Film

Sam Rockwell In ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Could Shoot Me Off A Fucking Balcony

He was just that hot.

Charlie's Angels Sam Rockwell Charlie's Angels

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I was about 11 years old the first time I watched Charlie’s Angels.

I can’t say I liked it, exactly. I was mostly bored by it. This was around the same time that the GameBoy Colour was a very big deal in my life, and not long after the opening credits had rolled, I stopped giving the film my whole attention and started playing my Inspector Gadget platformer instead.

That is, until about three-quarters of the way through, when I suddenly noticed the film’s secret villain, Eric Knox, played by Sam Rockwell.

For most of the film, you’re meant to think that Knox is the love interest. He’s floppy-haired, funny, and sensitive — the proto-softboi. Then, all of a sudden, he throws off his long black dressing gown, lights a cigarette, pulls a gun, and shoots Drew Barrymore out of a window.

It’s a classic heel turn, one that feels oddly forward-thinking now. After all, we’ve collectively cottoned onto the fact that the Modern Literature student with the big blue eyes and long fringe is not half as gentle as he’d like you to believe.

But that’s not why it captured my youthful attention. In fact, at the time I didn’t even exactly know why I was so interested in Knox. I spent the next six months watching and rewatching his heel turn reveal, believing, I think, that I was just wowed by the sheer force of Rockwell’s performance. Freud would call this ‘displacement’.

‘Cause sure, Knox is an entertaining villain. But I was mostly obsessed with him, and with Rockwell, because Sam Rockwell is very, very hot.

Sam Rockwell Is Very Hot In The 2000 Action-Comedy Film ‘Charlie’s Angels’

On paper, Knox isn’t exactly noteworthy. He has some hamfisted scheme that he over-explains to the heroes, giving them more than ample time to foil his plans and to blow him up while he’s trying to make an escape in a helicopter.

He’s also, for at least the film’s first half, not very hot. The floppy fringe makes him seem kind of neutered, and he seems content with sitting in the background, affably.

This is the precise masterstroke of the performance. When the heel turn comes, Knox sheds his skin.

You realise, in classic spy movie style, that he’s been wearing a disguise. But that disguise isn’t like the latex masks of the film’s prologue. It’s a performative mask; a way of carrying his body that Rockwell has used to slip one over you.

And when it’s gone, Knox becomes another kind of creature entirely. He is, in a film with a distinctly lopsided understanding of what fun is, giddily mischievous.

Everything he does is filled with the sensual joy you get when messily eating strawberries out of your own cupped hands; when you are suddenly and totally overcome with the joy of being a thing in the world.

He smokes a cigarette like he’s licking the length of someone’s legs. When he dances, as in the film’s most iconic scene, it’s with his entire body, warping his legs like jelly and taking a long sip from an absurdly phallic straw.

For the rest of the film’s characters, being in a body is something of a drag. It means being tied up; beaten; captured. But for Knox, it is a non-stop ecstatic experience, a full body orgasm that gets set off by something as simple as pressing play on a boombox.

This physicality is kinda the key to Rockwell’s career in general. The man is an embodied presence onscreen. Whether he’s a mournful clone, as in Duncan Jones’ Moon, or a hunched, Redneck police officer, as in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, he acts with his entire body. There is just so much of him, and it always seems to point in the direction that you’d least expect — he’s forever standing at a crooked angle, winking, having the time of his life.

In Knox, that physicality becomes particularly important. In fact, he’s so tactile as to seem secretly queer. Gender appears to bore him. He’s not interested, even, in people — he’s interested in flesh of any kind; anything that he can sink his teeth into.

He just can’t stop touching things, whether they’re animal or mineral. He makes out with a length of duct tape as though it’s a pair of real human lips. He holds his gun with all the horny reverence of someone about to take something — or someone — in his mouth. And he eats a strawberry with a relish that courses throughout his entire face.

Cinema Should Be Horny

We don’t have villains like Knox in cinema anymore.

Our big budget franchises are carefully brand-controlled by Mickey Mouse and co., and designed to be as family friendly as possible. All those Thanos’ ass memes worked precisely because the character was, as portrayed onscreen, aggressively sexless. Talking endlessly about the backside of a character who never once expressed a desire to fuck felt risque somehow, like drawing a dick on the pages of the Herald Sun.

And even when superhero cinema does try to get horny, it’s a teenager’s conception of sex — something crass, and funny, and a bit yicky.

For all the claims that Deadpool is the bold new face of uncompromising Hollywood fare, that character would never go down on anyone. That’s not the precise manner in which he’s horny. He’s a taker, and the way that he takes is meant to be funny, not fun. There’s a difference. Knox is proof of that.

That’s why Rockwell’s performance seems so special. Not only because he’s endlessly attractive, and embodied, and ribald. But because in a Hollywood that has lost its sense of perversity, he is a throwback to a better, distinctly hornier time.


Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Junkee who has wanted to write this article for many years. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.