The Action Movie Cliche List

The only thing more clichéd than some of these movie clichés is putting together a list of movie clichés. However I watch too many movies and scratch my head at too many recurring – and baffling – things, that I can’t not do it.

So here a but a few illogical or all too coincidental events, happenings and decisions that occur only on celluloid, when in real life things would turn out much differently.

This month I’ll tackle the Action movie genre, next time I’ll have a crack at horror…

The Action Movie Cliché List

Cliché # 1: The 10 Second Strangle Rule

My pet hate due to the consistency in which it occurs. I am just regular garden variety creepy, not ‘crafting ninja throwing stars in my backyard’ or ‘watching martial arts movies to pick up new moves and techniques’ creepy. So I have never bothered putting any research into how long it takes to kill someone by strangulation.

If I allowed the movies to inform my judgment I would guesstimate 8 – 15 seconds tops.

While I am sure that someone properly trained in the killing arts or blessed with immense physical strength might pull this off, I tire of skinny guys dropping thick necked big, burly bad guys in under a quarter minute with their weak paper pushing hands.

What would really happen?

Cliché # 2: Every explosive device has a digital clock on it.

Why? Fair enough these things need to be set, but why have a bright LCD display telling everyone the time they have left?

Surely a better option – and a more blackly funny one – would be to have a display showing, say, 4 minutes, with a real timer set on half that?

Or how about terrorists reduce your overheads by removing the visible clock function altogether, after all assuming yours is the 1 bomb out of 100 that actually gets to explode in a film the likelihood of you recovering your wares is zero percent.

Cliché # 3: The ‘dirty pool’ Lazarus

Your nemesis is down. It took 98% of the film to track him down, get him on the ropes and finally drop him – saving your family / the President / that cute chick you just met in the process.

But he ain’t dead. He’s foxing. As you turn and shuffle away exhausted, Lazarus rises like a phoenix from the ashes to shakily extend his pistol arm, drawing a bead on your exposed and vulnerable cranium.

Of course in the movies you realise at the last second, turn and drop him with a single bullet, or more creatively, by making something big fall on his head somehow (I’ll leave that to the scriptwriter), begging the question ‘why wasn’t THAT your opening move’?

What would really happen? Assuming he gets up, a bullet to the back of your head. Bad luck for sure, but didn’t your parents teach you to finish what you start?

Cliché # 4: Two chicks = 1 chickfight rule

Used to delicious effect in Undercover Brother, where two hotties perform a fight so sexy that the three males forget their own conflict to pull up chairs, share popcorn and chink beers together in acknowledgement.

It seems if you have an action film with a clear division between good and bad parties, should there exist female members of each side they will face off near the end of the film, usually simultaneous to the male hero v villain showdown, with cuts between both.

Cliché # 5: The waiting car corollary

It seems if you have the misfortune to fall or be pushed from a balcony or rooftop in an action movie, there is a 93.6% chance you will land on a car below in a splendid explosion of flesh, metal and exploding glass.

BTW; it took a while to find a genuine photo from a film. Didn’t seem right to put a real suicide photo…

Cliché # 6: The turn-punch

First cousin to the ‘dirty pool’ Lazarus. Where the Lazarus is exclusively performed by the bad guy, the turn-punch is usually hero territory.

The turn-punch occurs when the hero finishes a chat with a total scumbag or the especially loathsome superior who has been hindering his progress all film. He finishes the chat and disdainfully turns away, only to unexpectedly (to the hittee at least) swing around to deliver a knock-out blow to the jaw.

Prime examples of turn-punches are found in Die Hard (Mrs McClane slugs the scumbag reporter) and Another 48 Hours (Jack Cates decks the Internal Affairs prick).

Cliché # 7: The ‘no-brakes conundrum’

Again my deliberate lack of research makes the following hearsay, but it seems that whenever the driver of a car discovers that his/her car lacks proper means of deceleration – i.e. the brake-lines are cut – the only solution is to drive at insane speed through thick traffic and around immense life-threatening obstacles.

I have never understood why no-one ever thinks to do anything but the above. How about;

  1. Switching off the ignition.
  2. Pulling the park-brake (won’t stop you, but should slow it down some, enabling other options.)
  3. Putting the car in neutral or reverse, sure it will wreck the gearbox, but isn’t that preferable to wrecking yourself?

This is a cliché with no clear solution but a lot of possibilities that never seem to be tried. I will laugh my arse off the first time someone heads downhill and exclaims ‘no brakes!’, only to have the passenger switch off the ignition and arm the park brake before the car slows to a slow roll and an easy solution.

Cliché # 8: The man-hole back breaker

OK The A Team. OK Hanna. Please explain to me how reaching up through a manhole to grab the axle of a fast moving vehicle 1/ is at all possible and 2/ wouldn’t result in the stowaway going from vertical and 0km/hr to suddenly horizontal, 50 km/hr and in two bloody, broken pieces?

This one especially feels especially impossible.

Cliché # 9: The bullet stopping thing of importance

So early in the film someone picks up or is gifted something of particular importance or sentimental significance.

A few hours/days later said person receives an inopportune bullet in the chestal area, dropping ‘dead’ to the ground.

Only they ain’t dead, of course the previously received memento, be it a bible, hipflask or medal has bullet stopping properties, allowing the owner to rise largely unharmed to continue saving the world.

Cliché # 10: Minions are paper, heroes and lead villains steel

Can’t leave without the most obvious – and necessary – feature in practically every action shoot ‘em up, like in the awesome Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti film Shoot ‘Em Up from a few years back.

Villains send wave after wave of faceless and eminently expendable thugs, stooges and foot-soldiers after our intrepid hero, only to see their ranks swiftly and bloodily decimated in entertaining ways.

Finally after the body count hits triple figures the music volume rises and hero and bad guy face off – like in the movie Face/Off from the 90s.

This battle lasts longer than any in the film and has just as many punches and bullets, but an incredibly minimal body count of usually one. Yep just the bad guy cops this one after dodging a billion and seven bullets that would have killed a billion and seven henchmen earlier in the film. I might add that the bad guy gets to try his ‘dirty pool Lazarus’ before really dying here too.

Whaddya think? Have a missed any? Are there any part-time assassins who can shed light on how many seconds it actually would take to strangle someone? Any car enthusiasts who can shoot down my runaway car solutions?

Wait until you see some of the Horror movie cliches I have already found that go far beyond the ‘don’t walk in there’ beginner’s list…

Until then.


About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
This entry was posted in Film, Lists. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.