In a world where Ultimate Fighting Championship and The Passion of the Christ are passed off as entertainment, it's difficult to remember a time where the subtleties of a good thrashing captured the public's interest. With that itch no longer needing to be bashed, Joe Pesci has found fewer and fewer roles fitting a thespian who possesses his unique talent for conveying seemingly unbearable pain.
One need only look at his single credit since the `90s-a small appearance in The Good Shepherd, where nary a finger was laid on him-to understand how far cinema has fallen. CRACKED recalls Pesci's most memorable beatdowns not only as a tribute to his considerable acting talents, but also as a warm reminder of an era of filmmaking where assaulting a diminutive Italian-American could capture a nation's collective imagination.
Role: Leo Getz
Attacker(s): South African hitman, followed by Mel Gibson
OK, OK, OK, in this consummately '80s action-drama, Pesci' annoying money launderer, Leo Getz, spends 90% of his screen-time getting punched in the face. In this scene, as JP struggles with a South African hired goon, Gibson' Riggs makes the rational decision to tackle Leo and his attacker through a window, plummeting the trio from a high-rise penthouse into the pool below. If that wasn't traumatic enough, after The Pesh falls a distance that would kill any man who was not a character in a Lethal Weapon movie, Riggs mistakes Leo for the goon and proceeds to punch him in the face no less than four times while Leo labors to stay afloat. Even better, this all goes down in Pesci' first three minutes of screen time! Taking a page from the Latin Kings, the Lethal Weapon franchise literally beats Pesci into the film.
Injuries Sustained: Busted nose
Subheader Role: Joey LaMotta
Attacker(s): His own brother, Jake LaMotta
You know it' on when Robert DeNiro' Jake asks Pesci' Joey, "You fuck my wife?" They don't throw down right away, though. Jake warms up by slapping around his better half a bit before marching over to his brother' house to commence in a legendary Pesci pounding. First, Joey is yanked from his seat at the dinner table by the prize fighter, then thrown to the ground and given a few jabs to the kisser. Foreshadowing his fine window work in Lethal Weapon 2, Pesci is then thrown through a glass door and given a few stomps for good measure. JP would later tell the New York Times that DeNiro actually broke his ribs during filming. Now, that' method acting.
Injuries Sustained: Bruises and cuts, permanent emotional scarring from being manhandled in front of wife and kids.
Role: Frankie Lideo aka Mr. Big
Attacker(s): Michael Jackson, in robot form.
Granted, Pesci is zapped and incinerated, and not exactly rolled in the video for Jacko' "Smooth Criminal," that doesn't mean his character isn't physically conquered in fascinating fashion. Looking like the illegitimate child of Dieter from "Sprockets" and the Domino' Pizza Noid, Pesci plays a drug dealer conspiring to get the entire world hooked on his product. Of course, Michael Jackson, friend of all children, transforms into a robot and comes to the rescue when JP kidnaps a young girl. To counter, Pesci' Mr. Big attempts to destroy the metal King of Pop with a laser cannon. This plan goes awry, and Big gets the Death-Star treatment with about 25 seconds left in the below video. As if Michael Jackson robots that save kids from kidnappers with giant lasers isn't weird enough, the video has also been set to a triumphant Japanese rock song.
Injuries Sustained: Turned into space dust.
Role: Nicky Santoro
Attacker(s): Frank Vincent and a bunch of other guys who probably went on to be extras on the Sopranos.
While Goodfellas won Pesci an Oscar, all it took to whack him was a measly gun shot to the head. His exit in Scorsese' next mobster drama was far more grandiose. In fact, Nicky Santoro's demise is even more brutal than that of Anthony Spilotro, the person on which his character is based. Spilotro and his brother were simply strangled in a basement. Pesci's Santoro and his brother are graphically beaten by aluminum baseball bats in a corn field, in a scene reminiscent of the ape clubbing in 2001: A Space Odyssey. To add a little spice, Scorsese shows them being buried alive in very unflattering tighty whiteys.
Injuries Sustained: Death.
Role: Harry the Burglar
Attacker(s): A neglected 8-year-old named Kevin
While other movies may have hinted at Joe Pesci's on-screen ability to endure assault, no film, before or since, has relied on it so heavily for comedic effect as John Hughes' Christmas snuff film. For nearly 15 continuous minutes, this "family" movie has The Pesh enduring every imaginable abuse short of forcible sodomy, including being shot in the genitals, burned with a blow torch and taking a paint can to the face. By the time he is knocked out by the next-door neighbor with a snow shovel, you can't help but marvel at the all-encompassing range of discomfort he's displayed. It's all in good fun though, because his ruthless torturer is a little blond boy who looks cute while slapping his cheeks and yelling.
Injuries Sustained: Receives bumps and bruises, but heals for further bodily indignations in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
The flow of time is cruel to us all.