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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Keith David

05.16.2016
Last week, we took a look at the career of eighties legend Tom Selleck. This week's badass is someone who rarely gets his due, but has made a massive impression in a variety of genres and remains an icon in his own right...
Keith David
keith david there's something about mary

Keith David has one of the most recognizable voices in the world. Having narrated dozens of documentaries (he’s the voice of all Ken Burns’s productions), commercials and voiced many famous cartoons (including Spawn and CORALINE), David's never lacked work. Still, considering the man's cool look and presence, not to mention his terrific acting chops, it's a shame he's still something of a cult icon as he deserved to be a major star. In a way he reminds me of the late, great Steve James, a martial artist who always played the sidekick, but was usually more charismatic than the hero (see AMERICAN NINJA for a good example of that).

keith david halle berry cloud atlas

Nevertheless, David's carved out a great career for himself as a character actor. He's been a part of some of Hollywood's most iconic films (THE THING, THEY LIVE, PLATOON, BIRD, THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, a few lines in ROAD HOUSE, etc) and has always worked steadily, being used to great effect recently in the Wachowskis' CLOUD ATLAS. This week, he's playing mob muscle in Shane Black's THE NICE GUYS and one hopes that he'll get the chance to scrap with fellow bad ass Russell Crowe. If not it'll be a huge missed opportunity.

His Best Work
keith david dead presidents

While it's a shame David never got a cool, solo action vehicle to test his mettle, there's a good group of directors out there that have recognized his talent and given him a chance to shine. One of his best parts was as the paternal gangster Kirby in Allen & Albert Hughes's DEAD PRESIDENTS. An absolutely amazing war-urban action film, this is the movie that – for me – the Hughes's have yet to equal. While Larenz Tate is the star and Bokeem Woodbine steals the show, David has a gem of a role as a one-legged crime-boss who takes Tate's character under-his-wing, encouraging him to (disastrously) use his Green Beret skills to rip-off an armored car containing out-of-use currency. Intriguingly, despite being the guy that makes Tate go bad, David isn't portrayed as a villain, and actually stays somewhat sympathetic throughout, a testament to the man's craft. If you haven't seen this one, I highly recommend checking it out.

His Most Overrated Work
gargoyles

I was about thirteen when Gargoyles premiered as part of the Disney weekday cartoon syndication package. I was way too old to be into their run-of-the-mill cartoons like Aladdin, Bonkers or Darkwing Duck, but once Gargoyles premiered it started to get some pretty major buzz, including a write-up in the magazine that was my bible at the time, “Sci-Fi Universe.” I soon became a major fan and I'm sure I saw all of the sixty-plus episodes at least a few times each. The story-telling was superb, but it also wasn't entirely family friendly and Disney scrapped it after about a year. I was thrilled when it came back as part of the Saturday morning lineup on ABC, but the new “Goliath Chronicles” version of Gargoyles wasn't the same at all. Far more cuddly and most significantly minus original show-runner Greg Weisman, “The Goliath Chronicles” was a total mess and it only took one episode for me to realize the show I was loved was dead and gone. It's a shame this run sometimes gets lumped into the canon, as it's a sequel series in name only.

His Most Underrated Film
keith david steven seagal marked for death

I'd wager MARKED FOR DEATH is one of Steven Seagal's best films, but it's not the pony-tailed star that really makes it worth watching. David has that dubious honor, playing a high school football coach who teams with his old 'Nam buddy Seagal to clear-out a gang of Rasta drug dealers from his neighborhood, led by Basil Wallace's Screwface. David should have been the lead, with him giving off mad amounts of charisma in what could have just been a sidekick part but winds up being elevated to near co-lead status on the merits of his personality alone. To give Seagal his due, the man was pretty lean and mean in this one, and the dialogue was sharp (“one thought he could fly, the other thought he was God. They were both wrong.”).

His Best Scene

Well, really now – what else could it be but the famous fight with the late Roddy Piper (a former Good/Bad/Badass himself) from THEY LIVE. According to legend, David and Piper improvised the whole scene, with John Carpenter (another badass) sitting back in amazement at what he wrought. I have no idea if this is true or not, but I sure hope it is.

His Five Best Films

5. THEY LIVE
4. REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
3. THE THING
2. PLATOON
1. DEAD PRESIDENTS

Up Next

In addition to THE NICE GUYS, David's got a starring part in Oprah Winfrey's show Greenleaf, and a good half-dozen parts coming up in the second half of 2016 alone. Clearly, the man is still in major demand.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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9:06PM on 05/16/2016

Good article

Don't forget his awesome turn as a bad guy in Requiem For A Dream.
Don't forget his awesome turn as a bad guy in Requiem For A Dream.
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8:10PM on 05/16/2016

Underrated Actor

Men at Work is one of my favorite movies with Keith David. So funny...
Men at Work is one of my favorite movies with Keith David. So funny...
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5:22PM on 05/16/2016
Good writeup on a good actor, however if I may be so bold as to offer some constructive criticism: Given the plethora of films Mr. David has starred in, bringing up a Disney cartoon feels like a copout.
Good writeup on a good actor, however if I may be so bold as to offer some constructive criticism: Given the plethora of films Mr. David has starred in, bringing up a Disney cartoon feels like a copout.
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2:49PM on 05/16/2016

He IS

Badass.
Badass.
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1:58PM on 05/16/2016
Yo Bumbray, I don't know if you read the comments or not, but this year's the 25th anniversary of "My Own Private Idaho", would be super cool to see River Phoenix get a shout out in this column at some point.

(Also, in case you're ever short on ideas:)
Crispin Glover -- Just seems like an obvious choice for this
Charles Bronson -- Pretty much the definition of a cinematic badass
John Cazalle -- On the greatest character actors, heck one of the greatest film actors period, whose sadly
Yo Bumbray, I don't know if you read the comments or not, but this year's the 25th anniversary of "My Own Private Idaho", would be super cool to see River Phoenix get a shout out in this column at some point.

(Also, in case you're ever short on ideas:)
Crispin Glover -- Just seems like an obvious choice for this
Charles Bronson -- Pretty much the definition of a cinematic badass
John Cazalle -- On the greatest character actors, heck one of the greatest film actors period, whose sadly underkown these days
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1:38PM on 05/16/2016

Very Good Call

I feel like this this column's sometimes a wasted opportunity (especially when it highlights contemporary actors who already well known/liked among the JoBlo community) but David is an excellent pick for this column. However, for my money, some of his best work has been his voice over work, not doing stuff like Gargoyles or video games, but narrating Ken Burns documentaries like The War. Also, for my money, he'd be my pick to play Joe Robertson in the new Spider-Man.
I feel like this this column's sometimes a wasted opportunity (especially when it highlights contemporary actors who already well known/liked among the JoBlo community) but David is an excellent pick for this column. However, for my money, some of his best work has been his voice over work, not doing stuff like Gargoyles or video games, but narrating Ken Burns documentaries like The War. Also, for my money, he'd be my pick to play Joe Robertson in the new Spider-Man.
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1:01PM on 05/16/2016
Where's "Men at Work"?
Where's "Men at Work"?
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12:30PM on 05/16/2016
Last week, when the Nice Guys character posters came out and I saw him, I thought, there's a guy who deserves a Good, the Bad,and the Badass write-up. Glad you recognized his role in the somewhat underrated Dead Presidents. I first noticed him in Platoon, but the man's done so much over the years, and often steals the show. Among my favorite examples of this is his cameo in Crash. His one scene with Ryan Phillippe is pure Keith David charisma, and manages to say more in one scene than most of
Last week, when the Nice Guys character posters came out and I saw him, I thought, there's a guy who deserves a Good, the Bad,and the Badass write-up. Glad you recognized his role in the somewhat underrated Dead Presidents. I first noticed him in Platoon, but the man's done so much over the years, and often steals the show. Among my favorite examples of this is his cameo in Crash. His one scene with Ryan Phillippe is pure Keith David charisma, and manages to say more in one scene than most of the characters say in the entire, overwrought mess of a movie.
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11:57AM on 05/16/2016
Nice choice, Keith David is the man. My pick for best work would be his run on the Spawn animated series, easily some of the most impressive voice acting ever. I feel I'll always associate Spawn with him the same way I do with Batman and Kevin Conroy
Nice choice, Keith David is the man. My pick for best work would be his run on the Spawn animated series, easily some of the most impressive voice acting ever. I feel I'll always associate Spawn with him the same way I do with Batman and Kevin Conroy
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11:45AM on 05/16/2016

Awesome Actor...But..

Very sad to see no mention of the extremely underrated B-Movie comedy "Men At Work" with Emilio and Charlie. Keith David was over the top hilarious in that movie ...... Also, how the hell did "Requiem for a Dream" not make this? I know his screen time was limited, but he delivered one of the most disturbing lines ever in that movie "I know it's pretty but I didn't take it out for air."
Very sad to see no mention of the extremely underrated B-Movie comedy "Men At Work" with Emilio and Charlie. Keith David was over the top hilarious in that movie ...... Also, how the hell did "Requiem for a Dream" not make this? I know his screen time was limited, but he delivered one of the most disturbing lines ever in that movie "I know it's pretty but I didn't take it out for air."
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11:04AM on 05/16/2016
How about John Lithgow next?
How about John Lithgow next?
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1:21PM on 05/16/2016
Solid choice. Adam Baldwin would be good too imho.
Solid choice. Adam Baldwin would be good too imho.
1:48PM on 05/16/2016
Eh, Lithgow's not bad, but I feel like there are some truly solid character actors out there who deserve to get their due first. People like Peter Stormare or Hal Holbrook or Chris Cooper (or, not a character actor, but River Phoenix definitely deserves an entry). In terms of genre actors though, how in the heck has Crispin Glover not been featured yet?!
Eh, Lithgow's not bad, but I feel like there are some truly solid character actors out there who deserve to get their due first. People like Peter Stormare or Hal Holbrook or Chris Cooper (or, not a character actor, but River Phoenix definitely deserves an entry). In terms of genre actors though, how in the heck has Crispin Glover not been featured yet?!
10:40AM on 05/16/2016
Fantastic choice and a badass in every sense of the word.
Fantastic choice and a badass in every sense of the word.
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10:28AM on 05/16/2016
There is a man who can write up a good article
There is a man who can write up a good article
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