If you need any confirmation of how cool the Samurai warriors of Japan were, look no further than the film The Last Samurai. These people managed to survive and kick ass even with Tom Cruise in their midst. It'd be like running a marathon while dragging a dead cow behind you.
Samurai warriors followed the bushido code and were men of honor, believing in loyalty to their masters and the importance of fulfilling their duties even if it meant death. Outfitted in some insanely kick-ass looking armor, they'd rip their enemies six or seven new assholes with a razor sharp sword.
Samurai were noble and, unlike many knights of Western culture, literate and educated. They were patrons of the arts and aspired to be as skilled in them as they were in the ways of war. Samurai were basically Batman, only there were armies of them, on horseback.
Why it Sucked:
The downside to any code of honor is what happens when you step out of bounds, even if it was unintentional. Samurai had to invent the practice of seppuku (ritual suicide via cutting your own guts out) to account for fuck ups in the day to day life of being an aristocratic, ass kicking machine.
Warriors could not be shamed by falling into enemy hands, so any time a battle went awry and a warrior was going to be taken captive, the answer was to spill his own intestines. If the warrior had the time to perform the full ritual, he would bathe, dress in white robes, eat a meal then pull out a knife and slice his guts open from left to right. If he was in a hurry, like on the battlefield, he'd have to settle for a Snickers or whatever was handy, then gut himself on the spot.
Seppuku wasn't just a means of escaping capture, it was also a punishment for pretty much any major infraction committed by a samurai, and was used to redeem lost honor. In the 1860s, French sailors entered a Japanese town unannounced and caused a ruckus as Frenchmen are wont to do. Samurai warriors came to escort them out, but a fight broke out and the sailors were all killed. This pissed off the French who demanded something be done about it. Then, in a move they totally didn't expect, the men responsible committed seppuku, which freaked the French representative out so badly he requested the ritual be stopped and the remaining men spared.
Other reasons to off one's self included being an out of work samurai, fleeing from battle, engaging in battle without permission, and presumably diddling the local shogun's wife. They'd also do it as a form of protest, meaning a disagreement with their master meant the master had a nasty mess to clean up afterward.
So, in a nutshell, your choice was to fight honorably and be stabbed to death by an enemy, or run away and be forced to stab yourself to death as punishment. The fact that they got any recruits at all indicates the other benefits must have been awesome, considering the retirement plan brochure was just a bunch of pictures of guys getting stabbed.
Back in the 40s, if Humphrey Bogart was any indication, being a PI didn't take much more than the ability to wear an overcoat and look cool while shooting people. Through decades of gritty novels and grittier films, private dicks played by their own rules and went where the cops couldn't go.
Sure the world was full of dames and Peter Lorre-looking weasels and everyone was going to try to double cross you. But being a PI at the end of the day you were going to come out on top and retire to your office to have a nice, warm glass of Scotch and wait for the next dame to walk in with a sob story.
Why it Sucked:
While real life PIs could find themselves getting into some hairy situations (Allen Pinkerton got famous for stopping an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln), most movies overlook certain aspects of their lives. Either that or the editors were on the ball when they decided to weed out the countless hours of sitting around doing just short of jack shit.
Many private investigators work for insurance companies or collection agencies, tracking down deadbeats and people trying to scam their way into a disability claim. So you're basically spending hours and hours trying to track down an address, or following some fat guy around who claims his back is too injured to work, waiting for him to pick up something heavy so you can snap a picture of it.
There's also the adultery cases, wives wanting to catch husbands in the act to force a better divorce settlement. This means following the same fat guy around town while he goes about his tedious routine, with the goal of getting photos of him having fat sex with some lady who isn't his wife, praying the whole time that this does not in fact happen.
You'd follow him around. All day.
In reality very rarely do private investigators investigate or solve crimes, since, you know, that's what the cops are for.
Investigators starting out in the industry with an agency can expect to earn around $30,000 a year and will likely only resemble Magnum PI if they elect to grow a giant mustache. The likelihood of a rich benefactor wandering in to ask a PI to find her husband's killer and handing over an envelope full of cash is about as likely as Jessica Biel walking in and asking for a boob massage.
For movies that are depressing for a whole other reason check out Rick's look at 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes. Or find out about some action stars whose careers had a less than happy ending in 5 Movie Martial Artists That Lost a Deathmatch to Dignity.More of Fortey's stuff can be found at Scenic Anemia.
For the people who they should be making movies about check out 7 People From Around the World With Real Mutant Superpowers. Or for horse shit you learned even before you could use the internet, read about The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught In History Class.