Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Throwback: Cliches I'm tired of seeing - Part Three

This post first appeared on Thursday, April 16, 2009.

This week's cliche alert is a public service to every writer who thinks they're being clever when they stage a dramatic gunpoint confrontation between their protagonist and their antagonist. One of the most overused tropes plays out as follows:

Two combatants, one gun. Usually one character draws and the other one lunges at them, setting off the attack.

A brief hand-to-hand struggle ensues. The characters wrestle, each one trying to get the upper hand and the gun.

Two shot. The characters inevitably end up framed in a profile shot towards the climax of this fight.

BANG! The gun goes off. Both men look shocked.

DRAMATIC PAUSE. OMG?!!!! Who took the bullet?

Fake out. the hero seems to wince.

Victory. the bad guy falls down dead. The hero breathes a sigh of relief.

At that point, I groan and roll my eyes at the hundredth use of this cliche, wondering how anyone found it original to begin with. Take note, it's no longer clever to use the dramatic device of the gun going off with the actual victim being unclear initially.

An alternate version of the same trope has the bad guy getting the draw on the good guy and just about to pull the trigger. If this happens with the bad guy moving closer to the foreground, thus blocking out a decent section of the background, get ready. It means that the hero is about to be saved when his buddy (who will be revealed when the villain falls down) gets off a fatal shot from behind the bad guy.


  1. I hate stand offs in which the bad guy has the gun on the hostage, demanding the good guy to drop his gun. Every resolution I've ever seen is a copout, maybe with the exception of Miami Vice 2006 or Love and a .45, both of which at least explain the plausibility of copouts.

  2. Ah, the old 'I'm about to shoot - arg - drops to reveal Al from Die Hard lowering a smoking gun' trick.

    There's a fun example of that in Under Siege, even if only to see Erika Eleniak take out Chief O'Brien with an MP5...

  3. The chase down the dead-ended alley that ends with the runaway being grabbed and hauled down as he tries to climb a fence.

    Usually preceded by, "We just want to ask you some questions."

  4. Why are these films still getting made?

  5. Because people still go to see these types of movies, Keith. Even though the audience is bored with it already.