We're halfway through the third season of the hit FX show “Archer,” and thankfully it's already been renewed for a fourth season. For those unfamiliar, Sterling Archer, the show’s eponymous protagonist, is a James Bond redux with a penchant for drinking on the job; banging hookers; and occasionally detaining/executing terrorists, druglords, and other varieties of supervillain. Plus, he’s a former All-American lax Bro to boot. A few weeks ago, Archer riffed on his predecessors (notably Ethan Hunt from “Mission: Impossible”) by fulfilling his self-proclaimed “lifelong dream” of staging a fight on top of a moving train. This got me to thinking: Where would Sterling Archer rank among Hollywood’s pantheon of legendary badass secret agents?
Before we begin, let’s get one thing straight: Deadliness alone does not an iconic secret agent make. Everyone from Jason Bourne to Austin Powers to some pre-pubescent joker named Cody Banks has proven capable of kicking ass when called upon. So I devised a list of diverse criteria by which to evaluate fictional secret agents, then gave 1 to 10 points for each category, and arrived at what I'm calling the Badass Motherf*cker Rankings. The BAMF Rankings account for not only the agents' ability to successfully negotiate a difficult mission, but also for their exploits as playb*ys, in other words boozing, bedding babes with thick accents, and generally embracing the lifestyle perks that come with being a secret agent.
The 10 criteria are as follows:
Threads: If you want to take a girl home from a PKE party, you wear a lax pinnie. If you want to take a girl home in Monte Carlo, you’ll need something elegant, monochromatic, and finely tailored to your specific dimensions.
Horsepower: At some point, I’m sure you and your friends have sat around ripping bongs and taking turns making “glory runs” on Grand Theft Auto. In other words, trying to attract as many computer-generated 5-0 as possible before finally succumbing to a bout of questionably warranted police brutality. That’s what this category is all about —except none of these guys ever get caught.
Gadgets & Guns: This one is less about the specific agent and more about the imagination of his agency’s technical department. And don't forget: the gadgets are just as important as the firepower.
Womanization: Pretty self-explanatory. Quality, quantity, and post-coital ridicule are all taken into consideration. Using sex as a bargaining chip — a maneuver typically associated with the lesser gender in real life — is especially commendable.
Quipability: Some secret agents piss verbal excellence every time they open their mouths. They seem to have the perfect double entendre or smart-ass remark for every situation.
Lethality: For this one I will rely on a complicated but altogether subjective formula that factors in kill count, diversity of weapons wielded, martial arts acumen, sangfroid, and strength of schedule (e.g. Dr. No > Dr. Evil).
Escape Artist: Whether by virtue of fortune or foresight, elite secret agents — like dudes who wake up next to pig-faced grenades — have a proclivity for emerging unscathed from even the most regrettable of blackout hook-ups circumstances.
Tactical Knowledge: Some of these commie killers get by solely on the merits of their physical superiority and/or ace marksmanship. Others use a devastating combination of cunning, field knowledge, and ... who am I kidding … physical superiority and ace marksmanship. But because I can’t quite let go of my childhood fantasies, we’re going to pretend like this shit is important.
Toxicity: Staving off a horde of Albanian terrorists hell bent on manslaughter is difficult enough while on the wagon. Those who do it with a pint of whiskey running through the bloodstream certainly deserve a tip of the cap (pun intended).
Stealth: Disguises, subterfuge, and elaborate ruses welcome. Who best puts the “secret” in “secret agent”?
Again, agents have been evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10 in each of these 10 categories to achieve an overall composite, hereby referred to as Overall Badassitude. They're listed below according to value.
Without further ado:
19. Dick Steele (aka Agent WD-40, “Spy Hard”)
BAMF Ranking: 54
Highlights: A name ripped from a low-budget porn film; surprising athleticism for his advanced age; experience.
Lowlights: Senility; a handgun built like a Japanese tween popstar; insufficient supply of Cialis.
18. Emmett Fitz-Hume and Austin Millbarge (“Spies Like Us”)
BAMF Ranking: 55
Highlights: Matching outfits; that special brand of Yin and Yang rapport that makes any good buddy movie; Russian babes galore; Chevy Chase’s shit-eating grin; "Doctor, doctor, doctor…."
Lowlights: Matching outfits; backstabbing superiors; a mission that situates them in the exceedingly unsexy climes of Eastern Siberia.
17. Undercover Brother (“Undercover Brother”)
BAMF Ranking: 57
Highlights: Deadly with an afro pick; helps Denise Richards earn her black belt.
Lowlights: His “evil nemesis” is Corky Romano; blaxploitation jokes that suck (inexcusable when you consider Dave Chappelle co-stars).
16. Xander Cage ("xXx")
BAMF Ranking: 58
Highlights: Dedication to his craft (don’t just take it from me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6TFQ4HDsfY); snowboarding prowess so considerable it causes avalanches.
Lowlights: Severely lacking in the subtlety department; shares a brain with Vin Diesel.
14 (tie). Sam (“Ronin”)
BAMF Ranking: 59
Highlights: Goes all Danica on the streets of Paris and Nice; portrayed by a De Niro who still pretended to care about his career.
Lowlights: Requires the life-saving services of a French associate in the penultimate scene, which is just entirely unacceptable for anyone claiming BAMF status. Ask FDR and Winston Churchill how much help they needed from the French.
14 (tie). Joe Turner (“Three Days of the Condor”)
BAMF Ranking: 59
Highlights: His slay list includes hall-of-fame smokeshow Faye Dunaway; vintage Robert Redford flow; collars that go POP.
Lowlights: His comfort perched atop a motor scooter seriously undermines his credibility; aversion to killing sprees doesn’t do him any favors either.
13. Jack Ryan (“The Hunt for Red October,” “Patriot Games,” “Clear and Present Danger,” “The Sum of All Fears”)
BAMF Ranking: 60
Highlights: Unparalleled aptitude and instincts re: military intelligence; affinity for prescription painkillers rivals that of Brett Favre.
Lowlights: Marries in his early twenties; sense of moral duty and concerns for his political career spoil all the fun parts of being a secret agent.
12. Harry Tasker (“True Lies”)
BAMF Ranking: 61
Highlights: In case you forgot, the Governator was the f*cking Mozart of one-liners in his day (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDxn0Xfqkgw); also, who else can claim a chase scene on horseback?
Lowlights: The small issue of his female love interest (Jamie Lee Curtis) being the subject of the worst kept secret in Hollywood (type “Jamie Lee C---” into your Google search bar if you aren’t privy).
10 (tie). Steve Austin (“The Six-Million Dollar Man”)
BAMF Ranking: 62
Highlights: Bionically engineered body; former astronaut and Air Force test pilot; fashion forebear to urban youths everywhere.
Lowlights: Announces he “doesn’t want to kill people” in the show’s pilot; family friendly (nary a mention of any bionically-engineered knee-knocker under that jumpsuit); propensity for getting fingered at airport security (in a figurative and literal sense).
10 (tie). Jack Bauer (“24”)
BAMF Ranking: 62
Highlights: Terrorist-executioner extraordinaire; ability to whisper at high volumes and circumvent massive gaps in logic; unfazed by ethical dilemmas.
Lowlights: Too concerned with doing his job to properly take advantage of
doe-eyed model bitchesthe opportunities his status affords him.
9. Ethan Hunt (“Mission: Impossible”)
BAMF Ranking: 63
Highlights: Serious composure atop moving trains and/or hanging from a ceiling; proclivity for completing missions once thought to be “impossible” and bagging girls who might otherwise be similarly classified.
Lowlights: Diminutive stature; hyperactive sweat glands; those girls tend to die a lot.
8. Mr. Smith (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”)
BAMF Ranking: 64
Highlights: A sex scene so steamy it realigned the ranks of Hollywood power couples (and transformed Jennifer Aniston into the easiest lay this side of Paris Hilton).
Lowlights: Defers to a woman in a situation that involves the operation of a motor vehicle.
6 (tie). Jason Bourne
BAMF Ranking: 66
Highlights: Adept at hand-to-hand combat; multilingual; able to outrun entire police forces in a stock Mini Cooper.
Lowlights: Selective amnesia; anger issues; weird attraction to the tomboyish Julia Stiles.
6 (tie). Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott (“I Spy”)
BAMF Ranking: 66
Highlights: Their front as world-touring “tennis bums” is without rival as far as chick-magnet ruses go; Houdini-esque escape artists; seen as icons of racial progress as one of the first mixed-race crime-fighting duos.
Lowlights: Scott abstains from drinking and smoking (and not just while he’s driving); both shy away from excessive and/or creative bloodshed.
5. Sterling Archer ("Archer)
BAMF Ranking: 69
Highlights: Unparalleled aptitude for verbal sparring (his one-liners reference everything from Ancient Greek sodomy rituals to the Melville short story “Bartleby the Scrivener”); impervious to hangovers; self-proclaimed pioneer of the “tactical turtleneck.”
Lowlights: Notorious sucker for booby-traps; tells everyone he meets that he’s a “secret agent” (kind of defeats the purpose); according to guest-star Burt Reynolds, drives like a girl.
4. Austin Powers ("Austin Powers")
BAMF Ranking: 70
Highlights: Puns; mojo; Alotta Fagina.
Lowlights: Incapable of executing a three-point turn; near certain carrier of most known venereal diseases; poster-child for the English’s (non-) stance on orthodontia.
3. Maxwell Smart (“Get Smart”)
BAMF Ranking: 71
Highlights: Always on call (owing to the 50-plus telephones hidden in his accessories); faces off against evildoers who are every bit as clumsy as he is; every bit as hilarious as you’d expect a Mel Brooks-authored super-spy to be.
Lowlights: Routinely docked his annual vacation time as a penalty for his blunders; highly dependent on his female counterpart, Agent 99 (though not always to his disadvantage, if you catch my drift).
2. John Steed (“The Avengers”)
BAMF Ranking: 75
Highlights: Wields an umbrella that alternately doubles as saber, hidden camera, and flask; his garage houses a Rolls Royce and several Bentleys; bested James Bond in a bout of fisticuffs in grammar school.
Lowlights: Never seen banging out on-screen (pesky 1960s censors!); drinks tea.
1. Bond. James Bond.
BAMF Ranking: 86 Need I say more?
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