5 Movies Made Possible by Characters Who Suck at Their Job
Hollywood movies often show us people who are ridiculously good at their jobs, like cops trained to avoid massive explosions, doctors who catch serial killers or IT guys who single-handedly stop alien invasions. However, it turns out that the plots of a lot of these movies can be tracked down to some other jackasses totally half-assing it at their jobs, either because they are bad at it or simply because they don't feel like trying that day.
So if you're reading this at work right now instead of finishing that report, keep in mind that you might very well be setting off the plot of movies like ...
Die Hard: With a Vengeance -- The Random Cop Who Fails to Recognize a Wanted Terrorist He Just Saw
In Die Hard: With a Vengeance, John McClane (Bruce Willis) must once again stop a needlessly complicated criminal plot by a German guy named Gruber. Armed with bombs, Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) forces McClane to complete a series of tasks all over New York City -- like standing in the middle of Harlem with an antagonistic sandwich board.
"I'm not racist! Some of my best sidekicks are black."
While this happens, we see McClane's boss going through some recent crime reports with another NYPD detective called Ricky Walsh, who only appears in the film for a few minutes ... but might just be the most important character in it. Why? Because Gruber's entire plan wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for Ricky's ineptitude.
The nerd with the glasses.
You see, in this scene, Ricky tells the boss that 14 dump trucks were just stolen out of Staten Island; they even joke that it was McClane's landlady cleaning his apartment. Later, the FBI brief McClane and his fellow officers on who the bad guys really are, showing them pictures and telling them that although they are German, they are known for imitating American accents to fool people.
They spent months perfecting their yippie-ki-yays.
And guess who's sitting right there as the feds show these pictures? That's right: Ricky.
"Can we open a window? The brown stuff on McClane isn't mud."
So, to recap, Ricky knows that 14 dump trucks have been stolen, he knows what the bad guys look like and he knows that they can imitate American accents. Cut to a couple of scenes later as Ricky is conducting crowd control at the site of a previous bombing, near the Federal Reserve ... when 14 dump trucks show up out of nowhere, driven by a bunch of tall, blond, menacing-looking guys.
"I am humble American garbage-person. Pay me no mind."
Ricky seems confused for about two seconds, until a man in a suit explains that they're from the city -- a guy who happens to look exactly like the picture of a wanted criminal that the feds showed him not even five minutes before.
"Holy balls, are you David Bowie?"
Not only does Ricky not recognize Gruber, the bad guy whose voice he and every other cop in the city have been hearing for the past day, but he actually escorts his men to the site of the bombing and gets himself killed. They fooled him exactly like the FBI said they would: by magically talking like Americans instead of Germans.
So Gruber gets into the National Reserve and steals all the gold using the 14 trucks, forcing McClane to go after him. Everything that happens after this point is entirely Ricky's fault for being the worst detective ever. Good thing Ricky wasn't also a cop at the Nakatomi Plaza building some years earlier, or -- wait, who's this here?
No Country for Old Men -- Tommy Lee Jones Is Seriously the Worst Sheriff Ever
In No Country for Old Men, a dude by the manly name of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles upon the bloody aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong and takes off with a case full of money, only to find himself chased by the most ruthless killer and haircut Texas has ever seen: Anton Chigurh (played by Javier Bardem).
If he'd been in Terminator, there'd be no John Connor or Skynet.
At the same time, local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) tries to track down Chigurh and the drug cartel -- or at least he gives the appearance of trying, because despite being a central character, he doesn't actually accomplish anything.
Besides musing about the past and practicing his disappointed look.
For starters, when Bell arrives at the scene of the drug deal, his deputy immediately notices that the inspection plate was taken off of Moss' car -- meaning that someone took it in an attempt to track down Moss. The next step would be going to the DMV and catching whoever's trying to run the plate (this was the '80s, so you couldn't look that up online), but Bell never does. Maybe he just hated the DMV as much as we do.
Bell then goes to Moss' trailer and finds out that someone was just there, presumably a killer looking for Moss. The dumb deputy (who is turning out to be far more competent than the real sheriff) wants to go look for the killer, but Bell says no, because they don't know what he looks like. If they'd bothered to talk to the other people in the trailer park, though, they could have gotten a description of Chigurh from the neighbor who just talked to him. Instead, Bell just sits there and calmly serves himself a glass of milk.
"Let's play a quick game of Risk while we mull this over."
Later, Moss' wife tells Bell that Moss will be at a hotel in El Paso, which means that the drug cartel and Chigurh will probably be heading there, too. She just made his job 1000 percent easier. But, rather than calling over the El Paso authorities, Bell decides to drive there himself ... which takes six hours. As a result, he gets to the motel literally at the exact moment members of the cartel are driving away after killing everybody.
You can see how bummed he was to miss the shootout.
He did promise Moss' wife that he would go to him alone, but that doesn't stop him from at the very least telling the El Paso police, "Hey, maybe you should station a patrol unit in front of this motel. Everyone is about to be murdered."
At this point we're pretty sure he's messing up on purpose, and considering the fact that he's the only main character to escape the movie unharmed, perhaps he had the right idea.
"I couldn't care less about crime, I'm only in it for the sweet headgear."
Speed -- Keanu Reeves Forgets He Has a Badge
In Speed, Keanu Reeves is a member of the LAPD bomb squad involved in a game of Wile E. Coyote vs. Road Runner with Dennis Hopper, who is never without pounds of explosives. Hopper, a disgruntled police officer, rigs an LA bus to explode if it goes under 50 mph. However, the device will only activate itself after the bus reaches that speed in the first place, and Hopper kindly explains his whole plan to Keanu just in time for him to prevent the whole thing.
"Wait, uhh, forget what I said. Can I call you back in 10 minutes?"
Keanu jumps into his car and manages to find the bus while it's still going pretty slow. All he has to do is 1) show the driver his badge 2) tell him to stop and 3) not act like a damned maniac, and the whole situation can be averted. And so, leaving his car in the middle of a traffic jam, Keanu runs to the bus ...
If this had been a Tom Cruise movie, this scene would've been 10 minutes long, and without a traffic jam.
... fairly easily catches up to it (that's how slow it's going), gets in the driver's line of view ...
... and proceeds to smash the window with his elbow.
"Hey! HEY! CAN YOU BREAK A FIVE?"
See, he's already failing the "not act like a damned maniac" part -- instead of taking out his badge or, you know, just saying "I'm with the LAPD," he breaks the windows and starts yelling at the driver to open up while giving him no logical reason to do it.
Did he forget that he wasn't wearing a cop uniform?
The driver probably took one look at Keanu and assumed that he was on drugs or that he wanted to get on the bus to show everyone his genitals -- remember, at this point he's only yelling "open up," not "slow down" (or, and we can't stress this enough, "I am a policeman"). What was Keanu's plan here? Wait for the driver to open the door, then tell him who he is and request that he slow down the bus? Why not start with that part?
Anyway, the driver, being a reasonable, God-fearing person, speeds up, and it's only at this point that Keanu thinks to mention that he's a cop, but there's too much noise -- it's like he intentionally waited for the moment when nobody could hear him to bring up this information.
"Honestly, I just wanted to get some exercise."
Only when he's completely out of the driver's sight does Keanu think to take out his badge and tell him to stop.
"He must not have seen me. Maybe this shiny thing can get his attention."
You know the rest: The bomb is activated, and what follows is 90 minutes of property damage and explosions. Fortunately, Keanu corrected his lack of judgment by being able to safely remove all the hostages (without even shooting most of them) and dealt with Hopper with the proven LAPD strategy of "decapitating Dennis Hopper."
The Shining -- The Children's Doctor Who Ignores Obvious Child Abuse
In The Shining, Jack Nicholson is Jack Torrance, a would-be novelist who slowly loses his mind while working as the caretaker in a haunted hotel and ends up chasing his wife and psychic-powered son with an axe -- all of which could have been avoided if the doctor who examined the kid at the beginning of the movie hadn't dropped the ball.
This is what happens when you hire a pediatrician through Craigslist.
Before the family moves to the hotel, there's a scene where the kid, Danny, is brushing his teeth when he gets a psychic vision of a hotel lobby being flooded with blood (which is a metaphor for what's about to happen, or maybe he's flossing way too hard). Danny blacks out after his vision, and in the next scene we see him being examined by a doctor, who assures his mother, Wendy, that there's nothing physically wrong with him.
One of the movie's many mysteries: Why exactly did she make him drop his pants?
However, the doctor also finds out that, before passing out, Danny was talking to his imaginary friend, Tony. When she asks him if Tony ever "tells him to do things," Danny says he doesn't want to talk about it (which usually means "Yes, all the time").
OK, so the kid just blacked out and hears voices that may or may not tell him to do stuff: That's gotta be in a book somewhere, right? Still, the doctor seems satisfied with Danny's refusal to elaborate and tells Wendy that the whole thing is perfectly normal.
"He's just traumatized because we only buy teddy bears with rape eyes."
At this point, the doctor stumbles upon an important piece of information that she proceeds to completely ignore: When they're talking, Wendy nervously admits that Danny started talking to his imaginary friend after her husband came home drunk and dislocated the kid's arm. She's quick to point out that he doesn't drink anymore, but why isn't the doctor more concerned by the revelation that child abuse has been going on in this household? Colorado state law demands that physicians report that sort of thing as fast as possible, but apparently she never got around to it.
"Little shits have it coming."
Combine this with the fact that Danny mysteriously passed out right after learning that he would be spending the next few months stranded in an isolated hotel with an abusive alcoholic father and a mother who makes excuses for him. How does that not warrant at least a quick call to Child Protective Services? Is there any chance that she heard about what happened later and didn't think "Yeah, totally saw that coming"?
By the way, if this scene sounds unfamiliar, that's because it was cut from international versions of the movie ... presumably because Stanley Kubrick figured it was more realistic if Wendy simply didn't call a doctor after her kid passed out.
Yet, she is not the worst medical professional on this list ...
Shutter Island -- The Psychiatrist Who Tries to Cure a Patient ... by Making Him Crazier
At the end of Shutter Island, Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Teddy Daniels, finds out he's not really a U.S. marshal sent to investigate a crime in a mental hospital, but a patient at said hospital being allowed to live out his delusion as a form of therapy. This was the brilliant idea of Dr. John Cawley (Ben Kingsley), a respected professional who clearly has no clue what he's doing.
"But I have a bow tie! How ... how could I have a bow tie and be wrong?"
Cawley's plan is to let Teddy, a mental patient so dangerous that the other doctors are recommending a lobotomy, roam freely around an island filled with other mental patients while pretending to be a government agent -- which shockingly turns out to have its downsides. For example, Cawley lets him interrogate other patients as part of his mock investigation, and at least one of those interrogations ends with a patient having a nervous breakdown.
And we already know how they deal with problem patients in this hospital.
Add this to the mental stress that the patients had to go through when they were told by their own doctors to lie by pretending to not recognize Teddy and memorize a series of answers for his questions. The plan also involves having all the guards and orderlies stop their jobs for extended periods of time in order to play along with Teddy, leaving even more patients unattended.
"We're getting this as overtime, right?"
Everything Teddy does comes at the detriment of the other patients (from going into a restricted area and abusing isolated patients to forcibly sedating one of their doctors), but what exactly makes him more important than them? Even if it worked, was this highly unlikely plan to cure one guy really worth causing regressions in dozens of others?
Even worse, at one point Teddy knocks out a guard on the coast (which could have killed him if he had hit his head on the rocks) and takes his gun, which turns out to be empty of bullets in anticipation of the attack. This means that at some point, Cawley or someone had to say to the guard, "Hey, can you stand by these rocks holding an empty gun so that a dangerous patient coming down from an antipsychotic drug can attack you?"
"Of course, I mean, what else are you paying me for?"
And we're not kidding about the antipsychotic part: At the end, Cawley reveals that the headaches, shaking and hallucinations Teddy has been experiencing throughout the movie are the result of him being off his meds. So in order to cure him, they were actually making him crazier. But of course it was all worth it, because in the end the elaborate, dangerous ruse completely failed to cure him in any way.
If you want to you can follow Daniel on Twitter.
For more heroes who should've picked a different career, check out 6 Video Game Heroes Made Useless By Supporting Characters and 6 Movie Heroes Who Actually Made Things Worse.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Sad Twist Ending of the Most Heroic Video of the Week.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what Swaim's psychiatrist is doing to his mind.
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