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Max Shreck

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I'm the light of the city. I'm its mean, twisted soul. Does it matter who's Mayor?
~ Max Shreck (about being Gotham City's 2-faced spirit), to Bruce Wayne.

Maximillian "Max" Shreck is one of the two secondary antagonists of the 1992 superhero film Batman Returns. He serves as Selina Kyle's depraved boss and an unusual ally to the Penguin.

He was portrayed by Christopher Walken, who also played Max Zorin in A View to a Kill, Frank White in King of New York, Vincenzo Coccotti in True Romance, Mr. Smith in Nick of Time, the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow, Sal Maggio in Kangaroo Jack, and Cornelius Hatcher in The Rundown.

History

Max Shreck & the Penguin

Max Shreck and the Penguin, partners-in-crime.

Max is well-loved by the people of Gotham City and his son, Chip, but nobody really knows his dark secrets, which range from killing his best friend and business partner, Fred Atkins, and flushing his body parts down the toilet; dumping toxic waste in the Gotham River; owning secret fire traps within Gotham; murdering his secretary Selina Kyle when she uncovered his evil plans; and presumably murdering his own wife.

On the outside, Max appears to be giving and caring, but in actuality, he's really aggressive and a big bully. He wants to build a large power plant which he says will be good for the city when, in reality, it would eventually suck the power dry from Gotham, leaving a fortune of money in his legacy. He then ends up getting blackmailed by the Penguin into helping him become an important figure in Gotham, but Schreck manipulates the Penguin as much as the Penguin thinks he is manipulating him. Schreck attempts to make Penguin the new Mayor of Gotham City in order to attract good publicity for himself and control Gotham through the Penguin, or "Oswald Cobblepot" as the Penguin called himself. If the Penguin becomes the mayor, he can approve of Schreck's power plant and since the original mayor disapproved it and the main reason why he is calling for a recall election. Max and Oswald appear to develop a strange kind of friendship.

Max Schreck

Max Shreck in his costume at a masquerade ball.

Max was born into poverty, but fought his way to power through cunning and ruthlessness, developing criminal connections along the way. As such, like Penguin, he has a resentment of people, such as Bruce Wayne, who were born to wealth ("To the manor born with a silver spoon," as Max contemptuously refers to Bruce). Unfortunately, when Oswald's criminal enterprises are exposed, Max abandons him. Oswald flees back to the sewers, once more taking on the name "Penguin" and vowing revenge.

Max Shreck corpse

Max Shreck's charred corpse

Meanwhile, Selina had been reincarnated as the supervillain Catwoman and vowed vengeance against him for killing her. Max is killed in the end when Selina kisses him with an electric taser while she grabbed some exposed wires, frying him and leaving a frazzled corpse behind.

Despite being a horrible person, Max loved his son as he willingly took Chip's place when the Penguin came for him. It's likely Chip takes over his father's business or not since Batman exposed all of Max's dealings and shutting down his operations and leave Chip with nothing.

Quotes

I wish I could hand out world peace and unconditional love, wrapped in a big bow.
~ Max, to the people of Gotham
What did curiosity do to the cat?
~ Max, to Selina, after learning she looked at his computer files and uncovered his true plans
Power surplus? Bruce, shame on you. No such thing. One can never have too much power. If my life has a meaning, that's the meaning.
~ Max, to Bruce
Mayors come and go. Blue bloods tire easy. You think you can go fifteen rounds with Muhammad Shreck?
~ Max, to Bruce
Crime boss? Shows what you know, Mr. To-the-Manor-Born-with-a-Silver-Spoon. Oswald is Gotham's new golden boy. If his parents hadn't eighty-sixed him, you two might've been bunkies at prep school!
~ Max, to Bruce
Women. Nothing surprises me, Chip, except your late mother. Who woulda thought Selina had a brain to damage? Bottom line—she tries to blackmail me, I'll throw her out a higher window. Meantime, I got bigger fish to fry!
~ Max, to Chip, after Selina returns to work
Let me guess...trust fund goody-goody?
~ Max, to Bruce, at his costume party
Yawn.
~ Max, to Bruce
I'm the one you want. Ask yourself--isn't it Max Shreck who manipulated and betrayed you, eh? Isn't it Max, not Chip, who you wanna see immersed up to his eyeballs in raw sewage?
~ Max, to Penguin when he tries to take Chip prisoner
I don't know what you want, but I know I can get it for you, with a minimum of fuss! [...] Money, jewels, a very big ball of string.
~ Max, trying to bargain with Catwoman

Trivia

  • According to some stories, Shreck's role in the film was originally intended for Harvey Dent, who would be played by Billy Dee Williams. He was only merely to be scarred at the climax of the film, which would make him his alter ego "Two-Face" which would follow into the next film, Batman Forever.
  • Shreck is named after the German silent film actor Max Schreck, famous for playing Count Orlok in F.W. Murnau's classic Nosferatu.


 
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