Blogs on Film

Overused Movie Trope #82: How Long Has That Villain Been Standing There?

I watched one of the usually good English-language adaptations of Wallander (The Swedish detective show), which ended with a painfully predictable stand off as the hero bursts into a room and finds the villain holding a gun to someone’s head.

Which raises the usual question: How the hell long was that guy standing there with the gun to the hostage’s head to ensure that the hero would come in while he was in that threatening pose? By the storyline it seems to have been at least an hour. Doesn’t the bad guy get tired or hungry or have his attention wander?

Another example: In Max Payne, which I watched on an airplane because I had nothing else to do, and was so bad that I was tempted to walk out of the theater, Mark Wahlberg is striding through a snowy cityscape. Suspecting some trouble up ahead, he darts down a back alley, goes around a few dark corners and waits. And then Milan Kunis tells him to freeze because she has a gun to his head.

Does she live in that back alley? Isn’t she cold, staying there day after day? Why is her make-up still perfect when she lives out of doors in winter? How did she know that our hero would ever even walk by? Are other back alleys filled with withered corpses of villains who passed away after waiting for years for different heroes to dart down their alley and then conveniently turn their backs?

But the worst ever example is the Michael Caine stinker The Black Windmill. It opens with two little boys playing with a toy airplane near their school. They wander across a field and come to an abandoned government airstrip. They decide to sneak in. They go into a hangar. And there they encounter a group of bad guys who have long planned to kidnap one of the boys. They are wearing soldiers’ uniforms to fool the other boy they somehow knew would be with the victim so that he would tell the authorities that soldiers did it.

I imagine the villains sitting there year after year, tired, alone and bored.

Lower level bad guy: Do you think the boys might come here today? — it’s been 5 years now and…
Boss bad guy: Shut up! Be a professional.
Lower level bad guy: Why don’t we actually, like, go to them instead of just waiting here in this abandoned building at an abandoned airstrip miles from where they are?
Boss bad guy: It just isn’t done. You’ll understand when you’re older.
Lower level bad guy: What if we went to the kid’s actual house and just got him. Same day service, no muss no fuss. You know, he will be old enough for college in a few years and could move away…
Boss bad guy: You just don’t get it, do you?