villain. Of course the high point of all of it is Sting rather brilliant and properly absurd delivery of the line "I WILL KILL HIM!!!!" again and again. Do these two chew the scenery, sure, but have you seen this scenery? These two are the only ones who know how to handle the scenery and handle they do. They become one with ridiculousness that surrounds them to create two great stylized villains worthy to be David Lynch villains, even if the film is more than cut below the average Lynch.
Kenneth McMillan also did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Barney in The Pope of Greenwich Village.
First off McMillan proves that he is quite capable of given a far more low key performance here than in Dune. He is just as effective at giving a reality to this shop keep in New York as he is giving the grand madness to a space tyrant. From his first scene I love the history that McMillan infuses into Barney. He portrays a complete lack of ego as he explains his skills presenting the sort of man who has mostly come to terms with who he is. McMillan gives it a bit of somberness in his eyes yet with just a quiet touches of pride in his delivering showing a guy who isn't completely happy where he's ended up yet is not planning on giving up just yet. McMillan's work gives so much nuance to Barney even in the scenes where he is just watching Charlie and Paulie as they are talking. McMillan says so much even when he's saying nothing as Barney examines his two partners with a slight critical eye. McMillan adds a nice touch of humor by revealing just how unimpressed Barney is by them, but by also offering a contrast in style. McMillan portrays Barney with a very casual demeanor as they discuss the crime, as he's done similair work before, against Charlie and Paulie who bring far more intensity in the discussion given they are amateurs.
What I love about McMillan's performance is he's the lead of his own story, there is nothing about what McMillan does that limits Barney. McMillan leaves no moment just lying there as he brings depth to all his onscreen behavior. Even something like how he acts in the robbery scene McMillan does so well as he captures some underlying fear of the situation yet still brings the assurance of a guy whose had the past experience. McMillan adds just that that extra bit of honesty to every scene by giving every reaction and interaction this richness of a life lived. As good as McMillan is before the robbery scene he's great afterwards. Again Barney could have been a throwaway role with a lesser actor, just a footnote for Charlie and Paulie's story. McMillan doesn't allow that. In a scene afterwards where he asks Charlie to essentially make sure his family gets his share, McMillan offers such earnestness that made me care more about Barney than Paulie or even Charlie. I'll admit watching the film the first time I became quite concerned, since often things don't often turn out well for the older accomplice in films. This became all the more troubling when we see Barney ready himself to leave New York saying goodbye to his wife. McMillan is absolutely heartbreaking the scene as his strained delivery suggests his years of failures yet with such genuine affection in his eyes as he says farewell to his wife. In only a moment onscreen McMillan alludes to so many years and even allows you to sense his relationshis with his wife. I was overjoyed when Barney does escape and that was because McMillan made me so invested in this poor old guy. This is an incredible supporting performance as he goes far beyond the call of the role to create such a vivid portrait of this small time crook that could have been just an easily forgotten side character in the film. That achievement is the mark of a great character actor.