Kovacs = Neo-Noir?

Hmmm… Something I happened to notice recently. The name Kovacs comes up a lot in “modern” noir stories. Besides being a cool sounding Hungarian name it means “forger” or “smith”. As in someone who “forges justice” in spite of the injustice of the world that hammers away at him? Anyway, I discovered these recently in reverse chronological order but I suspect the references were NOT accidental but tips of the hat to previous stories in the genre.., Though I guess it COULD be coincidence…


Altered Carbon1. Takeshi Lev KOVACS (“Altered Carbon”, “Broken Angels”, & “Woken Furies” sci-fi novels) – a tortured war veteran and ex-envoy (a genetically engineered super soldier & spy) in the far future who often has to conduct investigations to solve mysteries in a very film-noir and neo-noir style, with numerous tips of the hat to Blade Runner and other futuristic neo-noir films & fiction.


watchmen-cover2. Walter Joseph KOVACS, aka Rorschach (“The Watchmen” graphic novel & movie) – a tortured superhero (or more properly anti-hero) that is a very dark noir-detective type character with serious “psychological issues” but a iron sense of honor. Lives an incredibly violent life, delivering brutal violent justice, and absolutely unable to “bend the rules” in what he perceives as right even when it means his own certain death.


À Bout de Souffle (Breathless)

3. László KOVÁCS (“Breathless” movie, French: “À bout de souffle” “out of breath”) – alias of car thief Michel Poiccard in one of the first neo-noir films, a 1960 French film that modernized a lot of the older film-noir tropes while making obvious references to the earlier genre. For example, the Kovacs character styled himself after Humphrey Bogart’s screen persona. Ironically the alias László Kovács is itself a “in joke” and a tip of the hat to the Hungarian cinematographer László Kovács who is most famous for his award-winning work on Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). An American version of this French film was made starring Richard Gere, but unfortunately his character was not named Kovacs.


If only another one of my favorite neo-noir characters was named Kovacs too. He does have a foreign name. Though his is Turkish, he does have it out for Hungarians. And while his name is not Kovacs, the fact that the name is so unique does make it stand out. That and the fact that he is such a diabolical bad ass and not your typical noir anti-hero, but just an very mysterious and genius villain. Who is this character you ask?….



Keyser Söze from “The Usual Suspects” movie, of course, as played by Kevin Spacey.

The Usual Suspects

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