You walk into the club to have a few drinks with friends and listen to the live music. The times are rough, what with the war and all, and this is the only place where you can escape from the day’s troubles for a while. The people in there seem really happy; their worries and burdens are replaced with hope and freedom. The service and entertainment are superb, and you can’t find one complaint about the place. You pull a server aside and ask if you can give compliments to the owner of this place. The server’s response is, “he doesn’t drink with customers.” Insulted, you think, “what a jerk!”
Thus is the first introduction we get of Rick in the movie, Casablanca. A man who “sticks his neck out for nobody” and “doesn’t drink with customers,” Rick doesn’t seem like a very cool guy, but as the audience gets to know him, he becomes so much more. One cool thing about Rick is his independence. The only rules he follows are the ones he has set up, and the only council he listens to is his own. Everyone goes to him for help like the Ilsa and Victor, the Bulgarian couple, Ugarte, and even the politicians and police. Rick is THE man of the town. He doesn’t take advantage of his status, though. This kind of guarded independence is similar to the independence exhibited by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. While Rick’s help is oftentimes withheld unless there is a good reason verses Aragorn’s more active tendencies, both do what they see as the best solution to a problem despite what others may advise. They are willing to accept the difficult conclusions and do what must be done. This characteristic is very admirable because they stand firm when others cower or choose a more selfish path; Rick saves Ilsa and Victor at his own risk and sacrifice, and Aragorn constantly risks his own life for others.
This independence leads to another cool feature of Rick: his passion and call of duty for the “underdog”. Rick may put on the “tough guy” persona, but he is secretly a softy. All of the characters above save for the politicians and police are somehow helped by Rick. Ugarte had his request with the papers honored, the Bulgarian couple won enough money to leave to America, and Ilsa and Victor were able to safely leave Casablanca, all thanks to Rick. And what did he get out of all this? Snooping police, a deficit in money, and all sorts of legal consequences like having to sell his place, be arrested and killed, and go into exile. These characteristics remind me of the 3 Doors Down song, Citizen Soldiers. Rick is always in the background, sacrificing and protecting those he cares about. Under the stoic exterior is a passionate, self-sacrificing, cool interior.