Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Everyone Moment

There comes a point in many a movie badguy's runtime at which he must impress upon an underling the scale of response needed to a certain situation, usually a threat posed by the hero. I think of this point as The Everyone Moment.

In John Wick, which I watched this morning, that moment goes as follows:

Boss: "Task a crew."
Underling: "How many?"
Boss: "How many do you have?"

I think of this moment as The Everyone Moment, and I like to think that every movie boss also thinks of it that way when their moment comes.

Why do I think of it so?

Because the definitive example of this moment, the instance every movie must now shrug its shoulders and surrender in the face of, is the instance in Leon / The Professional, as executed by Gary Oldman:

There are two reasons why this example will never be bettered. The most important is that Oldman is superb in this role, with barely a human hair's width between where he pitches it and going overboard. His isn't the scariest or even the craziest movie villain - the former honour is shared by the characters played by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas and Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast, to my mind; the latter I don't know, maybe Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight - but he is the zaniest movie villain who still manages to be scary.

The second is the actual scale of response the film delivers, which within the scope of my experience is matched only by the equivalent scene in Terminator 2 when the cops show up at Cyberdyne Systems. But T2's moment doesn't have Oldman.

Part 2:

A somewhat similar point in many action films is that at which the film establishes the badassery of its hero.

In John Wick this moment precedes the film's Everyone Moment by just a couple of minutes. It's a very successful, if slightly ridiculous scene, which starts with the following dialogue:

"It's not what you did, son, that angers me so. It's who you did it to."
"Who, that fuckin' nobody?"
"That fuckin' nobody ... is John Wick."

The badassery-establishing bit follows, but this is the bit that raises the hairs on the back of your neck.

I haven't yet found the definitive example of this moment, but for the time being I think of it as the Ryback's File Moment, from the scene in Under Siege in which Gary Busey's character finds a personnel file on who we previously thought was a mere cook (well, not really, because he's played by Steven Seagal) and proceeds to read it aloud to his fellow badguys. It's a rather blatant scene, but effective nevertheless, mainly because of the great performances of Busey and Tommy Lee Jones:

If anyone wants to offer a suggestion as to the definitive Ryback's File Moment, have at it in the comments.

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