I consider myself an expert on badass movie one-liners for one reason: I’m a pacifist. Every day in my normal existence, I encounter instances in which I wish I could come up with an on-the-spot quip of strength, brevity, and intimidation. In my imagination, I roll through the office like Snake Plissken, leaving a cloud of awesome in my wake. Say some meeting is taking way too much time. My impulse tells me I should hit em with “I’ll be back” and bail to the strip club. Or half the office is mad at me because I always drink the last cup of coffee without brewing more. Well, you know what: “Yippie Ki-Yay, Mr. Falcon”! But, alas, I don’t have the creativity or courage so I usually just mumble something under my breath and head back to my desk to watch You Tube videos. Even so, my incoherent non-comebacks are better than what these five movie characters managed to muster.
You may be saying to yourselves right about now, “WTF! This was one of the coolest lines ever!” I will not disagree with this. This is one of the most memorable lines in recent action movie history. This line has been quoted, re-quoted, satired, and recycled for a sequel. Enough Irish inflection to make your ears bleed Baileys. How can you not get chills over this line—the way he calmly informs the kidnappers that he has “skills that make him a nightmare” for people like them, and outlines that if they don’t comply, he will find them and kill them. Whoa! Better rethink the plans, huh?
Well, first, let’s step back and look at this in a context. Again: I think the speech is tough as nails. The all-around good guy Liam Neeson, ex-CIA badass has killed more people than your list of Twitter followers. We know he isn’t fibbing, and the subsequent scenes fulfill his promise. But let’s align with the kidnappers for a moment (only figuratively, creepers). These guys have completely no idea who he is and what he has done in the past. They just scouted out two teenage girls that met their criteria and then some Irish guy is calling them with threats about his “skills”. As good as the threatening line sounds, it only works in a vacuum. As soon as he is done rambling, the kidnapper on the other end calmly responds with “good luck” and hangs up the phone. The kidnapper doesn’t know who that guy was, nor does he care. I borrow Taken’s badass monologue to address Time Warner Cable customer service every week and get the exact same response. Because, alas, idle threats are just that. When you can’t see or you don’t personally know the person promising to kill you, the threat is just meaningless. In that sense, this scene in Taken actually symbolizes every comment forum on the internet. Either way, the kidnappers didn’t buy into the speech and neither does my cable company.
The Dark Knight Rises
Line: “No, I came back to stop you.”
Best superhero movies ever, I say, in regards to The Dark Knight Trilogy. Thanks in no small part to one of the best directors at work right now, Christopher Nolan. The supervillians of this trilogy have been thoroughly discussed. Heath Ledger gained worldwide accolades for his portrayal of the Joker. It was a masterful performance and the dynamic between superhero and villain was formed with perfection. So, The Dark Knight had everyone wondering, how can they follow this one up? Well, Bane. That’s how. Albeit not as gripping a performance Ledger brought to the Joker, Tom Hardy’s Bane was more than effective in his sheer power and control. With far more destructive force than the Joker, Bane single-handedly brought the Batman out of hiding and took an entire city hostage. Bane completely and totally bests Batman at all turns, even incarcerating Bruce Wayne in the same dungeon where he spent his childhood.
The greater part of this movie convinces us that Bane is finally the one who is completely going to destroy Batman. Of course, Batman overcomes these failures and returns to Gotham to deal with the police state Bane has set up. In their climactic meeting in the streets during a riot, Bane is confronted by Batman. Bane calmly asks him, “So, you came back to die with your city? [heavy breathing.]” Thanks for the assist, Bane! Way to set Batman up for the perfect verbal smack down, you big dumb bastard. You just wait for the assault of words Gotham’s smartest hero is about to deliver. Here it comes, son!
“No, I came back to stop you.”
…What? That’s it? This could have made movie history! I mean that was a chip shot that could have landed Batman in the company of Dirty Harry (“Well do you… punks?”) and Scarface (“Say hello to my little friend!”). And that’s the caped crusader’s best verbal jab? Normally, this might be excusable. With a ticking clock and driving need for revenge, who has time for banter. But look at all the work Batman put into getting to this exact moment. He freed all the trapped police officers, rescued Commissioner Gordon, rekindled a loose partnership with Catwoman, and even took God knows how many hours to design a WWE style flaming bat design on a major city bridge. Although a minor complaint given the quality of the movie, we still could have had more. That would be like a a champion entering to his awesome introduction music and then freezing with the mic in the ring.
End of Days:
Line: “You’re a Fucking Choir Boy Compared to me!”
Arnold, I almost gave you a pass in this category. You almost single-handedly created the tough-guy one-liner dynamic found in most action movies. With the litany of one-liners you have given us, we have come to expect greatness in 3-4 word bursts. Okay, maybe I am being a little too harsh. End of Days was released toward the end of your illustrious run of solid action films. Either way, you knew your brand, and you were imminently capable of capitalizing on it. So, that being said, End of Days is one of Arnold’s worst films before his stint as Governor for that one state that would actually elect him as Governor.
So, sure, End of Days is not good, but Arnold usually finds a way to shine (probably some kind of muscle oil) despite the ludicrous and weak scripts he has been assigned in the past. I have to tell you though; the line in this film I am referencing is awful, on par with any Dr. Freeze’s lines.
So it’s Arnold vs. Satan. Satan. Why not? Arnold has battled just about every other type of thing within our universe and beyond! Satan, as shown in the movie, is the strongest opponent he has faced since T-1000. It plays out about the same as well; he gets beat down and has to run away and regroup. Rinse and repeat. At one point, Satan warns our hero, “You don’t want to see me upset. Believe me.” As bad as this line is by itself (Satan is unpracticed; he didn’t get a lot of cool lines in the Bible), Arnold’s response derails the movie into an ocean of audience laughter. He attempts to compare his toughness to that of Satan. And how does Satan rank? Oh you know, equal to a choirboy. Of course this intimidates no one, especially the dark prince himself. Oh well, what did we expect anyway? The plot sucked, the acting was campy, and not even Arnold himself could save this one from mass obscurity. If only we could find a better line to describe how bad of a guy Arnold is…
The Breakfast Club
If you grew up anywhere near the 80’s, you have watched The Breakfast Club, probably more than once, and you relate to it in irrational measure. It offers all the social stereotypes: the jock, the nerd, the rebel, the good girl, and the introvert. For the purposes of this list, I will be solely focusing on arguably the central character of this diverse group, John Bender. Judd Nelson’s Bender was the prototypical high school bad boy. He rebelled against everyone and everything. He felt it necessary to slowly break everyone down to his level through sarcastic questioning and implications. His biggest nemesis in this movie, other than his old man, is Principal Vernon. Principal Vernon is the embodiment of authority, the same thing that Bender is stereotypically required to rail against. He spends the entire first half of the movie establishing his authority over the other students before going tit for tat against Principal Vernon. Vernon is handing out detention to Bender, and every comment Bender makes scores him another day. Bender keeps quipping and quipping, and all the time building more and more days in weekend detention. It is in this scene that we see Bender’s tough shell slowly deteriorate. Vernon is wearing him down; you can see it in his body language. Then Claire (Molly Ringwald) intervenes and tells him to “Cut it out!” This seems to be the fuel Bender needs to keep going, someone else telling him what to do. Vernon correctly summarizes the encounter, telling him to spend more time trying to do something himself rather than trying to impress people. This is John Bender in a nutshell. He isn’t trying to be a bad guy just to be a bad guy. He wants included. He wants accepted. He comes from a very broken family and knows no other way to interact. He even offered “Eat my shorts” way before Bart Simpson drilled it into our lexicon. We find this out later in the movie, but true to the hard exterior, his weakness is fully displayed only when Vernon leaves the room. Bender screams a muffled “Fuck you!” His exterior is cracked. Yelling at a closed door is all he could do at this point to verbalize his pent up frustration. He has been emasculated by Vernon, and this escalates until Vernon later offers straight up fisticuffs, which Bender sheepishly refuses. Ultimately, John Bender is not a tough-guy. He is a product of a hardscrabble family and has no idea how to interact without projecting the tough-guy image. All works out for him in the end though. He gets the girl, a victorious fist-bump against the sunset, and one of the most iconic movie endings of all time.
What a giant, festering, rancid, revolting pile of garbage the movie Street Fighter is. Holy hell was this movie awful. I was so damn excited for this movie too. More excited than I should have been, given my age. I grew up playing the Street Fighter game and its millions of variations. This was one of the earliest video game adaptations, and if my 13-year-old self had been astute enough to take the atrocious Super Mario Bros. movie as a precedent, I could have better prepared myself for this absolute letdown. This gives me an idea. Let’s play a little game ourselves. Tell me how many video game-to-movie adaptations you thought turned out well over the years? I’m waiting…. Okay, a case could possibly be made for a few, but in general, they all Capital-S-Suck. The video game genre just does not translate well to motion pictures for some reason and Street Fighter is on the very short list for worst offender. Put it this way, Mortal Kombat, (released a year later) could have been a Best Picture nominee in comparison to this hot mess of a movie. They even brought in (*clears throat) “big name” talent Jean-Claude Van Damme to anchor this one. I understand this decision by the director. Van Damme was a hot commodity back then, still riding the high of a string of several good action films. One could even say, and I am saying it, that Street Fighter signaled the end of Van Damme’s relevancy. It’s not too hard to understand why after listening to some of the purely awful lines he delivers in this movie. Van Damme, as Col. William Guile, is the leader of an army set out to stop rogue General M. Bison. Bison has kidnapped several humanitarian workers and is asking for a $20 billion dollar ransom to free them. Guile is not buying this; the “Allied Nations” do not deal with terrorists. As Guile is rallying the troops for an assault against Bison he is met by peace negotiators that are willing to pay the hefty ransom. Using sound Guile logic, he informs the official that if they give in, there is nothing stopping Bison from taking more hostages, and asking for $50 billion, then $100 billion, or, what the hell, 1 gazillion! Guile knows that Bison just wants to rack up the zillions and he wont have it! The official asks him, “Have you lost your mind?”, to which Guile responds…
…wait for it…
“No. You’ve lost your balls!”
Just awful. It’s laughable now but this line works on no one. The official relieves Guile from duty and Guile then proceeds to give one of the worst speeches of all time to his troops. “I’m going to kick dat son zuv a bitch Bison’s ass SO HARD!” Instead of the measurably more bad-ass “SONIC BOOOOOOM!,” this is what we are left with. Thank goodness Guile didn’t serve in World War II.