The piece below was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the art being covered in this piece wouldn't exist.
Ron Perlman is one of my favorite character actors. Not everything he’s in is great, but whenever he shows up in a support role, you know that he’ll be great in it.
It’s a little rarer to see him in a lead role, and when he does it’s sometimes under heavy makeup (Hellboy, Beauty and the Beast). But at 73 years old, the Perl is still a certified badass, and his new movie The Baker is a great reminder of why.
And speaking of incredible character actors, he’s not the only one here. This film’s small but high-impact cast includes Elias Koteas, Harvey Keitel, and Joel David Moore.
Perlman plays “Pappi”, the baker of the title, a man with a mysterious past and estranged from his adult son, Peter (Joel David Moore). After observing a drug deal gone bad with both sides decimated, Peter steals their prize, a bag full of an expensive new designer drug – but runs afoul of their rightful owner, a crime boss known as “The Merchant” (Harvey Keitel), and his ruthless enforcer Vic (Elias Koteas).
Elias Koteas has always been another favorite character actor of mine, since his Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He often plays villains and sleazebags, and the reason is simple enough – he’s great at it. As the heavy, he’s a worthy antagonist that could’ve been one-note but offers glimmers of humanity, intelligence, and even respect beneath his villainy. Harvey Keitel’s role is much smaller, but his presence is appreciated and lends weight to the importance of his crime boss character.
Pulled into his son’s situation, Pappi suddenly finds himself in possession of the cache of stolen drugs. But more importantly, he’s thrust with the responsibility of protecting Peter’s mute daughter Delfi (Emmo Ho) – the granddaughter he didn’t even know he had.
I don’t think it’s ever explicitly mentioned exactly what Pappi made his bread before making bread, but it’s clear he knows how to navigate the criminal underworld that’s now swallowed his son. Maybe he wasn’t so unlike Vic, once.
Elements of the plot may be a little tropey, but the idea of Ron Perlman doing a Korean-style protection/revenge action movie is an exciting and welcome one. The Perl is unsurprisingly great here, and even though you probably know exactly how the relationship of Pappi and Delfi will play out as they form a bond, it’s still a pleasure to watch.
The Baker is available on VOD platforms, with 4K availability on Amazon, AppleTV and Vudu.