5 Surprisingly Poignant Scenes In Cheesy Action Movies
We expect certain things from certain films. When we watch acclaimed auteur pieces like Parasite or Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, we expect sophisticated direction, intelligent dialogue, and subtle glances that say "Look how subtle that glance was." And when we watch stuff like Transformers 5 and Hobbs & Shaw, we expect a lot of stuff to blow up and a jacked dude to yell orders at his army of slightly less jacked dudes. So it's always a surprise and a pleasure when some elements of the former category seemingly get randomly dropped into the latter. Like how ...
In Surviving The Game, Gary Busey Delivers A Powerful, Traumatic Monologue
Nowadays, if someone mentions the 1994 Ice-T action movie Surviving The Game, they're either confusing it for Hard Target (essentially the same movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme) or they're an academic desperately trudging through every adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game for their Criterion Collection essay. But I have, against all odds, invented a third category. I want you to know about Gary Busey's three-minute "Prince Henry Stout" soliloquy.
Right now you might be imagining a wide-eyed Busey screaming every word while saying "Yee-haw" at least 17 times. However, in 1994, Busey hadn't yet succumbed to addiction and behavioral swings that stemmed from a traumatic motorcycle accident he survived in 1988. Before his days of annoying people on reality television shows (who awfully mocked his mental state), he was an accomplished character actor who was nominated for an Academy Award in 1979 and appeared in movies like Lethal Weapon, Under Siege, Predator 2, and The Firm. Busey is Memorable Supporting Actor Royalty.
Surviving The Game is about rich people hunting a homeless man named Jack Mason in the woods of Washington state. And it's largely forgettable, aside from this scene. When Mason asks Busey's character, the antagonist Doc Hawkins, about how he got a scar on his cheek, he unleashes a speech about his "birthmark" that seems to belong in an entirely different movie.
Instead of going WAY over the top, as you'd expect from the bad guy in a '90s-era Ice-T movie, Busey elegantly delivers a classy monologue about how as a 13 year old, he was forced to murder his pet bulldog with his own hands, getting the scar in the process, which was taken to signify he had become a man.
It's full of little moments and mannerisms that paint a portrait of a man who has internalized violence in ways even he doesn't fully understand. And it's all done in a restrained manner that's entirely unlike the man-turned-meme that modern Hollywood has decided Busey is.
In The Rock, A Michael Bay Supporting Character Actually Feels Like a Real Person
Modern Michael Bay films are loaded with an insane amount of confusing action, wanton destruction, and broad emotional beats that usually boil down to "Bummed that the bad guy isn't dead yet" and "Elated that the bad guy is finally dead." That's why Bay's 1996 film The Rock feels like a straight-up masterpiece in comparison. Coherent direction! Characters who suffer from occasional inner turmoil! It's like a real movie, y'all.
The Rock focuses on rogue general Francis Hummel and his compatriots taking over Alcatraz and holding 81 tourists hostage for $100 million. If the ransom isn't paid, they threaten to unleash rockets loaded with deadly nerve gas on San Francisco. Since it's an R-rated action film directed by Michael Bay, things go sideways for Hummel and his mercenaries, as they are forced to deal with Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery. And when Hummel realizes the government has called his bluff (he never planned on using the missiles), his loose cannon henchmen realize they won't be receiving the money he promised.
The ensuing argument between the "good bad guys" (Hummel and his second-in-command, Major Baxter) and the "bad bad guys" (Captain Darrow and Captain Frye) leads to a Leone-esque standoff. Sergeant Crisp (Bokeem Woodbine), who has been with Hummel since Desert Storm, stands out. He's clearly annoyed he won't be getting any money, but he also doesn't want to kill civilians or hurt his mentor.
As the argument between the two factions gets heated, Crisp is ordered to disarm Hummel, and it's obvious that he didn't expect the escalation. Eventually Crisp is shot in the chest by his mentor, and his face manages to progress from shock to the profound sadness of betrayal as he dies ... all in about two seconds.
Other scenes on this list give the actors some nice dialogue to work with. Here all we presumably had on the page was "GETS SHOT." Woodbine managed to take those couple of seconds and infuse them with gut-wrenching tragedy.
In Masters Of The Universe, Skeletor Muses On Loneliness
Masters Of The Universe is a nostalgia-filled guilty pleasure that tells the story of Dolph Lundgren's He-Man battling a deadly skeleton on a planet called Eternia. It didn't have a lot of power at the box office, but it features an " all-time great cinematic villain" performance by Oscar-nominated actor Frank Langella. Remember Frost/Nixon? That dude was once Skeletor.
Despite being covered in heavy prosthetics, Langella believably fused Shakespearean hubris and childish bratitude to create a Skeletor who is more watchable than any other aspect of the movie. Langella worked closely with the director to create a worthy villain who says things like "Hmmm, a curious quartet" and "Madness! I demand of destitution, shame, and loneliness of scorn. It is my destiny! It is my right! Nothing will deter me from it!" Normally this kind of villain in this kind of movie wouldn't be allowed to wax poetically, and would mostly just scream about opening a portal until Thor dropkicks him into one.
And that makes his now-famous line all the better. During the climax of the movie, a gold-clad Skeletor has He-Man captured, and he starts chastising him because his friends aren't there to save him. Then he drops this Macbeth-ian nugget: "Where are they? Where are your friends now? Tell me about the loneliness of good, He-Man. Is it equal to the loneliness of evil?"
Ignore the fact that the Skeletor's lips are barely moving, or how he somehow conjured gold out of nowhere when he became Mecha-Skeletor. The dude is super lonely at the top, and he wants to know if He-Man is lonely too. Which is pretty inspired, and more than a little sad. It humanizes a villain who has lived by a certain creed to achieve his goals. Though it also may be a slight reference to the fact that the winner of four Tony Awards is doing his best to uplift a late '80s He-Man movie.
In The Mummy Returns, The Antagonist Is Allowed A Heartbreaking Death
Despite pulling in a gargantuan $423 million worldwide, The Mummy Returns is mainly remembered for slapping Dwayne Johnson onto a terrible CGI scorpion. It's a true "hold my beer" moment of rushed special effects that overshadows the excellent acting that happens after action star Brendan Fraser is allowed to murder action star the Rock (That might be the most 2001 sentence ever). The temple they're in starts collapsing, and a fissure leading to the Underworld separates Rick and final boss bad guy Imhotep from their partners, Evelyn and Anck Su Namun, respectively. After an ill-fated leap, Rick and Imhotep find themselves hanging on for dear life as souls try to drag them to Hell, or whatever the equivalent of Hell is in this series' mythology.
Despite the falling rocks and Rick's pleas that she save herself, Evelyn braves the gauntlet and saves him (because Evelyn is DOPE). Meanwhile, Imhotep pleads to Anck Su Namun for help. Instead she runs away and gets eaten by bugs.
Arnold Vosloo acts the crap out of the moment. His eyes well up with tears, and he shows a vulnerability we didn't know an ancient murderous mummy-man could have. He even smiles at Rick and Evelyn, whose ride-or-die love makes him acknowledge that his centuries-spanning relationship with Anck Su Namun has been based on lust and desire, not true "Take my hand!" love.
He whispers "Anck Su Namun" and after about three seconds of glorious acting, he resigns himself to an eternity of heartbreak and ghouls. If only the filmmakers had put as much effort into the CGI Scorpion King as Vosloo put into being empathetic in this moment.
In Punisher: War Zone, Two Insane Brothers Bond While Breaking Mirrors
Lexi Alexander's Punisher: War Zone is a "see it to believe it" spectacle that focuses on a burly man named Frank Castle killing the absolute ever-living shit out of criminals, parkour enthusiasts, and cannibals. Throughout his bloody revenge tale, he obliterates the lair of a good-looking criminal named Billy "The Beaut" Rusotti, a man who loves looking at mirrors. Because he is so damn beautiful, see?
During the melee, Billy falls into a glass-crushing machine (as one does) which slices him up and leaves his face looking like a tray of seven-layer lasagna. After several lackluster surgeries, he adopts the name "Jigsaw" and embarks on a mission to kill the Punisher. And to bulk up his crew, he frees his cannibalistic brother Looney Bin Jim from an asylum, allowing Jim to eat the orderly who harassed him on the way out. (Note: This movie is bonkers.)
Eventually Jigsaw moves into a penthouse that is home to a plethora of mirrors, which causes him to break down: "Just when I think I'm OK, I catch my reflection in the mirror. Look what he's done to me!" In a sincere moment of fraternal understanding, Jim responds, "Don't cry, brother. I promise you two things. One, I will kill Castle, slowly and painfully. And two, you will never have to look at your reflection as long as you're with me." He then starts slamming himself into the mirrors.
He carries out this task with such glee, and is met with such unbridled joy from his brother, that it's about as touching as a sequence can get in a movie like this.
These crazy brothers love each other, and it's cool that Looney Bin Jim (who is, again, a cannibal) would literally throw himself into making sure that Jigsaw doesn't have to look at his sewn-up mug. If only we could all have human-eating siblings who would use their own bodies to destroy things that depressed us.
Check out Mark Hofmeyer's podcast Movies, Films and Flix anywhere you listen to podcasts. He just unleashed a new series about the dumb movie data he puts together, which has been covered on Cracked, The A.V Club, Bloody Disgusting, Dread Central, ComicBook.com, and Wired.
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