We can all agree that in order to actually enjoy an action movie, you need to accept the fact that all the characters represent particular archetypes and that the plot is based on the director’s personal representation of the script. Essentially, the easiest way to make the public understand the role of an actor implies utilizing clichés, because the spectators are already familiar with them from other motion pictures. However, some of these clichés fringe on absurdity and it becomes even worse when you realize that their usage is absolutely vital to the plot of the movie. In the action genre – perhaps also in the romantic comedy category – these “formulas” are significantly more obvious and ridiculous. Let’s find out what they are.
1. A true badass never looks at explosions
If you threw a grenade over your shoulder at the gas pump, well, just to have it blow up in flames, would you look? Probably not, after all, you already know what’s going to happen, big explosion fire everywhere, blah blah, boring! If you see yourself in this description, that means you’re probably perfect for the protagonist – or antagonist, works both ways – of an action movie. The shear fact that the “badass” character does not even flinch when the roaring flames engulf the surroundings suggests that he is way too experienced to even glance at the results of his actions to give a damn. After all, which villian can go on for 5 minutes without blowing something up?
2. The villain insists on killing the protagonist by himself
Antagonists who seem to be pouring virtually unlimited funds in financing armies and constructing massive, state of the art doomsday devices have an obsessive compulsive need to go head to head with the protagonist, be it in a firefight or unarmed combat. If they don’t have a showdown, then the whole world domination/destruction plan was all in vain. Of course, they completely ignore the fact that their nemesis is highly trained and skilled, as opposed to them. A variant of this cliché presents the over-pumped, overconfident antagonist who could in fact squash his opponent like a bug. But what do you know, he doesn’t!
3. It’s over, he’s dead … or is he?
You notice that the hero empties two ammo clips in the chest of the antagonist, chops off his right hand, rolls him in a carpet, puts him in the trunk and drives the car off a cliff. By all accounts, the villain should be pushing up daisies, but there about 30-40 minutes of the movie left, how could that be? Oh right, skipping over the next 10 minutes, you find out that the antagonist wasn’t really dead, just furious. Don’t worry, the next time he gets killed is for real!
4. I’m getting too old for this
While there is nothing wrong with supporting the idea that not every old person is helpless, Hollywood directors insist on utilizing the elderly as main “badass” protagonists, only so they can have the “I’m getting too old for this” line. Now you’re not only rooting for the character because he is so hardcore, but also because the age represents the impediment he had to overcome in order to save the world/neighborhood/country/girl. At the same time, in this case age stands for experience in ass-kicking.
5. Mercy for the villain!
The protagonist shoots his way through the vast armies of the villain, gets into the classical firefight with him, the two empty ammo clip after ammo clip trying to kill each other, but when it comes down to the killing blow, he can’t do it. The scene is usually spiced up with the villains’ second attempt to kill the protagonist, which typically justifies the necessity of murder. After all, the main character is the good guy and he would never kill unless he was forced to.
6. Flesh wounds never killed anyone
Just like in real life, being shot by a villain in an action movie will always result in “flesh wounds”, the bullet will never actually hit major arteries – if they do hit – and the protagonist’s wounds will heal at a superhuman rate. In essence, the scene where the protagonist is hit by a bullet is just an excuse to do the “It’s only a flesh wound” line, with the mandatory teeth gritting when the beautiful but inexperienced female character cleans the injury.
7. That wimpy backstabbing coward
Whether or not you can trust a secondary character who is initially on the side of the protagonist depends on his chest size and bravery. If he’s wimpy and cowardly, then you can be certain that the character is also a traitor and will wait until the last moment to betray the hero and sell him out to the bad guys. I mean, there’s no way a courageous, pumped man would ever double cross you.
8. Nationality issues
Probably because 99% of action movies are Hollywood productions, the protagonist is always, but always American. Even if his nationality is not American, his behavior, accent and mentality are. At the opposite pole, the antagonist – who is usually a diabolic genius – has to be Russian, English or Asian. For some reason, they are rarely Canadian or French, but that’s Hollywood for you.
9. Retirement plans kill!
In action movies, it’s always bad luck to tell your partner about your retirement plans and it’s even worse to show him a picture of the idyllic summer home where you plan to spend your twilight years. If you do, then getting killed right afterwards is guaranteed and you become the prerogative and reason of the protagonist to hunt down the ones responsible. On a side note, this scene was used so many times that most comedy series have at least one episode that parodies the notion.
10. Oh, that catchphrase!
Whenever the hero – in some cases also the villain – has a trademark catchphrase, you can be certain the directors plan to build a franchise around the story. Catchphrases like “Why so serious?”, “I’ll be back”, etc. have the role of making the character distinct and the film more memorable. At the same time, they hold clues to the personality traits and overall mentality of the protagonist/antagonist.
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