'Badass' Characters Who Are Actually Bad At Their Jobs
Everyone knows that classic movie moment where Detective Guy HeroCop throws all the files off a desk in a rage, because The Zodiac Limb Bandit left another taunting murder riddle (this time, tattooed as a crossword puzzle on the mayor's severed head).
What the movies don't show you is the office peon whose marriage is falling apart because he has to stay until 11 p.m. daily going on a scavenger hunt for flying budget reports. Because, let's face it, someone like Dirty Harry is a pain in the ass to work with and probably sucks at every other aspect of his career that isn't directly related to shooting serial killers. This isn't a fluke, people -- many of the characters you know and/or love are secretly worse at their job than whatever dickwad co-worker you're picturing at this very moment.
Ethan Hunt Is The Opposite Of Secretive
The very first scene of the very first Mission: Impossible film involves Ethan Hunt interrogating a Russian agent while disguised in the series' signature rubber mask. After that, he infiltrates a party in the same manner, demonstrating once again how crucially vital these fake rubber faces are in covert situations. In fact, up until the first time he is disavowed by the IMF, Mr. Hunt is a regular George Smiley -- focused on the discretion that comes with being a spy. Then he's forced to blow up a giant fish tank and sprint away into the night like a maniac, and he never looks back.
He uses the same technique whenever a girlfriend says, "... I'm late."
After that moment, Ethan Hunt spends the rest of the franchise slowly backing away from tactfulness like it's a drunk 9/11 truther at a dorm party. Each new action becomes more and more high-profile as he opts less and less to use the ever-helpful face-disguising masks in their most needed moments. By the end of the first film, Ethan has successfully shown his face to a train full of civilians before blowing up a helicopter and nearly crashing into the conductor.
It's such a horrific event that we immediately see it on the news in the next scene ...
"A crash happened. And now, sports. Sports happened."
... where Ethan and his friend are toasting a job well done and listening to The Cranberries.
Because nothing says "thrill-a-minute action" like the soft-rock soundtrack from Milk Money.
Yes. Causing a shitstorm of destruction and nearly blowing your cover is declared a victory in this guy's spy book. It's something he continues to do throughout the series, never once thinking to mask his face while infiltrating the Vatican ...
... spying on a guy who knows who he is and what he looks like ...
... or even conducting the violent interrogation of a madman, something that ultimately puts his loved ones in danger.
Anyone else find it weird that MI:3 turned out to be the King Kong Vs. Godzilla of Scientology?
It's like he's trying to make every endeavor either personal or so elaborate and thrill-seeking that covert operations are guaranteed to end up with a media-rattling stuntsplosion. Hell, the most iconic feat of the series involves Ethan sprinting vertically down the tallest building in the world like a shit-housed Spider-Man suddenly realizing he dropped his keys.
Or Batman interrupting his daily climb because he suddenly has to take a dump.
This super-secret spymaster would be greeted by the Dubai PD and a slot on the front page of Reddit by the time he touched the ground. "But he was saving the world!" you note. This is true, but let's drop the pretense that Ethan Hunt is committed to the art of espionage in any substantive way. Dude's got an allergy to both cloaks and daggers. Ethan Hunt's not a spy. He's whatever the diametric opposite of a spy is, which makes him a, uh, Super Fucking Loud-Ass Adventure Man.
There's No Way The X-Men's School Would Stay Open
Before the Muppet Babies redo that was the First Class series, the first X-Men team was formed when Wolverine and Rogue were brought to the X-Mansion, a compound for mutant ruffians to learn their skills far from the Muggle world. In the films, it's the X-Men's primary home base and serves as the their training grounds and living quarters. Also, it's a goddamn school. As in, an actual functioning school with proms and crap. You might've known this already, but I'm not exactly sure anyone has fully appreciated what such an arrangement entails. For instance, here's a scene where all the mutants are being dropped off by their parents at the beginning of the year:
Every parent had the same mutant power of being totally embarrassing and lame.
To reiterate, those are parents leaving their children at a boarding school. Meaning that this isn't some clubhouse for runaway teens; it's a place where adults are dropping their kids off to learn shit like fractions and where the vas deferens is. We see multiple scenes where our heroes are teaching students in a classroom setting. One of the first times we see Storm, she's doing a lecture on the Roman Empire ...
"And that's how quickly I would've drowned Caligula had he tried any of his crap on me."
... which means that every single one of these characters has all the duties of a private school teacher. Right? That includes teaching full semesters, hiring a custodial and kitchen staff, and working toward a real diploma for these kids to graduate with. I can't stress enough how weird these movies get when you realize that a British mind-sorcerer is trying to run a state-accredited high school but keeps getting interrupted by a magnet man hellbent on race war.
Yes, when he's off firing eye lasers, Cyclops is presumably missing parent-teacher conferences and grading homework. Entire classes no doubt had to be canceled because one of their teachers died saving a rocket jet from a dam collapse. What I'm getting at here is that this is a terrible school where the student body is routinely put in danger (and is likely scoring in the negatives on their Regents exams).
This is their version of quiet study time.
I mean, shit, in X-Men 2, the government invades the mansion after the president of the United States is shown a schematic revealing the X-Jet hiding under the basketball court. Now, you could blame the movie's sinister government cabal for revealing this detail, but it's a pretty reasonable reaction. Why would a goddamn prep school need a souped-up Lockheed SR-71? How does every parent not pull their student after the POTUS declares war on the school? Can Xavier not educate hungry minds at a separate location from where he's also training immortal drifters to decapitate giant robots? The first thing Wolverine does in the X-Mansion is stab a teenage student in the chest during a berserker night terror ... and they employ this man as an educator.
Imagine what he does when he catches a kid chewing gum.
Remember: Save for a few students like Iceman and Kitty Pryde, the majority of these kids aren't going to join in on the mutant uprising. Most of them just want to graduate and go to college while learning how to keep their mutant powers under control so they don't wig out and level a supermarket. But they're barely going to be able to score a GED when their art teacher is having an apocalyptic god-war on Alcatraz Island, and all their art supplies have to be purchased by a headmaster who was recently disintegrated by an evil psychic bird. All that, plus the fact that every pubescent hormone sack in that school is forced to sit in long classes with an impossibly attractive teacher who can read their minds.
Wait ... which character did you think I was referring to?
Nero's Crew From Star Trek Would've Mutinied Immediately
Speaking of time-travel reboots -- J.J. Abrams' Star Trek franchise began when a terrier-faced Romulan named Nero overshot his time travel and accidentally killed Captain Kirk's father.
According to Old Man Spock in the first film, Nero went full tilt after his home planet Romulus was destroyed by a supernova star in 2387. Spock, having failed to stop the planetary holocaust in time, accidentally created a space rift with some jazzy goo called "red matter" -- the substance he intended to use to prevent Romulus' destruction if only he could've estimated his travel time more precisely and hadn't needed to stop every 15 space minutes to void his elderly bladder. Nero uses the very red matter to go back in time to 2233, where he waits for 22 years before eventually destroying Vulcan in 2255 -- his logic being that since Spock failed to save his planet, he will in turn wreck Spock's planet like some kind of giant space baby.
"If I can't have a world to live on, nobody can!"
So, Nero captured Spock to make him watch his planet explode for not saving the destruction of his ... which doesn't occur until 2387. If you're paying attention, you realize Nero traveled back to 2255 to detonate Vulcan, which means that his home planet Romulus hasn't actually exploded yet. It won't happen for another 150 years. That means that, during the entire 12-year span of Nero's search for Spock, Romulus has been quietly hanging out, holding their weird Romulan dicks and being blissfully unaware that everything around them is going to vaporize a century later.
Hey Nero, here's a revenge plot for you and your tribal tattoos: Go save your idiot planet. The only reason Spock failed before is because he didn't make it in time. You have the red matter and a 150-year head start, knuckleface! Why are you wasting literal decades, putting bugs in people's ears and murdering Winona Ryder, when you could save your other-world wife and kids a full century before they're even born?
Work first, insect torture second.
This seems as good a time as any to point out that Nero is the captain of a giant ship filled with other Romulans, all of whom presumably have yet-to-be-conceived friends and relatives waiting for them back on Romulus.
"Hey, want to save our civilization and be hailed as heroes?"
"Nah, let's spend the next 20 years masturbating in the dark."
How in the world wasn't Nero mutinied the moment he sharted out his elaborate scheme with everyone else? Did no one on the ship realize their Doc Brown advantage meant everything they loved had yet to be exploded in a galactic firestorm? Otherwise, I can't imagine a work environment with a more scathing suggestion box than this.
The Shadowy Government Cops In V For Vendetta Should Have Had No Problem Finding V
In V For Vendetta, the police regard our hero with the same frustrated mysticism as one would afford the ghost of Batman. V is always one step ahead and can come and go as he pleases during his year of notoriety as Public Enemy No. 1 ... but only because the dystopian police tasked with his disposal are so inept that they couldn't find a book burning in a blizzard. For starters ... just look at him:
He dresses like the kabuki Sheriff Of Nottingham, in a city that has wall-to-wall surveillance and corrupt night patrolmen.
We actually have wall-to-wall surveillance in the real world, and they're called smartphones.
For any other superhero, going anonymous is as simple as a wardrobe change. For V, his operatic rags are the only thing between the public and a six-foot-tall head-to-toe burn victim who dresses like ghost Zorro. And yet, for some reason, this caped tautogram master has managed to elude the city's extensive surveillance system for a solid fucking year. And I'm not talking about a year of Howard Hughesing it up in some windowless den; V is actively engaged in a high-profile killing spree during this time.
V's visceral vacation, very vicious. Verily.
It's no surprise a private residence or church wouldn't have surveillance cameras on the inside, but is no one in this Big Brother government watching from the outside? After all, V isn't quietly sneaking into these places through underground passages; he's flipping on rooftops like a goddamn Assassin's Creed character.
But if we spice up our parkour with a little righteous murder, suddenly we're the assholes.
Hell -- the dude takes over a TV station in the middle of the day, is seen on security footage kidnapping Natalie Portman ... and is somehow not tracked as he lugs her down flights of stairs like a wet sack of laundry? How does he even make it past the lobby? By reciting another impressive poem?
Or bribing the guards with vodka, veal, and venison?
Even if he's expertly avoiding detection somehow, any benefit of the doubt you might give these clowns instantly dissolves when London's most wanted terrorist manages to mail thousands of masks to every citizen through the government's own postal system.
When you absolutely, positively have to remember, remember the 5th of November overnight.
How did V even manufacture that many masks without setting off a series of red flags or leaving a paper trail? Did the postal service not find it weird that they were suddenly handling thousands of identical boxes without X-raying them or figuring out where they came from? Forget all the torture and oppression: If your tyrant government is thwarted by its own system for delivering greeting cards, it probably needed to be overthrown.
The Secret Service In Iron Man 3 Is Worse Than The Real-Life Secret Service
One of the most balls-out sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes from Iron Man 3, when Tony Stark is forced to save Air Force One passengers from a vertical splat by daisy-chaining 13 screeching civilians like an X-Games version of Red Rover. I can't stress enough how awesome this scene is ... even though the series of events leading up to it is as impossible to comprehend as the Hulk singing "Mr. Tambourine Man." Let's start all the way at the beginning ... with this guy:
Who ultimately failed because it's hard to fight when you can't put your arms down.
The Iron Monger suit from the first film was instantaneous proof that other people had the ability to re-create Tony Stark's design. From there to the first Avengers film, we saw multiple people not only steal the Iron Man suit technology but hijack entire suits piloted by other people. Additionally, there was the introduction of Loki, a living god with the ability to change his appearance to infiltrate any government installation or art museum.
So by the time we get to Iron Man 3, danger seemingly lurks every-fucking-where. There are alien portals, shapeshifting entities, and knowledge that a dude wearing an Iron Man suit isn't necessarily on your side. And yet, when an evil henchman disguised as Iron Patriot comes stepping up to Air Force One, the Secret Service and Army let him on the plane without a single security check. This catastrophic lack of protection is what sets into motion the entire last half of the film, when the Iron Patriot impostor kidnaps the president.
But here's what's infinitely weirder than no one questioning the villain casually boarding Air Force One: Even if it was Rhodes, why would they let an armored rocket man on the plane in the first place? You're harboring the leader of the free world, you simpletons ... why would you also invite a reactor-powered human tank into the same fuselage? What if he bumps his head while trying to take a dump and accidentally lasers a hole through the cockpit? Just the exhaust alone would hotbox them all with lung cancer.
And if they needed him that bad for protection ... what good is he inside the plane, anyway? Aren't the bad guys going to attack from the outside? Did everyone forget that the man who flew to board the plane can totally fly? From the sheer routine of the situation, I'm guessing this isn't even the first time they've done this. So either everyone who works for the president has the mind of a child or the commander in chief just wants an excuse to coax Rhodes into letting him wear his sweet rocket gloves.
Agent Fox Mulder Is A Goddamned Maniac
I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Agent Fox Mulder is a porn-addicted sociopath who has never actually officially solved an X-File in his life and would be fired multiple times over (if not outright thrown in prison) for numerous very public acts of insanity. Let's start with Season 3, when this happens:
That's the carnage of a commercial plane crash that claimed the lives of everyone on board, no doubt affecting hundreds of family members and attracting the media -- all of whom understandably want answers. And when various law enforcement agencies conduct a meeting to sort out the wreckage, FBI Agent Mulder strolls in to interrupt a crowded room and announce that one of the passengers was a previous alien abductee.
"I will personally check every rapidly decaying ass for signs of probing if I have to. And because I want to."
They look at him like a talking marmot. But even if these people believed him, hundreds of civilians are dead -- the fact that one of them saw aliens isn't relevant to the rescue operation. The guy in charge even takes a moment to clarify whether Mulder is speaking for the FBI or just his own diseased brain. This pretty much sums up Mulder's interaction with the public as a whole -- at best, he's being asked multiple times to prove he's actually a government agent, and at worst, he's waving his gun at a crowd of veterans during a public rally because he saw an invisible man.
Crazy people don't need glasses to reenact They Live.
This is a thing that happens in the show -- and I can't imagine it didn't at least make the local paper with the headline "FBI Agent Has Public Breakdown, Screams At Ghost." But at least in this case, Mulder knew specifically what he was actually dealing with. In most cases, this wing-tipped loose cannon will have only a sliver of the story before wildly jumping to conclusions. Seeing him accuse a man mourning his child's death of being a baby-snatching demon has to make you wonder how many other times he's said this and been wrong. Like when he sweatily drives a wooden stake through a kid's heart thinking he's a vampire, only to discover he has fake fangs.
"You're ... killin' me ... Smalls ..."
This action lands the FBI in a whopping $446 million lawsuit. Only due to Mulder's superhero-like luck, the kid actually turns out to be a vampire in the end -- and his body goes missing from the morgue. And ... for some reason ... that's all it takes for the FBI to move on like one of their agents didn't just stab a teenager in the heart and probably steal his body to avoid prosecution.
In another episode, Mulder decides to let a serial child murderer out of prison, without informing any of his superiors, because the killer claims to know where Mulder's missing sister is buried (Spoiler: He doesn't know). Seriously -- Mulder just takes a dangerous monster out of prison and flies him commercial across the country ...
At least he's responsible enough to not spring for first class.
... before bringing him to a hotel, at which point Mulder falls asleep and has a vivid dream about letting the killer go, only to wake up and discover that he has actually let the killer go. The murderer then kidnaps a little girl and brings her to an abandoned bus.
Apparently, he didn't have the time to dream that little girl bludgeoning her kidnapper to death.
So just to recap: A child's life is in danger because Mulder broke a serial killer out of prison and then set him free in a dream. I can't stress this enough: When Scully and Skinner find Mulder, he actually says, "I must have let him go in my sleep," before everyone just moves on with the episode like that's not a jailable lapse of judgment. But it's OK, because our hero manages to track the little girl down and shoot the killer in the face six inches away from her.
"Don't worry; you'll feel better after a Disney movie or two. Let's start with Old Yeller."
Psychologically speaking, that little girl is now trapped in a bottomless pit. And yet, one episode later, everyone's completely forgotten about that time Mulder let a man out of prison before murdering him in a bus. How does he still have a job? Seriously -- Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, I want you to explain to me why Mulder can hold down a job at the FBI. I don't care if he's the best criminal profiler they have -- every other aspect of this man's job is done with such overt insanity that even his field reports read like a chilling Facebook manifesto:
Aside from the perfect spelling, obviously.
This is from the end of an episode where Mulder finds killer cockroaches and helps blow up an entire building. After spending hundreds of dollars on travel and food expenses, Mulder's official FBI report reads:
"The development of our cerebral cortex has been the greatest achievement of the evolutionary process. Big deal. While allowing us the thrills of intellect and the pangs of self-consciousness, it is all too often overruled by our inner instinctive brain -- the one that tells us to react, not reflect, to run rather than ruminate. Maybe we have gone as far as we can go, and the next advance -- whatever that may be -- will be made by beings we create ourselves using our own technology. Life-forms we can design and program not to be ultimately governed and constricted by the rules of survival."
Jesus Christ. Look, I love this show -- but in terms of both square footage and the amount they'd save in public safety settlements, Mulder's basement office is worth way more to the FBI as an actual basement.
Talk dirty to Dave on his Twitter.
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