Last week we revealed No. 10-6 of Hollywood’s Most Realistic gunfights, this week we take a look at the rest of the list.
#5--Blood Diamond (2006)--"Don’t run, you’ll only die tired"
I walked into this movie not expecting much more than a drama, maybe with a little action, and was blown away. I wasn’t the only one, and it garnered 5 Academy Award nominations. Not only is it an excellent drama about the African diamond trade, it features a spot-on performance by (whodathunkit?) Leonardo DiCaprio as a mercenary. The climax of the movie is itself an excellent scene, and arguably the best in the movie, but not the most realistic—that has to go to another.
DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou are trying to make their way cross country without getting killed, and come to a bridge they have to cross with two guards. DiCaprio is armed only with a pistol, the sentries AK-47s. Using a ruse DiCaprio gets to within about 10 yards of the guards and then centerpunches each of them. He then shoots each of them once more as they lay on the ground. A third guard pops his head out, sees what happened, and takes off running. Instead of running after him with his pistol, DiCaprio calmly walks up to a fallen guard, picks up his rifle, and takes the fleeing guard down at distance with a carefully aimed three round burst. Admittedly, not much of a gunfight as DiCaprio was the only one to get off any rounds, but isn't that a good sign you're doing things the right way?
YouTube has age restricted this scene. You can view the clip here.
#4--Proof of Life (2000)--"Go Loud"
Proof of Life is another one of those movies where I went in not expecting much and was totally blown away. Russell Crowe stars as a former SAS operator now working K&R (Kidnap and ransom) jobs for an insurance company—his job is to negotiate a deal to get the person back safely. Meg Ryan stars as the wife of the kidnapped American executive.
This movie didn’t do as well as hoped for at the box office, even with the combined star power of Crowe and Ryan. I know why—it’s realistic! Crowe spends most of the movie on the phone trying to negotiate for the safe release of the hostage, and even though he is attracted to Meg Ryan’s character, he’s a complete professional and doesn’t act on it. There were rumors flying around at the time that the same thing didn’t happen off camera, and maybe some moviegoers were hoping for some steamy onscreen action. They got it, but maybe it wasn’t the kind of action they were hoping for.
Through a fluke of luck Crowe discovers the location of the guerrilla base camp where the hostage is being held. He assembles a small team, with the hope of getting the hostage out without firing a shot—and they almost succeed. Tactics, weapons handling, mindset, planning—all of it is spot on, even down to the proper way to cut a sentry’s throat. David Caruso has a small but great role as an adrenaline junkie with a yen for short-barrel Benelli shotguns.
#3The Kingdom (2007)--"This is a Very Bad Neighborhood"
Having a bit role in Michael Mann’s Collateral just before helming this film was a very good thing for Director Peter Berg, because he apparently went above and beyond to ensure technical accuracy in what is essentially a police procedural…..sort of.
When terrorists attack the American compound in Saudi Arabia, an FBI evidence team headed by Jamie Foxx manages to convince the Saudi authorities to let them help with the investigation of the bomb site. Most of the movie is the characters butting heads with the locals while trying to do their jobs in a politically-charged situation.
While the movie starts with an engaging action scene, what will blow you away is the climax which starts with a car chase into a neighborhood from hell. The characters have to rescue one of their own (Jason Bateman) who is destined to be beheaded on camera. Imagine having to do a houseclearing…only it’s not a house, it’s an entire apartment building, filled with terrorists armed with AKs and RPGs. One of the things I liked best about this movie was the little details of the climax, like Bateman fighting and fighting and fighting, even when tied up and all seems lost, because he knows what’s going to happen.
#2--The Way of the Gun (2000)--"Free Cheese"
The Way of the Gun is a tough movie to watch, because the main characters (played by Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro) are not good guys at all, and neither is anybody else you’ll meet in this movie. The plot centers around the kidnapping of a pregnant Juliette Lewis, who is tied to a shady organized crime figure played by James Caan.
This movie could have gone a lot of ways, most of them b-movie bad, but if I remember my trivia right the brother of the director (Christopher McQuarrie) was a Navy SEAL, and pretty much lived with the actors. If I had to pick a movie that was closest to 100% realistic in weapons handling from start to finish, The Way of the Gun would be it. A great example of this is a scene where Benicio del Toro exchanges words with someone in a parking lot, and fires a round off. As soon as he heads back into the motel room, while talking to his partner, you see him topping off his magazine!
The climax of this movie is a rather lengthy gunfight involving a lot of people at a run-down hotel south of the border. You’ll see the proper use of a tactical sling, one-handed reloads, the proper way to clear a room with a .308, and a lot more. But like I said, nobody in this movie has clean hands, and things don’t end well for anyone.
#1--Heat (1995)--Bank Heist
The bank robbery scene from Michael Mann’s epic Heat is probably the best movie gunfight—of any kind, realistic or not—made to date. The fact that it is just one of at least four gun-heavy beautiful and awesome action scenes in this movie (one of which I covered earlier, the Drive-In scene) is amazing.
Everything about this scene is golden, and, as usual, Mann does everything as technically perfect as humanly possible. The suspense has built throughout this movie until this scene, which is still only two-thirds of the way through its three-hour running length.
DeNiro and his team have successfully robbed a bank without having to fire a shot and are just getting into their car when Val Kilmer sees members of the LAPD’s Robbery Homicide unit running up on them, and then all hell breaks loose.
Guns are loud, and guns in movies should be loud. Mann startled the heck out of people in the theater when Kilmer in a relatively quiet moment out of the blue opens up on full auto without hesitation, and it is LOUD. When their getaway car (and driver) are taken out, DeNiro and Kilmer and Tom Sizemore do their best to get the hell out of there. The sound of DeNiro's/Kilmer's Colt Commandos echoing off the buildings in downtown L.A. is perfect.
If when you watched this movie you were yelling at the characters because they weren’t hitting much of anything on full auto, you are missing the point—they were engaging in suppressive fire, trying to break contact and keep the officers’ heads down while they made their escape. That was why they continued to pour full-auto fire at every target—that is the proper technique to use if you want to break out of an ambush. They weren’t (necessarily) trying to kill anybody. SAS veteran Andy McNabb was the technical advisor on this movie, and you have him to thank for Val Kilmer’s impressive mag changes with his carbine.
This movie will always have a spot in my heart, if for no other reason than I saw it with three very close friends. At the time I was a police officer, and one of my friends was a DEA Agent, the other a SWAT Team sniper. We knew we shouldn’t be rooting for the bad guys, but Mann really made it tough…..