The 6 Most Inexplicable Skills Displayed in Action Movies
Neo lives in the Matrix. John Rambo spent years training in the military and has decades of combat experience. The Terminator is a robot. In each case, the movies make it pretty clear why these guys are badasses, even if what they do isn't totally realistic. In an action movie, we're good with believing that at some point Rambo took a class in how to twist a dude's head off.
But sometimes action movies take annoying liberties, showing everyday dudes doing things that, in the real world, take weeks or months to learn. And dammit, we're not just going to let them get away with it.
Johnny Utah - Point Break
Occupation Impersonated: Professional skydiver
Actual Occupation: FBI agent
Training Time Required: One to four weeks of non-stop training
In this early 90s surf-related bank heist movie, Keanu Reeves plays Johnny Utah, an FBI agent who is forced to go deep undercover as a totally rad surfer to locate and infiltrate a Los Angeles surfing and bank robbery gang.
Only in L.A.!
Utah spends a pretty hefty montage learning how to surf so he can integrate himself into the surfing community, where he attracts the attention and gains the respect and trust of the alpha male of surfing, Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), and his gang (which incidentally is also the gang that's responsible for the bank robberies). Eventually, Utah realizes that the surfers are the robbers, and he even reluctantly accompanies the thieves on one bank robbery that involves skydiving. It's that kind of movie.
When our grand kids ask us what the 90s were like, we will show them this movie and nothing else.
Later, when Bodhi realizes that Utah is in the FBI, he decides to kidnap Utah's girlfriend and make a getaway in a small airplane, because the producers could only secure transportation permits for surfboards, planes and parachutes, for some reason. Utah pursues Bodhi, who exercises his one in-plane escape option: He skydives the fuck out of there with his other criminal surfer friends, leaving Utah out of luck without a chute.
Sure, there is still a pilot and no immediate danger to his life, but Utah is no quitter (or thinker, or planner, or good at his job). Armed with a pistol, Utah jumps out of the plane, totally chuteless and scared shitless, and catching up with Bodhi in mid-air, puts Bodhi at gun point, shares his chute and eventually lands safely. We won't spoil the ending because we don't need to in order to get to the point ...
Utah states, before his skydiving robbery, that he had never gone skydiving in his life. Mind you he also says this about surfing, and while it takes him weeks to master surfing enough to impress Bodhi, it takes him one jump to successfully dive without a chute, goggles, or an altimeter and catch up with another person and piggy back for his life.
Raise your hand if you've gone skydiving. Now we're willing to bet that most of you with your hands up paid about $160 to be strapped to some fat guy who has been doing it his whole life. Don't be embarrassed -- it's called tandem skydiving and, not only is it normal, it is the only way you will be allowed to skydive. No one goes solo his first time out. You get crammed into a tiny plane while strapped to a more experienced diver, and then you get dropped a few thousand feet in the air and you scream, while he pulls the chute. Generally, the experienced diver also handles steering to make sure you don't crash and break your legs like an asshole which, sure as you're born, you would do without his help.
This is not the first lesson in Skydiving School.
The point (break) we are trying to make is that skydiving is for professionals. In our world, it takes someone at least a week of back-to-back tandem jumps and lessons to feel comfortable going it alone, and then another month to be ready to get in a formation with other people, and then it takes infinite time to be comfortable enough to jump out of a plane without a chute or any other equipment. Utah is already fitting into formation on his first jump and casually free-falling for his second.
Also, Gary Busey doing anything with a newspaper besides rolling it up for a coke straw requires too much suspension of disbelief.
Lex Murphy - Jurassic Park
Occupation Impersonated: Computer engineer/control center manager
Actual Occupation: "Hacker"/child
Training Time Required: Six to eight years
This one should annoy every programmer in the audience.
In Jurassic Park, a boy and a girl are part of a rag-tag group spending a weekend trying to survive a camp full of dinosaurs that've escaped their pens, thanks to a parkwide power outage caused by corrupt JP employee/technical wizard Dennis Nedry.
Anyone else notice that fat people ruin, like, everything?
Fed up with his job, Nedry sticks a big, fat, squealing wrench into the park's security system by way of a virus, cluster-fucking it beyond help. Why he feels the need to completely destroy the entire operation on the monster island in order to shut off one security camera is beyond us, but there you go, that's what he did.
And that's when the ball really gets rolling. The island goes tits-up as another engineer, John Arnold (Samuel L. Jackson), tries desperately to override Nedry's handy work and get the park secured. After tracking Nedry's every keystroke used in the past few hours, he finds the source of the virus and concludes the following aloud: "I can't get Jurassic Park online without Dennis Nedry." The system is eventually rebooted, but not before both Nedry and Arnold get killed, leaving the park devoid of anyone who could actually run the complex security system.
There are several design flaws here we won't get into
Lex Murphy, a teenage girl who, while claiming to be a hacker, was seen going nuts over getting to use a CD-ROM drive in the car and, as we have brought up in the past, can't figure out how to use a flashlight, takes only a few minutes to completely restore every system in the park while under threat of immediate raptor death. She simply sits down at a computer, says "I know this" and solves a problem in minutes that a trained computer engineer couldn't solve in hours.
"IT'S OK, I SPEAK COMPUTER."
Let's talk about the park itself. Jurassic Park contains 11 electrified animal paddocks, as well as five secured maintenance buildings, a heavily fortified lodge and visitor's center, two docks and one helipad. There is also a main perimeter fence surrounding it all. All of this is run from the control room in the park's visitor's center through a high-tech Unix security and operations system. This system has been designed to take care of everything from telephone lines and communication to the all the electric barriers and fences, including the individual doors in all the buildings. It is a system so complex that one of the park's regular engineers can't run it alone, and Lex simply "knows it"?
Sort of like how the raptors "know" how to hack their doors.
What could she know? She knows the unique computer system that was specifically invented to run Jurassic Park? Where would she learn that? Just knowing how to operate a computer doesn't quite mean that she can operate that computer. You're probably using a computer right this second, but being able to browse dick jokes on the Internet is a far cry from knowing how to break into a high-tech security system and keeping the world safe from giant monsters.
Ellen Ripley - Aliens
Occupation Impersonated: Consultant and honorary Marine/alien destroyer
Actual Occupation: Warrant officer/salvager/90-year-old
Training Time Required: 12 weeks to five Years, not counting Alien Destroying School
In the beginning of Aliens, Ripley is recovered by a salvage team and brought to the Gateway Station, which is currently orbiting Earth. Once there she is awkwardly told that she has been in hypersleep for 57 years and everyone she ever knew or loved is dead. Due to her appearance of mental instability, Ripley is stripped of her flight license and forced to get a shitty job loading space docks.
We'd take a job with the Condom Disposal Squad if it meant access to that thing.
Later, her old employers lose contact with their colony on LV-426, the planet on which the aliens were first discovered. They decide to send a team of badass space Marines and Ripley (as a consultant), to the planet to find out what happened, and possibly rescue any survivors.
Do the Marines use consultants often?
Ripley is one of the only people with knowledge of the aliens, but that in no way makes her a qualified consultant. She's a 90-year-old, nightmare-infested, post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ridden civilian. She wakes up screaming, talks to her cat and the information she provides is jumbled, half-remembered and incomplete. Bishop the android does a better job conveying information after spending just a few minutes on the aliens' planet.
Further, Ripley has no military training. The Marines must have all attended space boot-camp to get to the rank of Flamethrower-Wielding Alien-Blaster, while Ripley had spent the previous 60 years sleeping and, before that, screaming at giant monsters. Her one lesson involves Corporal Hicks spending a couple of minutes showing her where the trigger is.
"Which button makes it go, again?"
Yet, the entire climax of the film involves her strapping on a machine gun/grenade launcher combo, flamethrower and lots of spare grenades. She conducts a direct assault on the alien queen and manages to use all of her weapons effectively, when just not accidentally murdering herself would have qualified her as a prodigy.
You get so used to that iconic image of her brandishing the guns on the poster that you forget she had no idea how to use any of that stuff.
Countless Car Chase Drivers
Occupation Impersonated: Defense and stunt driver
Actual Occupation: FBI biochemist; prisoner; secret service agent; etc.
Training Time Required: Two weeks for stunt driving school
We love car chases. We're not trying to suck the fun out of them. But it gets silly when movies throw random drivers behind the wheel and they're suddenly squealing around corners and jumping over trains.
One particularly goofy example is in Michael Bay's The Rock. In it, a chase occurs between Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), a geeky FBI biochemist, and John Mason (Sean Connery), a former British officer wrongfully imprisoned for 33 years. Due to a series of totally understandable plot holes, John Mason takes off in a Hummer, and it's up to Goodspeed to chase him down in a Ferrari through the streets of San Francisco. Yes, it's a car chase between a big black Hummer and a bright yellow Ferrari, because Michael Bay directed this movie with his boner.
Not only does Mason outdrive the five cop cars and Goodspeed's adequately fast Ferrari that are following him, he manages to set up elaborate obstacles and shout back aggravating one-liners in the process. An overturned traffic light, a derailed trolley and six explosions that are as sensational as they are unrealistic later, the chase is over.
Mr. Connery's erection would persist for several hours, though.
So let's look at the two men who did all of this amazing stunt driving. Mason, a longtime prisoner, has not driven a car since 1963. On top of that, this particular vehicle he commandeered, the Hummer, was not invented until roughly 1983 -- that's 20 years after Mason was shoved in jail -- and he just jumps in and speeds off and even makes a phone call while outrunning the police. We're sorry, but no matter how badass of a fighter and escape artist he may be, this would not be like riding a bike, because, well ... it's a fucking Hummer.
And let's not forget Goodspeed. The entire point of his character is he's an inexperienced desk jockey whose FBI training days are long behind him. (Even if they weren't, "Stunt-Driving a Ferrari" is not part of the FBI's lesson program.) He spends 80 percent of the film as a scared little bitch when it comes to anything awesome ... that is, with the exception of jumping into a goddamned Ferrari and going bananas in it.
But that film is a freaking documentary compared to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Our heroes, the League (the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, Tom Sawyer, a vampire, and Sean Connery), travel to Venice, Italy. There, decide they have to race ahead of a series of explosions in order to save the city. Tom Sawyer springs into action by jumping in Captain Nemo's automobile and speeding off to intercept the explosions.
The first thing Tom does is make a jump out of Nemo's ship and land in a 360 skid before picking up his fellow Gentlemen. He then haul-asses this white mother down the skinny streets of Venice while dodging gun fire from every direction. Sawyer makes his way past a barrage of exploding and collapsing buildings, barely having the time to swerve around the rain of debris and rock. He ices this cupcake by jumping 50 feet in the air while simultaneously firing a flare gun before landing upside down. So he didn't totally stick the landing, but we are nonetheless impressed, considering the conditions surrounding this whole scenario.
We're not complaining about the explosions, or the fact that this movie is full of invisible men and monsters -- we accept all of that stuff. What upsets us is that Tom is really, really good at driving a car when A) he had never driven one before and B) this was all happening in an era when as far as he knew, cars didn't fucking exist yet. He didn't even have the average modern person's experience of watching other people do car chases.
Also, shooting accurately from a moving vehicle is pretty impressive for someone with a background primarily in fence-painting and mischief.
We hate to spoil all action movies ever, but this is what an actual car chase looks like:
If you want to participate in a car chase more advanced than the, "swerve down the interstate for an hour before smashing through a guardrail" style you see on the local news, you need something called a defensive or stunt driving school. They usually cost a couple thousand bucks and teach a variety of stunts and techniques depending on your skill lvel. We're not trying to be pedantic here, it's just that we're pretty sure all of the drivers participating in those car chases you see on the news all started out thinking it would look like The Fast and the Furious.
In reality, the only humans capable of doing the stunt driving you see in movies are actual, professional stunt drivers. So please, just pull over.
Elizabeth Swann - Pirates Of The Caribbean Trilogy
Occupation Impersonated: Pirate captain/professional swordfighter
Actual Occupation: Heiress
Training Time Required: Anywhere between four years to a lifetime
In the first film we are introduced to Miss Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), a rich governor's daughter whose sole excitement derives from dreams she has of the one time she saw a pirate ship as a child. The only pain she feels is the occasional corset suffocation. Her chief actions in the movie are "look pretty" and "get captured by pirates," both of which she performs admirably. The only actual fighting she does involves hitting a pirate with a curtain rod. That's it.
Nagging does not count as combat experience.
She's equally useless throughout most of the sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Already Running Out of Ideas, and spends the better part of the film either, again, getting captured or screaming helplessly in the background while characters who are actually interesting get into swordfights. That is, until about 01:53:55 in the film. At this point, Swann is surrounded by sea monsters. One second earlier, she was running and screaming from and at the monsters, but at 01:53:55, she picks up a sword and suddenly she's a professional swordfighter going to town on the smelly bitches. She literally just turns around and starts fighting guys with a sword in each hand.
After that she never looks back, and her badassery extends to the third film, Pirates of The Caribbean: Jump That Shark. She starts that movie armed to the teeth with guns and grenades and proves herself to be quite the skilled fighter in battle after battle, sometimes taking on two or three guys at a time. She ends the movie leading a fleet of pirate ships against the British navy, which was a skill she acquired at ... boarding school? At learning-to-be-the-governor's-daughter school?
She got her B.A. in Making Crappy Speeches.
Ever learn to sword fight? Fence? It takes years to just get the stances down perfectly, let alone get comfortable enough to do flourishes and learn to fight multiple people at once. She got it down in, like, four seconds. In her first-ever on-screen sword fight, she actually does that wicked cool thing where you turn around and thrust your swords between your armpits, stabbing your oncoming attackers.
There wasn't that much time between the first and second movies, certainly not enough for her to learn how to be so bitchingly awesome. Between Kiera's total masculine mastery of all things badass and Orlando Bloom's soft face and troubling prettiness, we're having a really difficult time assigning genders in their relationship.
Helen Tasker - True Lies
Occupation Impersonated: Secret spy for the Omega Sector of the United States government
Actual Occupation: Legal secretary/housewife
Training Time Required: Six years just to get through school, probably another 15 to 20 to work really deep in the CIA -- but according to the movie, Harry Tasker has worked for 17 years
Apparently, none of that time was spent practicing enunciation.
The James Cameron-directed True Lies is pure unfiltered action porn. It follows secret agent Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as he tries to foil [unimportant generic terrorist plot] while keeping his identity a secret from his wife, Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis).
As an agent, Harry's one of the best: He scuba dives, he's good with any and all weaponry, he's charming and intelligent, he speaks "perfect Arabic" and presumably several other languages (including "almost English"), he picks locks, he hacks computers and he does whatever else is needed to get the job done.
Why does a top-secret organization need such a fancy logo?
When Harry discovers that his wife is bored to the point of infidelity with his cover story, he decides to use his considerable government resources to send Helen on a fake mission to satisfy her desire for excitement. How this was supposed to make Helen love her boring husband more was never really clear, but in fairness, this was kind of a stupid movie.
Eventually, Harry and Helen get captured by [unremarkable stereotypical bad guys] and suddenly Harry is forced to reveal his past to his wife while they are hostages. Long story short, dozens of dead terrorists and several explosions later, Harry and Helen escape, foil the plans of the [movie villain archetypes] and save the world.
A year later, we see that Helen is now joining Harry on his top-secret spy missions, like Mr. and Mrs. Smith or that new Undercovers show that was so unwatched that in the time it took from this article to go from being written to being published, the show has been canceled -- making the reference even less accessible.
Helen was like that chick from Undercovers. After one year.
After one year?! This is one of the most important and secretive organizations in the world. It's so secretive that employees aren't even allowed to tell their spouses what they do, and she's suddenly qualified to handle it? They gave her a job after less than a year of training working the same job as her best-spy-ever husband? Scuba diving lessons take time. Being fluent in Arabic takes time. Being an expert marksman takes time. Knowing how to handle high-pressure situations and not die takes time. Being psychologically OK with killing people takes time.
Sure, she's fine with the dancing. But how will her nerves hold up to a few minutes of waterboarding?
A year ago, when she was working as a fucking legal secretary, she couldn't do any of these things. The only experience we've seen her have with hostage situations is being an actual hostage, and the only time she fires a gun in this movie is right before screaming and dropping it down a flight of stairs. Harry, on the other hand, has stated that he has worked as a spy for 17 fucking years.
In fairness, Harry can't strip for shit.
It doesn't really matter if you are fucking the assistant manager, promotions just don't work that way. You get bumped up, slowly and based on your skill level. Think about this in any other job ever. This is like getting a job at a major movie theater as an usher and then becoming a projectionist in less than a year. Wait, no it's not -- it's like getting a job as an usher and then becoming the deadliest spy in the world in less than a year.
For more movie good guys we couldn't get behind, check out 6 Famous Movie Wisemen Who Were Totally Full of Shit. Or learn about some movies that pulled a fast one on you, in 8 Classic Movies That Got Away With Gaping Plot Holes.
And stop by Linkstorm to discover which columnist played the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.
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