Sometimes, there are characters in genre pictures that are so darned righteous and awesome, you can’t stop thinking about them or their amazing feats long after the movie is over. This column is dedicated to those cinematic bad-asses that keep us coming back for more. And look, this isn’t the first time this man has appeared in the #RESPECT column. And it certainly won’t be his last, because that’s how bad-ass he is. He has multiple cinematic counterparts that are worthy of our love and admiration. But since I just revisited the MY BLOODY VALENTINE remake, it’s time to give it up for Sheriff Burke as played by Tom Atkins.
First of all, how awesome was it for Tom to come out of retirement to do this part? Not only that, but he encored with the filmmaking duo of director Patrick Lussier and screenwriter Todd Farmer for their follow-up DRIVE ANGRY. And had they got to make their version of HALLOWEEN 3, Tom would’ve been a major role in that, making for a fun coincidence to be the star of both versions of HALLOWEEN 3. Alas, that never came to be, which is a shame, but let’s get back to the role in question…
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Atkins on screen, so our first introduction to him in the 2009 update of MY BLOODY VALENTINE is through newspaper clippings and a voice over in the opening of the film, in which he’s giving us the story of Harry Warden and the miners that got trapped in the Hanniger Mines and how he murdered them all “to converse his own goddamn air. Let’s hope God doesn’t waste any miracles on Harry Warden.”
Of course, we wouldn’t have a movie if Harry didn’t wake up! So next scene, we’re in the hospital walking through the carnage with Burke as he evaluates the damage done by the now fully awake & psychotic Harry Warden. Holy smokes! My memory of Tom is always as that bad-ass beautiful soul with the great mustache. But now he looks like that older Uncle you always looked up to, growing up. I totally buy him as a bad-ass Sheriff! I also love his fellow police officer, Hinch (who has the awesome real name of Bingo O’Malley, bad-ass in its own right!).
“Who did this?” asks Burke.
“Harry Warden? Harry Warden’s in a coma.”
“Guess he got up.”
I don’t know why, but this exchange of dialogue makes me giddy, but it does. Anyway, they track down Warden at the conclusion of the opening scene and without hesitation, make the attempt to put him down for good. “Stay down, Harry!” It’s also fun noting that both Atkins and O’Malley were both well-known and respected stage actors in Pittsburgh and part of the reason they’re here together on screen is because the movie shot in their current hometown!
Movie-wise, we cut to 10 years later when Tom Hanniger returns to town to sell off the mines and, at the same time, Harry has returned. Or has he? In a twist worthy of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequel, it seems that Burke, Hinch and Mayor Ben Foley served out a little vigilante justice and disposed of Warden themselves. But… could he have survived? Is it really him who has returned?
Look – Sheriff Burke may not be perfect, but he tried to do the right thing. He tried to put down Harry Warden and protect his town. He even stands up for Tom at the local pub upon his return when the rest of the townspeople want to tear him apart. Granted, it’s the “last time” he’ll save his ass, but I think Burke was doing what he thought was best.