Total Recall: RT's Favorite Gunfights
We revisit our favorite scenes of bullets and carnage.
We at Rotten Tomatoes abhor violence -- in the real world, anyway. However, expertly-staged gunplay is one of the reasons we love going to the movies -- there's nothing like the catharsis of cinematic shootouts. Thus, we've compiled a list of our favorite movie gunfights -- scenes that left our ears ringing and our pulses quickened. However, these are just our faves (spoilers, language, and some mild violence abound obviously!) -- this list is by no means definitive. RT users, chime in -- what are your favorites?
It's probably in Bruce Willis's contract that if he gets cast as the reluctant hero, he's obligated to kick serious ass at least once throughout the proceedings. Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is such a strange cocktail of sci-fi, slapstick, and dramatic intrigue that it's hard to predict just what form said Willis asskickery would take. So it occurs in the second-half and is so worth the wait: rubbery monsters storm an opera house, the singer gets assassinated, and Willis, without a gun at first, is in charge of saving a flamboyant Chris Tucker and a mob of libertines. It's an exhilarating firefight, replete with Besson's kinetic camerawork juxtaposed with Willis's steely no-nonsense.
Perhaps no style of film has romanticized gunfights more than the Western -- and the somewhat cartoonish, largely consequence-free nature of classic Western violence made the genre ripe for revisionist (and more emotionally resonant) fare such as 1993's Tombstone, which depicts the unfortunately eventful "retirement" of legendary Wild West lawman Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), whose feud with a band of outlaws led by "Curly Bill" Brocious (Powers Boothe) illustrates the sad echo of violence -- even of the righteous variety -- and the horrible toll it takes on a man's soul. This scene, which recreates the oft-fetishized Battle at the O.K. Corral, serves up a generous helping of satisfying Hollywood shootout action, while making clear the black regret and terrible destruction that lies in its real-life wake.
Not every memorable gunfight is a battle among equals. Like the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Tyson-Spinks fight, and Super Bowl XX, the climactic shootout in Bonnie and Clyde is famous for being absurdly one-sided. Bank-robbing sweethearts Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) certainly knew how to handle firearms, but caught flat-footed by heavily armed g-men while helping a friend-turned snitch change a tire, they didn't stand a chance. One of the key works in the "New Hollywood" era of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bonnie and Clyde ushered in a period of more intense onscreen violence -- and made its protagonists countercultural martyrs.
"Gun Kata" might sound like something a group of especially precocious second graders might make up for a playground fight during recess, but in the world of Kurt Wimmer's (admittedly rather Matrix-esque) 2002 dystopian sci-fi action epic Equilibrium, it's the name of a fun-to-watch martial art that allows its masters to determine where their opponents will stand, stab, or shoot at any given moment. One such master is John Preston (Christian Bale), who rebels against the emotion-outlawing government of Libria by colluding with an underground resistance to help assassinate the shadowy leader known as Father. Preston is found out -- and Father is, of course, not who he seems -- but not even a building full of machine gun-wielding guards can prevent Preston from kata-ing his way straight to Father's inner sanctum, delivering a slew of eye-popping deaths as he goes...and saving the best for last.
In a roundabout way, Tony Montana embodies the perseverance of the human spirit. With a veritable army invading his house, he doesn't stop shooting (or swearing, for that matter), unloading round after round from his machine gun despite facing the prospect of certain death. Forget chewing the scenery -- as the iconic drug lord, Al Pacino gobbles it up, spits it out, and goes back for seconds. Not that that's a bad thing; if a scene requires an actor to shout "Say hello to my leetle friend!" while discharging a grenade launcher, it's preferable to have someone who can deliver such a line with panache. Tony's downfall might have been inevitable, but if you're gonna go down, it's best to go down swinging.