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Dirty tricks we've seen again and again (and again)

If life were an action movie, then it'd always be safe to, say, jump off a moving train or drive straight toward someone shooting at you ... as long as you're the good guy.

But beware of doing something dumb like celebrating your impending retirement. We examine some action movie cliches that, like the evilest of villains, will ... not ... die.

Take a look, then tell us which clichés you think should be banished to a jail cell with no air ducts in sight.


Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

If life were an action movie, then it'd always be safe to, say, jump off a moving train or drive straight toward someone shooting at you ... as long as you're the good guy. But beware of doing something dumb like celebrating your impending retirement. We examine some action movie cliches that, like the evilest of villains, will ... not ... die. Take a look, then tell us which clichés you think should be banished to a jail cell with no air ducts in sight.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

He'll Take You All On! One at a Time!

You have to admire an action hero's ability to dispense of minor baddies with such ease -- a hard punch to the face, a swift kick to the gut. But what would happen if those 20 baddies surrounding our hero in this impossible predicament all attacked at once? Well, luckily, that never happens. Instead they approach one-by-one, getting their butts whooped while their pals wait patiently in a circle for their turn.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Henchmen Are Lousy Shots

Uber-villains may not have much trouble recruiting scores of henchmen to enlist in their terror organizations bent on world domination (do you think they get health insurance?), but boy, do they draw the worst shooters. How many times have we seen action heroes dodge a thousand bullets from 15 different shooters on their trail? They hardly ever get hit, aside from the occasional flesh wound. Come on baddies, ever hear of target practice?

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Female Hostage

It's no secret that men rule action movies in Hollywood. But could someone get more creative with women's roles in them? Do they always have to be taken hostage? To make matters worse, the female's captivity is always announced at the same point: when our hero has the bad guy right where he wants him (hanging upside down outside a skyscraper, etc). Cue the phone call from the villain's associates, the woman crying for help. At least sometimes they fight back.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Government Files at Your Fingertips

No wonder this country's in so much trouble. Apparently anyone with a laptop and a wireless connection at a coffee shop -- or public library or precocious kids' room -- can hack into the super-secret database of FBI personnel files, super-secret defense plans or super-secret blueprints for a massive bomb. That's what we call freedom of information.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

'I'm Getting too Old for This'

Is there anything funnier than an action hero in his 50s or 60s bemoaning his age while trying to keep up with a younger villain or sidekick? Apparently not, since we hear some variation of this line every time, especially in a franchise's later sequels. But we still love you, Indiana Jones, John McClane, Rambo and 'Lethal Weapon' guys. Now move to Scottsdale and enjoy retirement.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Death Trap

If you captured your enemy after a long chase, wouldn't you do away with him right then and there? But not movie villains -- that's way too easy. So they devise elaborate schemes meant to kill their victims in a more leisurely fashion, like the shark pool that James Bond and Solitaire are to be lowered into in 'Live and Let Die.' Except evil Dr. Kananga lets his attention stray, giving Bond the chance to cut their ropes with the saw in his watch (of course!) and escape.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Expository Speech

Oh, egomaniacal villains, when will you learn to curb your hubris, resist the urge to talk and just blow away the good guy when you have him trapped? But no, instead of pulling the trigger, you decide to blather on and on about the unparalleled evil genius of your plan (that leisurely death plan of which we just spoke), giving the hero just enough time to figure out how to shoot you, blow you up or otherwise creatively make you dead.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Ticking Time Bomb

Somewhere a bomb is ticking away the seconds to an explosive finale, as the steely and determined action hero races to find its location. Once it's discovered, the question is: Which wire do you cut? Is it the red or the green? Or is it the white? It doesn't matter: The hero inevitably cuts the correct wire with a miniscule amount of time (often 00:00:01) left on the clock.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Watch Out for That Fruit Cart!

Ever since car chases became essential to action films -- thanks in large part to William Friedkin's masterfully shot scene in 'The French Connection' -- directors have lined up curbside obstacles for their heroes to run over and make props fly. But why does it always have to be a fruit stand? Roger Ebert has even called the fruit cart scene "an ancient tradition" in Hollywood. Amen, Ebert.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

VIP Parking

The hero's speeding to the scene in his car, weaving in and out of traffic, and possibly leaving a few accidents in his wake. A plausible scenario, sure, but what always gets us is the ease with which he finds parking at his destination DIRECTLY in front of where he's going, nary a valet stand in sight. Are there parking spots reserved for action heroes we just don't know about?

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Third Person Shooter

The bad guy has the good guy in his sights, his trigger finger poised to squeeze off a life-ending round. A shot rings out, and we shudder -- but the hero does not fall. As he frantically checks his body for the mortal wound he must have sustained, a dazed look overcomes the villain's face, and he slumps to the floor. Then, and only then, the camera reveals a gun-toting savior who blew away the baddie before he could kill our protagonist.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Check for a Pulse, Dummy

Here's an obvious rule: When you kill someone, make sure he's dead. Period. But most heroes, for all their street smarts, can't seem to get this one thing right. You see this in action movies almost as much as horror movies; when someone thinks he's finally got his opponent down for the count, he ... stands across the room with his back to the downed man. And what happens? His shadowy body moves, and the chase is on again.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Background Fireball

Every action movie needs big fiery explosions, but what's amusing is that they're almost always orchestrated in one of two ways: The hero calmly and coolly walks toward us (usually in slow motion) as the building/car behind him detonates; or he sprints away from pending destruction and dives behind a car or wall to shield him from harm just in the nick of time.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Never Trust the Man

We've seen it so many times: The trusted government bigwig -- the one who's been so helpful to our hero, or so we thought -- turns out to be a traitor. When asked why he committed treason against the country he's supposed to be protecting, he acts as though his actions were a necessary evil, defiantly proclaiming, "I love my country! I am a true patriot!" Thanks, action movies -- as if we weren't skeptical enough about the U.S. government already.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Restricted Access Is for Sissies

"Do Not Enter" signs and barriers mean nothing to an intrepid hero in hot pursuit of a villain or the Truth. And if you're in a hurry, it doesn't take a fake ID or passwords to gain access to a restricted area. All you have to do is hightail it straight past the security guard -- keep going, don't even slow down -- at which point the guard's head will swivel in your direction, he'll say, "Hey, you can't --" ... and voila, you're in!

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

'Stay Right Here'

Whenever an action hero is accompanied by a woman (helpless, of course) or child (precocious, natch), he will inevitably arrive at a situation where he must go save the day, and the other must stay in the car. But of course the woman or child never listens and instead follows behind, which then leads to capture, further complicating the hero's mission. No wonder Indy left Marian Ravenwood tied up in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Takes a Licking, Keeps on Ticking

Some men are not like the rest of us: They emerge from any beating fresh as a daisy, miraculously revived by an Ace bandage. Take super-agent James Bond. In virtually all Bond films he's shaken, stirred and knocked around, and STILL the man rocks a tuxedo like nobody's business. Hell, in 'Casino Royale,' Bond runs out to his car, restarts his own heart with a shot of adrenaline, then buttons up his dress shirt and goes back to the poker game. Now that's a man.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Sliding Doors

Are you an action hero on the run? Is there a cold-blooded killer hot on your trail? A live bomb only seconds from detonating? No problem, just run as fast as you can in the opposite direction and eventually you'll come across a large steel garage door swiftly closing. Slide feet-first under said door at the very last second possible, and be careful of caught clothing. Closing doors can also be slid under when you're chasing someone else. They're handy that way.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

Oxygen Mask of Deception

If you're ever injured and there's a fugitive on the loose, RUN. Otherwise, he's bound to kill you, co-opt your stretcher and cover his face with your oxygen mask, earning himself a ride to freedom and more killin'; and if you're very unlucky, he'll do all that AND remove your face and use it as his own (see 'Silence of the Lambs'). This technique of using an oxygen mask to sneak out of a jam is so successful, even the good guys do it sometimes.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Car That Suddenly Won't Start

Cars just aren't reliable in the movies. Or at least once the action starts. That's when they have a tendency to break down or take forever to start for no particular reason. Though you're more likely to find your car stalling when you're on the run from a masked killer or zombies, car trouble also tends to strike those who've just robbed a bank or need to rescue a hostage. But hey, at least you can always hop in a cab and tell the driver, "Follow that car!"

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

The Gun Is Out of Bullets

It's the moment of truth: You've got your enemy right where you want him. Cue the climactic music, the widened eyes ... click. Click. Whoops, no more bullets. Even more fun is when this happens to both you and your antagonist at the same time. What are the odds? No matter, it just gives one of you the chance to scramble to safety -- or to toss aside your gun and start punching each other again.

Dirty Tricks We've Seen Again and Again

I Think I Love My Ex-Wife

It's not easy being a hero's wife. It may seem glamorous, but your hubby keeps terrible hours and consorts with unsavory characters, and the pay is lousy. What relationship can survive that? No wonder so many heroes wind up divorced or separated, forced to save the world while estranged from their true loves. Fortunately, there's nothing like being threatened or kidnapped to make a woman realize that all she wants is to be is Mrs. Hero ... again.