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Guns Don't Kill People

Especially in Hollywood.

I saw Collateral, the new Tom Cruise movie the other day.  It's an entertaining, well-acted film that pretends to be philosophical, but nevertheless delivers on the violence.  While the credits rolled, I stumbled out into the lobby of that cheap little Japanese theatre trying to adjust my eyes to the fluorescent lighting, and I began to think about how much action movies have changed.  There's no doubt about it: fight sequences are getting bloodier, flashier, and more convoluted.

For example, take a look at an old John Wayne film called The Quiet Man, and read the summary on the back of the VHS case.  Even though it's no action movie, the package boldly declares The Quiet Man to contain THE BEST FIGHT SCENE EVER CAPTURED ON FILM (or words to that effect)I suffered through this stuffy, stinko movie, only to find that the scene in question was your typical I punch you, you punch me back, let's dunk each other's head in the river and roll around in the meadow like prepubescent farm boys, all to a whimsical, dandy, instrumental score type of fight.  John Wayne and the other guy whose name is quite forgettable essentially just take turns bopping each other in the nose and/or stomach, and the action is about as exciting as playing with yesterday's toe-nail clippings.

But to it's credit, the flaccid action is at least plausible.  The characters stop fighting every now and then to relax and have a beer.  The absence of any eye-gouging, back-stabbing, hair-pulling, leg-biting, bone-breaking, nipple-twisting, and testicle-smashing leaves no mystery as to why confrontations can last for hours in these old films.

What have fight scenes evolved into today?  Kung fu, techno music, slow motion camera tricks, CGI interpolation, lots of guns, sunglasses, blood spurting like a fire hose, and a complete disregard for gravity.  And thankfully, that quaint notion of fighting fair is nowhere to be found.

But modern action is being taken to an unrealistic extreme: characters get into massive car crashes and walk away with just a few scratches, even without wearing seatbelts.  They dislocate arms, run on wounded legs, and hang on to ledges for impossible lengths of time.  Jumping off a building doesn't hurt as long as they're involved in a chase of some kind (and provided that they remember to tuck-and-roll when their feet hit the ground).  And suddenly, it's no longer a big deal to get shot in the face.

When did this little myth get started?  Yes, I'm talking about a bullet in the goddamn face, and the likes of Edward Norton and Tom Cruise just walk it off.  I'm not joking.  Here is an actual scene from Collateral:

Even more shocking, is that these characters aren't immortal vampires, virtual reality computer programs, or mutants enhanced by toxic waste.  They're supposed to be plain old human beings.  Movie fans often rush to the defense of these out-of-control storylines with idiocy such as, "Oh, it only went in through the neck," or "It was just a flesh wound".  Really?  When did YOU become a vascular surgeon?  I didn't know there were so many unimportant areas of our head through which a chunk of metal can safely pass.  Go back to licking that orange Cheetos residue off your fingers and stop pretending like you know what you're talking about.  

Sorry, folks.  A bullet in the head sends you to the hospital or the morgue.  The fight scene stops there.


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