Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks is a celebration of the characters we love to hate in the movies we love to love. They’re not always the main villains – and sometimes they’re not even villains at all – but they’re definitely jerks. So let’s take a look at this week’s jerk-off, and why they find themselves forever enshrined here in the hall of shame. Since this week we’re talking about Byron Hadley, this is your spoiler warning for the 1994 movie, The Shawshank Redemption.
There’s a couple of professions that are somewhat unfairly treated when it comes to Hollywood movies. If there’s a reporter in the movie you’re watching and they’re not the main character then chances are that the reporter is going to be a scumbag that’d sell their own mother for a story, despite the fact that most real life reporters are probably very nice people. Similarly, prison guards are often depicted as being power-mad tyrants, running their prisons like a concentration camp, and beating inmates within an inch of their life just for fun. I’m sure there’s a lot of prison guards out there that are super nice people, but The Shawshank Redemption’s Byron Hadley very much falls into the aforementioned stereotypical cruel guard category, and that means he also finds himself getting a starring role in this week’s Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks.
Andy Dufresne lands at Shawshank Prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and on his first night inside the big house he witnesses Byron Hadley’s cruelty with his very own eyes. There’s a fat guy who also arrives at the prison alongside Andy, and after he breaks down in tears after the lights go out and he comes to the grim realisation that perhaps prison life isn’t for him, he’s dragged out of his cell, berated, and beaten to death by the sadistic prison guard, Byron Hadley. I know it was the back in the old days, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t allowed to just beat prisoners to death for no reason even back then. I’ll Google it. Yep, just have, and even then it was frowned upon.
Byron is basically just a big, nasty man, played with sublime douchebaggery by the always reliable Clancy Brown. The hulking, intimidating Mr. Hadley thinks nothing of whipping his truncheon out – oi, settle down! – and slapping someone right in the chops with it, and he knows that nobody is going to do anything to stop him. Eventually, Andy overhears Byron talking about his financial troubles – he’s got some inheritance coming but inheritance tax laws in the U.S. state that the IRS – that’s the Internal Revenue Service, and not the 1990s WWF pro-wrestler – will take a big chunk of his money via inheritance tax. Honestly, you can’t even die for free.
Anyway, Andy, being a big fancy banker in his life prior to prison, tells Byron Hadley about a loophole in the system that will allow him to keep all of the money, taxation free. All he has to do is transfer all of the coin to his wife, and then the state can’t take it as they allow spouses to give each other a one-time tax free gift of dollars without taking a bite out of it for themselves. Byron Hadley is a prick, but he also knows where his bread is buttered, and having a big fancy banker under his care in prison makes good financial sense. When Andy is harassed by some vile prison rapists, Byron decides that he better take care of his banking chum, and so he beats the rapist so badly that he spends the rest of his days paralysed, and enjoying all of his meals through straws.
Eventually, Byron and the new prison Warden realise that they can make a lot of money using Andy’s banking skills and so they start getting involved in all kinds of shady business. When a new prisoner arrives at Shawshank that once shared a cell with an inmate that confessed to committing the crime that Andy is locked up for, Byron Hadley shoots the guy under orders from the warden, because murder and leaving a guy in prison for a crime he didn’t commit is a couple of wrinkles they just don’t need on their path to getting rich.
Jerk-off Quote: “You eat when we say you eat, you shit when we say you shit, and you piss when we say you piss! You got that, you maggot-dicked motherfucker!?” – Byron Hadley, having a little chat with one of his inmates.
Comeuppance: When Andy Dufresne escapes from Shawshank prison he sends evidence to the proper authorities of the crimes being committed within the prison. The warden decides that spending his retirement years as someone’s prison baby-daddy is a future he’d rather do without, and so he sticks a gun to his own chin and blows his head off. Byron Hadley, who was a big, tough man when he had his truncheon and his authority and his prisoners to boss around, doesn’t take kindly to being arrested for murder and shit, and bursts into tears when taken into custody.
Jerk-off Rating: Serving a life sentence in jerk prison, with no chance of parole.
Tune in next week – same jerk time, same jerk channel – to find out who’s next in our celebration of cinema’s ultimate jerks. And if you’ve not quite had your fill of cinematic jerk-offs, check out #2 Dr. Fredrick Chilton (The Silence of the Lambs), #16 Fredrick Zoller (Inglourious Basterds), or #4 Glenn Guglia (The Wedding Singer).