It feels like David Harbour has been a big name for years. Despite appearing in everything from War of the Worlds (credited as “Dock Worker,” but I’ve never found him) to The Equalizer, he only recently rose to prominence thanks to his terrific turn in Netflix’s Stranger Things. That’s not to say the man’s resume lacks high-profile gigs. In fact, I’ve cobbled together some of his most noteworthy performances to prepare you for his upcoming role in Gran Turismo.
Red Guardian in Black Widow
Marvel’s Black Widow might not be the best, but Harbour shines as Alexei, the overweight Russian superhero who teams up with Scarlett Johansson’s super spy to take down some rather generic villains. While Harbour isn’t given enough to do to fully justify his existence and mostly serves as a human punching bag, there’s no denying the man’s cinematic presence and charisma, as this is one of the best David Harbour performances. Hopefully, the MCU will better utilize him in future films and make him more than the butt of a handful of cheesy jokes.
Masters in The Equalizer
Harbour’s role in The Equalizer is small but pivotal. As Masters, the lowlife scoundrel whom Denzel Washington’s kick-ass hero, Robert McCall, forces into helping him track down even worse scoundrels midway through the movie, this was the first time I recognized Harbour from previous outings, though I couldn’t quite place him. It turns out he co-starred in The Newsroom, which the wife and I binged over a summer. So, he at least left an impression with his brief screentime.
Gasper in Extraction
As Gasper, Chris Hemsworth’s turncoat pal, Harbour shows off his physical chops and holds his own against the mighty Thor actor in Extraction. While the twist is foreseeable, the brutal payoff – during which the two men beat each other to bloody pulps – is ultimately worth it. Again, not a lengthy role, but one powerful enough to grab your attention, largely due to the performances of Harbour and Hemsworth.
Santa in Violent Night
Now we’re talking. While much of Harbour’s post-Stranger Things work has been forgettable, Violent Night finally gives him a role perfectly suited to his talents. Here, Harbour bumbles about as a foul-mouthed, downtrodden Santa Claus who no longer believes in the magic of Christmas but has his crumbling ideology restored after battling a group of violent criminals holding a family hostage. One by one, Harbour battles these goons Die Hard-style and somehow finds unique new ways to make mincemeat out of a human corpse.
Violent Night certainly lives up to its title. The picture is gory, graphic, and extremely over-the-top, but it’s also hilarious and undeniably entertaining, right down to its Home Alone-esque sequence. Harbour infuses his St. Nick with a rugged facade that eventually gives way to his humanity, leading to a fun and surprisingly poignant finale that should leave audiences basking in the Christmas spirit – or wrenching their guts out.
Jim Hopper in Stranger Things
Harbour rocketed to superstardom nearly overnight thanks to his incredible performance as Jim Hopper, the drunken, bitter sheriff of Hawkins, Indiana who gets caught up in truly extraordinary events that reshape his life for the better. Now going on its fifth and final season, one could argue that the sci-fi series has lingered a little too long. Nevertheless, the cast is exquisite and the various nods to ’80s pop culture make us all resemble that Leonardo DiCaprio meme from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Hopper remains the standout of the show for me. Season 3 in particular sets Harbour loose and lets him fully embrace his inner action hero, which is probably why it’s my favorite of the four. It helps that Harbour looks the part of an ’80s action hero, albeit more John McClane than Rambo, and he exhibits plenty of chemistry with Winona Ryder, making this one of the best David Harbour performances. With luck, Harbour can leverage his fame into even greater success, as the man can act with the best of them.