As Seen In: True Romance (1993)
On the surface, there's nothing particularly tender about Gandolfini's role as vicious gangster Virgil in Tony Scott's True Romance. But two subtleties in the scene in which Virgil attempts to beat the location of some stolen drugs out of Alabama (Patricia Arquette) reveal the depths of Gandolfini's character. The first is a brief moment at the very beginning, when Gandolfini punches Arquette straight in the face. And hard. In the seconds following the connect, Gandolfini makes a strange but telling face; it's the kind of thing that most directors probably would have cut, but-in a split second-seems to reveal the character's guilt for what he know he must do.
The second moment is less subtle, but just as telling: As Alabama lies on the floor, beaten and bloodied, Virgil sees a glint in her eye that tells him she's still got some fight left. And he's impressed. So before he deals a fatal gun shot to her head, he bends down closer, opens his shirt and allows her one last swing at him with the corkscrew she has somehow commandeered. It doesn't end well and nothing about the scene is pretty. But it's one of Gandolfini's most iconic scenes in which he proves his ability to shift gears and emotion, playing tough, funny and (sort of) sensitive all at once. —JW