25 April 2009

Put Up Your Dukes!

Roger Ebert created a cottage industry with his dictionary of film cliches. Celluloid stalwarts such as the fruit cart (or any other mode of transport groaning under the weight of loose items that go flying when the protagonist or antagonist careens into it) and the Fallacy of the Talking Killer (giving the hero enough time to free himself) are enshrined in Ebert's dictionary.


May I humbly offer another entry? I call it:

Put Up Your Dukes!

Definition: regardless of the availability and advanced technology of weapons seen throughout a film (missiles, guns, killer robots) and the physical distance between them in the early stages, the hero and the villain will inevitably be brought face to face with only their fists as weapons. The hero will also be placed in a near-death situation (chokehold, dangling from ledge of building) but engineer a complete and unexpected (?) reversal leaving the villain to die the horrible death he had planned for the hero.

Corollary 1: The villain may engage in a Talking Killer soliloquy but it's usually of the short epitaph variety ("Sorry Jack but you had your chance!" etc.). The hero will refrain from any speechmaking until the villain meets his grisly end at which point the hero will utter something pithy, ironic and/or memorable (the screenwriter hopes) through clenched teeth.

Corollary 2: Chase sequences leading up to the Dukes scenario will culminate on abandoned industrial estates, in vacant aircraft hangars or in abandoned factories that nevertheless have full lighting and power (who's paying those bills?). Security personnel can be present in order to dive out of the way of cars, bullets, tanks, etc. in slow motion but will never interfere with the action thereafter and will never trigger an alarm or call the police.

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