Written by Anthony Burch
Sonny vs. Carlo – The Godfather
Call The Godfather “the greatest film ever made” all you want (hell, most of us would probably agree with you), but no one can deny the sheer suckitude of the scene where Sonny lays the smackdown on Carlo, who has just roughed up his sister. Up to this point in the film, we’ve been led to believe that Sonny is a total badass: the kind of guy who would knock your teeth out of your head just for looking at him funny.
When he actually squares off with Carlo, however, the result is laughably silly: not only does he bite Carlo’s hand like a schoolkid, but all of his punches look incredibly weak (not to mention that one of Caan’s swings misses Carlo by roughly a mile). The actor who plays Carlo (Gianni Russo), as a result, has to exaggerate his reaction to every one of Sonny’s punches to make the scene feel even halfway convincing.
It doesn’t work.
Gun Switcheroo – Equilibrium
Plot holes and action movies tend to go together like white on rice, so audiences don’t usually complain about them. Unless, that is, the plot hole is so obvious, so loudly and ridiculously rubbed in your face, that you have no choice but to acknowledge it. Equilibrium has one of these plot holes.
To set the scene, Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) has been arrested by his superiors for sense offense (if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t understand anything in the previous sentence, don’t sweat it). Several government guards were murdered earlier in the movie, and so the bad guys run a scan on Preston’s gun to see if he was the one who killed them (which he did). After a few seconds of computer work, the bad guys tell Preston that it is not Cleric Preston’s gun that killed the guards, but rather Cleric Brandt’s (Taye Diggs).
We are then shown a quick flashback where Preston takes Brandt’s gun and switches it for his own. Preston smiles smugly, and Brandt is hauled away by the guards.
There’s only one problem: Preston didn’t switch guns with Brandt until after he killed the guards. Scanning the gun would have only told the bad guys that Preston stole Brandt’s gun, not that Brandt killed the guards. The bullets wouldn’t match up.
And even if the entire scene was orchestrated by the bad guys to give Preston a false sense of security (as has been suggested on IMDB), then why does Preston look so smug, as if he intentionally framed Brandt? Nothing about the scene makes any sense whatsoever – maybe in the original script the scenes were in a different order or something, but that still doesn’t excuse it.
“I’m a Ghost” – In America
In America looks at what it is to be an Irish immigrant in the United States, and it does so in a subtle, heartfelt, and moving way.
Except for one scene, that is.
As Johnny (Paddy Considine) and Mateo (Djimon Honsou) discuss life about halfway through the film, the characters suddenly decide to forego all the subtlety and unspoken dialogue that made the first half so appealing. “I feel nothing,” Johnny tells Mateo (or pretending to, at least – in reality, he’s basically just talking to the audience). “I’m a fuckin’ ghost.” The two male characters yell back and forth for a little while, each revealing way too much through hideously obvious and redundant dialogue that just ends up delivering information the audience would have found out anyway.
Call In America “boring” if you must, but at least it wasn’t boring and stupid until the “ghost” scene.
The Silent Bad Guy (Kiriyama) and The Bandana-Wearing Badass (Shogo) – Battle Royale
Battle Royale was supposed to be Lord of the Flies with machine guns. Fifty kids stuck on a deserted island and forced to kill each other off until only one remains may be one of the coolest premises in recent memory: not only does it make for some hardcore student-on-student violence as the kids reveal their true personalities, but it also serves as an allegory for how life-or-death high school can seem.
Why, then, did the writers deem it necessary to include two characters who do not go to school with any of the other characters, have boringly one-dimensional personalities (Shogo is out to avenge a girlfriend who died in a previous Battle Royale, and Kiriyama likes to kill people for no reason), and basically serve no purpose in the plot except to create hilariously over-the-top action sequences?
The whole point of novels like Lord of the Flies is that children, behind their facades of politeness and decency, can be as evil as any adult. Putting schoolkids on the island will end in violence no matter what, so why even bother including two ridiculously out-of-place characters solely so they can kill off the more boring schoolkids before squaring off against one another at the end of the movie? Wouldn’t it be more fun, and more disturbing, if it was just the schoolkids raping and killing one another? If it didn’t take a couple of clichéd “badass” characters to goad them into violence?
For Christ’s sake, the main villain, Kiriyama, doesn’t even talk during the entire movie. You quite literally could not make a character more clichéd and Japanese if you tried, short of turning him into a Hentai tentacle monster with a samurai sword and a shadowy past.
The Sin Bin – The Boondock Saints
Before you get angry, The Sin Bin (the scene where Rocco and the brothers kill Ron Jeremy) is a great scene unto itself. The way Agent Smecker’s (Willem Dafoe) explanation of the crime scene intercuts with a flashback of the actual crime itself is awesome, the sheer level of violence is cool, and the bit where Rocco grabs a comatose stripper’s tit is nothing short of hilarious.
The real problem is one small, teensy weensy, itty bitty line of dialogue which accidentally tears the entire movie apart.
Now, The Boondock Saints is about two Jesus-freak vigilante brothers who go around killing crime bosses. A large part of the film’s interest stems from the fact that the liberal characters don’t know how to react to these murders: should they be allowed to go on, or must vigilantism be punished? Even the end credits consist of nothing more than interviews with regular people on the street as they tell the camera their opinions on the Boondock Saints. The actions of the film are supposed to be morally neutral, and are supposed to be judged and interpreted by each individual viewer, whether liberal or conservative. Even though the ending is a little bit far fetched (the hitmen who fails to kill the Saints turns out to be their father, who joins them), there is still room for the viewer to judge the events of the film without any director-imposed bias.
Except for the fact that that one little line in the Sin Bin ruins everything. After killing Ron Jeremy, the Saints check the other masturbation stalls. “It’s like a scumbag yard sale,” one of the brothers says after looking through a peephole. “We should come here every week and clean house,” says the other. Rocco then kills the two “scumbags” in each stall with extreme prejudice.
> Afterwards, at the crime scene, Agent Smecker tries to make sense of why the two other men were killed in addition to Ron Jeremy. “This guy’s big time,” he says, pointing at the corpse of Ron Jeremy. “These two are streetwalking scum!”
Wait a minute. The two brothers managed to actually gauge the entire history of two random bystanders just by looking at them through a peephole in a titty club? By taking a three-second glance at complete strangers, they somehow knew that these guys were “scum”? One of the brothers makes some weird reference to the fact that “I’ve been waiting for this asshole,” but it’s spoken without any context and is never discussed further.
Either the two brothers have the magical ability to judge any and every person they meet within seconds of meeting them (making the filmmaker’s stance on the events of the film very obvious, thereby removing any reason for the viewer to objectively judge those events), or the scene just suffers from extremely lazy screenwriting.
UPDATE: Evidently, the scene's weirdness stems from the fact that the original script called for two scenes where, before they begin their rampage of vigilantism, the brothers meet the two "scumbags" outside the hospital, dealing drugs. In the final cut, the scene was not included, but the line "I've been waiting for this asshole" inexplicably remains.
The Black Techie Terrorist – Die Hard
I’ve seen Die Hard about fifty times, each time with a different person. Everyone’s reactions to certain scenes differ: some laugh at McClane’s one-liners while others just shrug them off. Some love Alan Rickman’s accent, while others hate it. And yet, every single person I have ever watched Die Hard with always reacts the exact same way when it comes to one character: The Black Techie Terrorist. Not once has the goddamn character elicited even the hint of laughter.
He looks like a black Ted Raimi, and he acts pretty much the same way. In contrast to the other Uber-Aryan, Uber-Serious German terrorists, TBTT is black, American, and funny.
And when I say “funny,” of course, I mean “so fucking unfunny he makes you want to gouge your own eyes out with a rusty butterknife.” Not one of TBTT’s jokes ever comes even remotely close to being funny, or clever, or even tolerable. Whether he’s quoting The Night Before Christmas (“not a creature was stirring… except the four assholes coming in the rear, in standard two-by-two cover formation!”) or trying to appear cute through understatement (as the cops drive up in an armored car: “Well, it appears the police have themselves an RV!”) TBTT fails in almost every considerable way.
“You didn’t hire me for my charming personality,” TBTT tells Gruber at one point.
Yeah. No fucking shit. Why did you have to be the only terrorist who doesn’t end up extremely dead? After Argyle punched you out, he should have smothered you to death with the huge teddy bear in his limo.
The Entire Third Act – Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
If you haven’t seen Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, you really should. It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that while Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr may be nearly impossible to work off-camera, they’re totally badass once it turns on.
KKBB basically functions as a comedy/noir/action flick that pays homage to those genres whilst simultaneously ripping them apart. Cliches are torn down (the main character, Harry Lockhart, has all the characteristics of a film noir detective except for the fact that he’s a total dumbshit, the femme fatale isn’t really a femme fatale, etc) left and right, and the audience is having a shitload of fun as it happens.
Until – and there will always be an “until” on this list – the third act starts up. Harry and Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) spend a few seconds making fun of the fact that most action stories end with a clichéd torture scene, a car chase, and then an enormous gunfight.
Then the film finishes with…a clichéd torture scene, a car chase, and an enormous gunfight.
The scenes in and of themselves have their own little quirks (particularly when the age-old cliché of “oh look, the ___ in your coat pocket stopped the bullet!” totally fails to work in Harry’s favor), but the entire action climax still feels rather unnecessary.
Raptor Gymnastics – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The Ending - Road to Perdition
Even though Road to Perdition is loosely based off the archetypical story of Lone Wolf and Cub and the general structure of Greek Tragedy, it still managed to contain a pretty unpredictable storyline. Characters die much earlier than you think they should, the narrative thrust of the film changes several times over, and the characters never fall victim to torturously long scenes of dialogue where they tell the audience their personal feelings (see: In America).
The ending turns all that around. After father and son seem to be out of danger, Jude Law shoots Tom Hanks in the back a few times (surprise, surprise), and then inexplicably leaves his gun unattended so that Michael Sullivan, Jr (Tyler Hoechlin) can pick it up and consider killing him with it. Mike stares down the gun at his father’s murderer. Jude Law approaches him, hand outstretched. Suddenly, a loud “BANG” – and Jude Law slumps to the floor, revealing Tom Hanks, not yet dead, holding a smoking gun.
With such an otherwise unconventional storyline, why fall back on the “kill the protagonist for no real reason” cliché simply to elicit sympathy? And if you’ve gotta do that, then why shoot the scene exactly like the part in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indy has a gun pointed at him, we hear a gunshot, and we see that Marion has shot his attacker? The film waits until the very end to become clichéd, but it works in about a half-dozen of them before the end credits start rolling.
Bill and Bea talk – Kill Bill: Volume 2
Not the fight between the two of them, mind you – the fight is unconventional and cool. The real problem is the conversation they have beforehand. For all the blood and guts and samurai swords, Kill Bill is a pretty subtle movie. Apart from O-Ren Ishii, we are never given the backstories of any particular character, and the film relies on inference and nuance more often than it doesn’t (we never find out what did Bill did that pissed off Hattori Hanzo so much, for example).
Which makes it all the more tragic that Bill’s conversation with Bea not only includes a ridiculously out-of-place pop culture monologue directed at the audience (in this case, the subject is Superman’s similarities with The Bride), but basically re-tells the audience dozens of these they already inferred for themselves.
We know why Beatrix ran away with Bill’s baby. We know why she let him think she was dead. Hell, Bill should know these things too, unless he’s absolutely retarded. Gee, you’re a remorseless killer who made his fortune by killing innocent people the world over. Is it really that surprising that your wife might want to take a child away from all that? And that she would want to follow him? Does Bill know women at all?