I love action thrillers. They’ve always been a guilty pleasure and a fun one. The trailer for Ghost Protocol has just been released and watching it I found myself thinking, “Haven’t I seen this all before?” (The answer is yes, of course.) But it made me start thinking about the rules of action/thrillers—which are odd, but also oddly consistent. For example:
What do you do if someone is shooting at you with an assault rifle?
It’s a well-known fact that you can’t hit a person doing cartwheels. You say, “But what if the bad guys are shooting 2,400 rounds a second?”
Hey! They’re cartwheels! The hero won’t even need a Band-Aid.
What do you do if something blows up?
Run really fast.
Heroes can outrun any explosion. The proof is in the slow motion photography which proves how fast they are running by showing every bit of debris and shrapnel flying slowly and harmlessly by. Heroes can also outrun cars, ravenous beasts and tornados. The secret is having top, or near-top, billing. If you’re buried in the credits, forget it. You’re toast. You couldn’t outrun my grandmother.
What do you do if you come to a cave?
Simply gather any truck lying around, whip a cord around it and voilà—you have a torch that will burn for hours.
Warning: This torch will start to flicker as soon as any maniac enters the cave. It will go out when they’re standing right behind you. (Or you’ll drop it down a well.) It’s a move torch. That’s what they do.
What happens if there is a briefcase?
If the briefcase is closed and unattended, it will blow up. If opened, it will be full of money. If it’s a ransom movie, the money will be fake. There will be a tracking device. If the briefcase doesn’t have money in it, or blow up, leave the theater immediately. You went to a documentary by mistake.
What if there is a kid in the movie?
The kid will get kidnapped and the hero has to save them. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.
Note: In some movies kids ARE the hero. This is usually the annoying type of kid you would happily send to reform school. But in a thriller this is overlooked if they can do cartwheels and outrun explosions. Or out-think evil adults, which is surprisingly easier than it sounds.
What happens if the world is threatened with destruction?
Forget global warming, it’s guys with eye patches and bad attitudes we have to watch out for. Don’t ask questions like, “Why do they want to destroy the world? Don’t they know they’re in it?” (They don’t.) But their motivations can remain opaque to the hero—he or she just has to blow them up in the end.
Note: If the viewer doesn’t actually see them get blown up, they’ll be back in a sequel—missing a hand and madder than ever.
So these are a few of my favorite action/thriller memes. I didn’t do horror (face worms, exploding heads, aging 1000 years in ten seconds) or romantic comedies…
I left them for you! Comments, anyone?
* * *
Mark McKenna has written a young adult novel called The Word Gang. It’s about three kids in school who start using big words to be disruptive. There are no explosions or cartwheels in his book. Maybe in the sequel?
Note: The Word Gang website no longer works with Internet Explorer. No one knows why. Use Opera, Firefox, or anything else.
Runs from now until Feb. 2nd.
Open to US only
Winner must respond within 48 hours