Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"That man never killed anybody"

Butler is a guy who just oozes intimidation. Played by the Brit Hugh Millais, the main heavy in Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller is scary even when he’s being nice. Butler is sent by a mining company to get rid of Warren Beatty’s McCabe after he refuses to make a deal with them. McCabe realizes that he may have made a grave error, and goes to meet with this strange big man. Taken literally, their conversation seems almost innocent, but as played by Millais, with his beard and gigantic fur coat, it’s a masterpiece of menacing undercurrent.

Butler begins by amicably asking McCabe about the terms of the deal he was looking for, and McCabe admits the frivolous bantering on price. When pressed by Butler, McCabe instantly collapses and admits to what his real price was.

You weren’t so far apart, were you?

NO! That’s what I’m trying to tell you! We can still make a deal!

I don’t make deals.

Aren’t you here working for the mining company?

No, I’m here hunting bear!

I thought you worked for the mining company.

I do sometimes – When they can’t make a deal.

But I can make a deal!

Not with me.

That’s not the exact dialogue, but you get the idea. Butler has been nothing but friendly during this exchange, but his message gets through loud and clear. You should have made your deal when you had your chance, because now it’s too late.

The quote at the title if this post is Butler’s reply after the meeting when told of McCabe’s reputation of having killed another man in a card game. In my estimation, Butler, who most certainly HAS killed someone, is able to see through McCabe’s bombast. When it comes to murder, he is the real deal.

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