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 René Belloq, this is your spoiler warning for the 1981 movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones is one of the most easily likeable protagonists in movie history. He’s charming, he’s funny, he fights for good but he’s not averse to playing by own rules to get the job done. By day he’s a university professor teaching archaeology to students captivated by his every word, and by night he’s a rock ’em, sock ’em action hero, locating ancient treasures the old fashioned way – with his fists. Let’s face it, Indiana Jones is cooler than the other side of the pillow, and so when it came to supplying his maiden cinematic voyage with a villain, George Lucas could have made a troupe of girl scouts the baddies and we’d still have been rooting for Indie to clobber them all in their stupid faces. As it happens, Indie’s adversaries in Raiders are almost entirely comprised of Nazis, but there’s one slimy bastard Frenchman amongst their ranks who is such a massive weapon that he finds himself a priceless artefact forever on display in the museum of cinematic douchebaggery.
René Emile Belloq thinks that he’s very much like Indiana Jones, and he even tries to tell Indie that during a monologue in which he does the whole, “We’re not so different, you and I…” thing, but they’re not alike at all because Indiana Jones is awesome and Belloq is a balloon knot. We first learn about how much of a prick Belloq is when Indiana Jones heroically goes into an ancient temple on the hunt for a little golden statue like a true archaeologist – escaping traps, swinging across bottomless pits using a lion tamer’s whip, and only just making out of the place with his skin still relatively intact. Narrowly escaping being crushed to death by an elaborate giant boulder trap, Indie barely has time to catch a breath before Belloq and an army of angry tribesmen take the statue from the American at gun/bow-and-arrow-point. If Belloq had even an ounce of Indie’s sense he’d have stuck a bullet right between Jones’ eyes, but he’s too busy basking in his own smuggery to notice that our hero is making his escape, which ultimately leads to his awesome downfall.
Still sour about the losing the golden statue to such a massive penarse, Indie settles down for a relatively dull Monday morning at work when the CIA shows up to question him about an old colleague of his in relation to an investigation they’re running. Long story short, Adolf Hitler is on the look out for religious artefacts that he thinks will be able to help him win World War II, and America has actionable intelligence that the Nazis have found something pretty serious. Indie quickly deduces that the goose-steppers have located the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant – a big gold coffin thing that is said to carry the remnants of the real (wink wink) ten commandments that God gave to Moses back in the day – and that’s bad, because apparently the Ark can make armies invincible or something. This is what’s known in industry speak as a MacGuffin, or in Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks speak as a plot device that doesn’t really matter because it’s just an excuse for Indiana Jones to punch a bunch of people in the face and do loads of awesome stunts while his theme music plays.
After a series of totally radical events involving big fights and very little actual archaeology, Indiana Jones discovers that the Nazis are in the middle of the desert in Egypt, and in their services in a freelance capacity is René Belloq, still a smug prick, destined to one day find himself in ultime salle de honte du cinéma. That, according to Google translate, is how you say Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks‘ Hall of Shame in French. Educational.
Anyway, Belloq hits peak douchebaggery after the Nazis capture Indie’s not-girlfriend-but-they’re-totally-into-each-other, Marion Ravenwood. The Nazis have absolutely no qualms about doing whatever it takes to coax the information Marion has out of her, but Belloq fancies her and for some reason doesn’t see the fact that he’s working for the Nazis and currently keeping Marion prisoner as a potential stumbling block on the path to a little ooh la la with the future Mrs. Jones. He buys her a pretty new dress and then spies on her while she’s changing into it like a weirdo, and then later, after she’s escaped and gone back to Indiana Jones, he decides to lock her in an ancient tomb along with Jones to presumably starve to death, because I guess he doesn’t deal with rejection very well. Later, after Indie and Marion have escaped (again) and are on a ship bound for the USA, the Nazis board the vessel, and Belloq takes Marion prisoner (again) because he still fancies her whether she’s into it or not. I get that it’s difficult to talk to a girl at a bar sometimes, man, but come on. Imagine telling the story of how you met to your grand-kids. If your dating history sounds like the synopsis to a true crime documentary, you’re doing it wrong.
Jerk-off Quote: “So once again, Jones, what was briefly yours is now mine. What a fitting end to your life’s pursuits. You’re about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something.” – Belloq, ruminating on the potential for Jones to one day become an antique after trapping him in an ancient tomb, but thoroughly underestimating the likelihood of Indie escaping said tomb, and fucking up all of his plans.
Comeuppance: Oh man, what a doozy. So the Nazis capture Indie and Marion (again, again) and tie them up so they can’t escape. Belloq reckons that they should probably test out the Ark before they deliver it to Hitler in case it turns out to be a dud or whatever, so they go to an ominous looking cave on a weird old island, and decide to crack the thing open and have a peek inside. It doesn’t go terribly well, it’s probably fair to say. A bunch of friendly looking ghosts come out of the ark, all happy like, but then they get skull faces and go all crazy eyed, and start causing all kinds of mayhem. It turns out God isn’t a big fan of the Nazis or massive jerk-offs, and so the ghosts murder everyone in a variety of horrible ways. Most involve being set on fire, one dudes face hilariously melts, and Belloq’s head explodes, the last thought running through his soon to be obliterated mind being, “I wonder if one day I’ll end up featured in Cinema’s Ultimate Jerks.” Yes, Belloq. Yes, you will.
Jerk-off Rating: More like Jerk of the Covenant, right folks?
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 #17 Duncan Malloy (Con Air), #15 Iosef Tarasov (John Wick), or #12 Biff Tannen (Back to the Future).