5 Dumb Things Movie Characters Do Only to Advance the Plot
Hollywood has endless ways of making us feel bad about ourselves -- movie heroes and villains alike are always sexier, richer, funnier, and far more capable of kung fu than we are in real life. That's why pointing out the dumb mistakes that movie characters make is one of our favorite things to talk about.
These are the times when the filmmakers are hoping you get so enthralled with the action that you forget how much more easily the whole thing could have been resolved, if somebody hadn't dropped the ball ...
The Wolverine -- The Villain Lets Wolverine Go, for No Reason
The villain in The Wolverine (the digitless sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine -- you know, the one that's in Japan) is a wealthy old Japanese businessman named Yashida whom Wolverine saved during World War II by shielding him from the atomic blast signifying America's divine victory. He couldn't shield Yashida from the residual effects of radiation, however, and now Yashida is dying of cancer. So he invites Wolverine to his palatial home in Japan and asks if he wouldn't mind sharing his incredible healing powers so that he, Yashida, might live another two or three lifetimes.
Who wants to live forever? Somebody with a fucking badass pin art bed, that's who.
Wolverine says, "Naw, man," pointing out that his healing factor is more of a curse than a gift. Seemingly respecting his decision, Yashida offers Wolverine a bed for the night. Even though Wolverine has more or less told him, "Good luck with the cancer, brah, I'm still going to look like I'm 40 when you're two decades in the ground," he suspects nothing and accepts the old man's hospitality.
"I've condemned this man to death. I foresee no problems with staying over at his house."
Yashida then drugs Wolverine and has his evil mutant doctor inject heart-weakening parasites into his body through the traditional Japanese medicinal art of creeping into his bed and making out with him.
And ending his consecutive streak of 2,169 erotic Jean Grey dreams.
How He Dropped the Ball:
Rather than dragging Wolverine's paralyzed ass back to his lab for immediate healing-factor theft, Yashida decides to let Wolverine go and fakes his own death for no conceivable reason.
Yashida even goes to the trouble of staging a huge public funeral for himself. His granddaughter, fresh off a substantial inheritance, becomes targeted by the Yakuza, and Wolverine feels obligated to protect her, because he and Yashida were super best friends. Yashida (still pretending to be dead) then has his granddaughter kidnapped in order to lure Wolverine into a trap, wherein he finally reveals (twist!) that he's been alive this whole time! Then he attempts to use a giant suit of fantasy science armor to kill Wolverine and steal his healing powers.
By this time, nobody in the audience can even remember what this movie is about.
The movie is hoping you'll be so shocked by the plot twist that you won't stop and realize how laughably difficult the villain made things on himself: Why bother with the circuitous evil plan when Yashida had Wolverine drugged and defenseless within the confines of his millionaire fortress 30 minutes into the film?
Couldn't he have just climbed into his battle suit and stolen Wolverine's chi while he was passed out in the guest room? He was clearly drugged enough to let the Sex Doctor sneak up on him and give him heartworms. There was literally no need for any of this other bullshit. This movie should've been the equivalent of Wolverine waking up in a bathtub full of ice without his kidney.
The Departed -- Billy Discovers the Identity of the Mole, Then Just Leaves
The Departed, Martin Scorsese's gritty reimagining of Trading Places, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy Costigan, a cop who goes deep undercover inside the organization of mob boss Frank Costello. Meanwhile, Costello has one of his own people, crooked police detective Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), working as a mole inside the Boston police department.
After Costello gets killed in a shootout eerily reminiscent of the ending to Lethal Weapon 3, Billy winds up in Colin's office at the police station for a debriefing. When Colin steps out of the room to update Billy's file from "secret cop" back to "regular cop," Billy notices an envelope in his handwriting sitting on Colin's desk -- an envelope he gave to a member of Costello's gang earlier in the movie.
"Dear God ... Does this mean he has the dick pics I gave that guy, too?"
Billy already knows there is a mole in the police department, so the instant he spots that envelope on Colin's desk, he knows Colin is the mole. Armed with this incriminating information, Billy can immediately go to his superiors to expose Colin and earn a substantial pay raise and possibly a congratulatory parade.
How He Dropped the Ball:
The first step of Billy's brilliant plan is to sprint out of the police station.
When Colin returns to his office and sees that Billy is gone, he realizes that Billy has figured out his true identity ...
"Hey, Billy, it's all set ... where'd he go? Shit! I really need to stop leaving incriminating evidence in haphazard piles on my desk."
... so he immediately runs back to the computer and erases all evidence that Billy was ever a cop.
This should really be more difficult to accomplish.
You see, Billy's undercover operation was so secret that only two other cops knew about it -- one of them is dead, and the other is Marky Mark. As far as anyone else knows, he's just a criminal informant. So why did Billy suddenly flee the station like it was haunted? If he just sat there like nothing was wrong and completed the meeting, Colin would never have known he'd spotted the envelope, and Billy would've been able to stroll right down the hallway to the captain's office and say, "Hey, I'm an undercover detective fresh off a several-month stint in Frank Costello's gang, and I know who the mole in our department is." It's not like Colin is going to shoot him in the middle of the police station, and until Billy darted out of there like his hair was on fire, Colin had no idea Billy even suspected him.
Instead, Billy needlessly tipped off a guy with the power to erase his entire existence. He trades damning evidence and the element of surprise for a life on the run with nothing to back up his seemingly insane claims of being a police officer.
"The delete key on his computer looks broken. I should be fine."
Taken 2 -- The Bad Guys Hold Liam Neeson Hostage, Let Him Finish His Phone Call
After wiping out most of Europe in Taken, Liam Neeson (played by Liam Neeson) finishes the movie by rescuing his teenage daughter from vicious sex-trafficking gangsters. In Taken 2, an Albanian mobster named Murad wants revenge, because as fate would have it, Murad's son was one of the anonymous criminals Liam Neeson obliterated in his quest for justice. Murad decides to kidnap Neeson's entire family while they're vacationing in Istanbul, because apparently he did not watch the first movie. After a thrilling chase sequence, Murad's men corner Liam and his wife, Lenore, in an alley, where they force him to surrender. That should be the end of the movie, right? Just tie some chains to him and throw him in the sharkiest part of the ocean.
It's not like Liam Neeson can eat a shark. Well, probably not.
How They Dropped the Ball:
Liam Neeson is on the phone during that harrowing standoff. Due to some decision-making process that cannot possibly be diagrammed, the bad guys allow Liam to finish his phone call. Seriously, he spends 30 seconds on the goddamned phone in the middle of a stare-down with armed men holding his wife hostage before finally allowing himself to be taken captive.
"Can you guys please give me another couple minutes? I'm still on hold. Thanks!"
Now, we know that Liam is on the phone with his daughter, Kim, and is giving her a detailed set of instructions in order to help get her to safety and rescue him and his wife. This is already a pretty huge blunder on the part of the bad guys, because had he not called and warned Kim, she would've been kidnapped as well, and the three of them would've been totally screwed.
But what makes this oversight even worse is that for all the bad guys know, he could be talking to the police or the freaking American embassy, and they make absolutely no attempt to stop him. They're holding his wife hostage at gunpoint right in front of him, so it's not like they didn't have any way of convincing him to hang up the phone. But no, they let him go right on talking. They don't even say a word about it, politely allowing him to finish the call without any noisy distractions.
"No, go ahead and finish. This can wait."
That one goddamn phone call unravels the entirety of Murad's villainous plot. Evidently sex traffickers draw the line at interrupting personal conversations.
"Guys, while I'm on, pizza?"
Lethal Weapon 2 -- Riggs Drops His Girlfriend Off at Home, by Herself, After Barely Escaping an Assassination Attempt
Lethal Weapon 2 taught an entire generation that the only way to revoke diplomatic immunity is to have Danny Glover shoot you in the face. The film's villains are corrupt South African diplomats, but because they're immune to American laws, heroic maniac Martin Riggs can't arrest their apartheid-loving asses.
"I could just wait another year for Nelson Mandela to get released, but what are the odds of that happening?"
Instead, Riggs seduces one of the villain's secretaries, Rika, and takes her back to his depressing suicide-hovel beach trailer for moody sex that abruptly ends when the bad guys show up in a helicopter and fire bullets into his double-axle house.
Because he is a maniac, Riggs is able to blow the attackers away and escape with Rika, which places him in the perfect position to arrest the evil South Africans, because diplomatic immunity doesn't extend to the wholesale helicopter murdering of policemen. He has a crime scene (his trailer), several corpses (hired goons of the bad guys), and a willing witness (Rika, whom he presumably intends to finish having sex with at some point). All Riggs has to do is take Rika to the police station, effectively making Mel Gibson the spokesman for Rainbow Nation, which is credibility he would've found immensely useful down the line.
"Racist? I'll have you know some of my best fictional co-workers are black!"
How He Dropped the Ball:
Instead of going directly to the police station and doing all of that stuff we just mentioned, Riggs decides to take Rika back to her apartment for absolutely no reason.
"Well, our marathon sex session ain't gonna finish itself. And I'm not about to finish myself, either."
Riggs tells Rika to go inside and lock the door while he goes off to do other things that are all of a sudden more important than taking down the criminals who have been systematically killing police officers. In a reveal that should have surprised absolutely no one, the bad guys are waiting for them there, because Rika's house is literally the first place they would go after their assassination attempt failed. They knock Riggs unconscious and throw Rika into the ocean, which is generally fatal (again, this is what the Taken 2 bad guys should have done, but whatever).
Sure, drowning is a terrible fate, but it could've been worse -- she could've kept on dating Mel Gibson.
To be fair, Rika's death motivates Riggs to awesomely pull down an entire bad guy mansion with his pickup truck, but what the hell was his plan when he dropped her off at home? She's a material witness in the attempted murder of an LAPD detective -- procedurally speaking, the first thing he should've done was take her to a building full of armed and vigilant fellow officers and record her statement. Did Rika have to feed her cat or something?
We see Rika's evil boss give her a very sinister ride back to her apartment in an earlier scene, so we already know that place is terribly unsafe. The guy even makes a pass at her and gets pretty upset when she turns him down, which is itself enough to think about maybe moving to a new address.
"I'll wait right out here every night until you change your mind."
Yet immediately after surviving a drive-by shooting via helicopter, Riggs delivers Rika to a secluded, poorly lit residence in California where all the bad guys know they can find her. See, Riggs, we're starting to think it's your fault your wives keep getting killed.
Ghost --The Hero Forgets He Can Use His Ghost Powers to Punch People
In Ghost, Patrick Swayze plays a banker named Sam who gets murdered in a seemingly random street mugging and comes back as a ghost, because why be coy with the title of your movie. Through some gumshoe haunting, Sam learns that his friend Carl hired the mugger to kill him, because Sam was about to discover that Carl was laundering drug money. Also, Carl really wants to have unscrupulous sex with Sam's girlfriend, Molly, and Sam being dead admittedly makes that a whole lot easier to accomplish.
At first, Sam is powerless to do anything to warn Molly or intervene on her behalf, but he eventually learns that he can move physical objects by concentrating really, really hard, because the filmmakers apparently waited until the Friday before filming started to write that portion of the script.
"Someone call James Randi, I want my million fucking dollars."
Sam enlists the help of psychic Whoopi Goldberg, who, due to some terrible atrocity Sam must have committed while he was alive, is the only person with the ability to communicate with him. The two steal Carl's money, and then Sam uses his newfound ability to taunt Carl by repeatedly typing out "MURDERER" and "SAM" on Carl's computer, which would probably freak you out even if you had nothing to do with Sam's death.
"... OK, let me just set this on fire and throw it out the window."
Carl can't see or touch Sam (because ghosts cannot get broke), yet Sam is free to literally smack Carl around with ghost punches and throw any object in the room at Carl's head. This should be the most one-sided fight since the last time Steven Seagal was Under Siege.
How He Dropped the Ball:
Taking the sudden knowledge of the existence of both an afterlife and the vengeful spirit of his murdered friend more or less in stride, Carl heads to Molly's apartment to fight Sam the only way he can -- he threatens to kill Molly unless Sam gives him his money back and stops messing with him.
Why you'd murder someone when you've just learned that ghosts can come back
and slap the shit out of you is a question for another time.
We already know Sam could simply knock the knife out of Carl's hand and Road House him straight out the goddamned window, but instead, he decides to use his impossible paranormal advantage to do absolutely nothing. Seriously, he just lets Carl leave the apartment to pick up his henchman, Willie, and drive all the way to Whoopi Goldberg's house and threaten her with a gun before he suddenly remembers he can dole out phantom spin-kicks to both of those assholes like the ghost of Bruce Lee in a roller rink.
Sam kills Willie, but once again forgets about Carl and goes back to Molly's apartment to make out with her while possessing Whoopi Goldberg's body (see "terrible atrocity," above). Carl shows up and once again threatens to kill both women before Sam finally takes him out.
"Wow, I can't believe you let me keep doing this."
The movie comes up with a half-hearted explanation, in that Sam was "temporarily weakened" by inhabiting Whoopi's body and that's why it takes him so long to finally put the ghost boots to Carl, but there's no reason Carl should have even made it to Molly's apartment in the first place -- Sam could have delivered a spectral choke-slam the instant Carl declared his evil intentions. Now Molly has a dead guy impaled in her windowsill and a varsity dose of post-traumatic stress disorder. He's a terrible ghost.
"Well, I'm off to heaven. Good luck explaining Carl's death and all that drug money to the police!"
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