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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Remember This Scene: Rocket Raccoon and 'Goodfellas'

Jeremy Fuster |
October 7, 2014 | 4:22 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Bradley Cooper's performance as Rocket was inspired by a mobster that Rocket could have become. (Marvel Films)
Bradley Cooper's performance as Rocket was inspired by a mobster that Rocket could have become. (Marvel Films)
It's strange to say that the most poignant, heartbreaking movie moment of 2014 may have come from a drunk, bipedal raccoon wielding a gun as big as he is.

And yet here it is, courtesy of Rocket Raccoon and James Gunn's 'Guardians Of The Galaxy.' From the moment the Comic-Con hype for this film began to build, Rocket was the biggest selling point (it's a raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper! Buy your midnight premiere tickets now!). He was the embodiment of the campy charm the film aimed to inject into the gritty, needlessly serious comic book film scene.

READ MORE: Why 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Is So Successful

Yet, halfway through the film, Rocket suddenly becomes more than joke-spouting CGI smartass. In a fit of rage, Rocket pulls out a gun on the other Guardians at a bar, angry at the world for seeing him as nothing more than some freak of science.

"I didn't ask to be made!" he screamed. " I didn't ask to be torn apart and put back together over and over! Turned into some…some sort of monster."

It's a shocking scene that comes from way out of left field. Suddenly, Rocket's insecurities and brutal origins come to the fore. His snark and ego, which could have kept building up until Rocket was nothing more than parody of undersized movie gangsters, is revealed as a mechanism to deflect the disdain others feel towards his very existence. If he doesn't stand up for himself, no one will, and the only way to get people to see him as a threat is to respond to attacks with great vengeance and furious anger.

Just like Tommy DeVito in 'GoodFellas.'

Just as Vin Diesel used his past performance as the Iron Giant to inspire his minimalist performance as Groot, Bradley Cooper drew from one of the most famous mobsters in movie history when providing the voice of Rocket.  In 'GoodFellas,' Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) is an armed robber with a fuse shorter than a raccoon. Like Rocket, he's got a rap sheet a mile long, an itchy trigger finger, deeply-rooted insecurities, and absolutely no qualms about punishing anyone who insults him, regardless of status. He longs to be a made man in the mafia, to be labeled by the powers that be as a man that must be treated with respect.

But ultimately, that demand for respect is the tragic flaw that destroys Tommy. One night at a bar, Tommy gets insulted by Billy Batts, who references Tommy's past as a shoe shiner. Tommy shows no regard for the fact that Batts is a made man. In fact, Batts' status only seems to fuel his desire to deal out a hellacious beating. And his rampage doesn't stop here. On his way to dispose of the body, Tommy discovers that Batts is still alive and stabs him repeatedly. Later during a robbery, he shoots a teen assistant in the foot, and when the teen later stands up to his badgering, Tommy murders him.

READ MORE: OSCARS REVIEW: "Hugo" Is A Beautiful Film

In a way, Tommy DeVito is not only an inspiration for Rocket Raccoon, but also an example of what might have happened to Rocket had he not met the Guardians. If Peter Quill hadn't been there to stop Rocket from killing everyone in that bar, he would have been just like Tommy.  He would have gone down a violent road to nowhere. A road I call Violence Road. 

Instead, despite his stubborn reluctance, Rocket is saved by his friends and finds a new identity as the savior of a whole galaxy. He allows himself to drop his tough guy exterior and reveal his vulnerabilities and is rewarded with compassion. Tommy, meanwhile, continues to leave those who question his toughness in a pile of their own blood. Does this make him a made man? No. It just gets him a bullet in the head.

Find other "Remember This Scene?" posts here.

Reach Jeremy Fuster here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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