Eight Wince-Inducing Moments in Movies*

Sew Tough!

I was about fourteen when I first caught First Blood on home video, the perfect age to vicariously revel in such macho histrionics. Immediately afterwards, I ran outside, knocked the first motorcyclist I saw to the ground, and headed off for the woods at breakneck speed with an imaginary entire police force hot on my trail. Of course I had to be back home at 6pm for tea and do my Geography homework, but hey, for a good four or five hours there, I really was Rambo. In short, I thought First Blood was the greatest movie ever made, although now I’m older and wiser I can state with absolute certainty that Death Wish 3 has earned that particular accolade.

However, First Blood still packs a concise, adrenalin-filled punch, especially the initial chase through the forest that culminates in Rambo leaping off a cliff face into some trees to evade a trigger-happy cop in a helicopter. By the time our double-hard bastard tumbles through the branches and crashes into the forest floor, the top of his right arm is ripped open. Cool as a cucumber, Rambo simply sews the gash back up with his wrong hand, not once indulging in the normal human reaction of screaming, fainting or puking. On reflection it was at that moment I grasped I didn’t quite have what it takes to become a Green Beret and would probably be better suited to some kind of office work with regular hours.

Give Bobby A Hand

Mr De Niro’s storied career has involved an awful lot of truly dreadful violence. Think Vito Corleone, Travis Bickle and Max Cady (although during New York, New York he bafflingly opts to play the saxophone rather than immediately decapitate Liza Minnelli). All in all, this guy’s onscreen shenanigans might well have killed more people than McDonald’s. In Goodfellas‘ ugly younger sister Casino, he gets to orchestrate his flair for brutality with a ball-pein hammer and a spread-eagled swindler bent over a table. It’s a very well directed, beautifully lit scene in which the incredibly realistic violence is all the more effective because we don’t get to see the hammer beforehand. De Niro simply questions the guy, discerning which hand he favors. And then with the tiniest of nods to an off-screen henchman, the hammer appears and smashes four times in lightning quick fashion into the back of the cheat’s pinioned hand. The fact that the debonair De Niro is impeccably dressed and never once raises his voice somehow makes it all the worse.

John McClane’s Impressive Feat

Die Hard is so old it even depicts smoking in an airport, but Christ it’s aged well. In fact, this flick fucking rocks and can make fair claim to be the greatest action flick of the 80s. Built on a great script with shit loads of firefights and explosions, a memorably urbane villain and Willis’ iconic barefooted turn, it’s tough to pick out a favorite bit. However, I do like Hans Gruber and co shooting out every pane of glass in a bid to hinder the deeply irritating progress of their vest-clad, balding nemesis.

The result…?

A hobbled McClane has to drag himself into the bathroom, his lacerated feet leaving a trail of blood across the tiled floor. You know what’s coming next, but it’s still hard not to grimace when he begins gingerly tugging out the shards of glass.

And I Won’t Even Mention Jamie Lee Curtis’ Tits…

Generally speaking, I’m a fan of excess as my prized collection of Anal Sluts Vols 1 to 12 amply demonstrates. However, I’m also aware that sometimes less is more, that a throwaway line can speak volumes about a character. One such example is the conniving brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke in the outlandish, much-loved 80s comedy, Trading Places. For the majority of the runtime they’re nothing but mischievous old coots, happily turning lives upside down on a whim. It’s all a game, you see, nothing more than an amusing demonstration of their entrenched power until Eddie Murphy overhears them in a luxurious men’s room smugly joking about their switcheroo and one-dollar bet. But when Randolph mistakenly thinks his brother wants to keep things the same, a vaguely offended Mortimer pipes up: “Do you really believe I would have a nigger run our family business, Randolph?” Wow, what a zinger. Talk about a verbal bullet between the eyes. In an instant your take on the brothers changes. Now they’re a pair of hateful fuckers and you’re rooting for their downfall.

Injecting Drugs Can Be Very ‘Armful

If there’s a better anti-drug movie than Requiem For A Dream, I’ve yet to see it. Based on Hulbert Selby’s terrific novel, this nightmarish plunge into the hell of narcotics abuse includes a hallucinating Ellen Burstyn staggering around like an animated, down on its luck scarecrow, the infamous double-dildo, ass-bumping display of lesbo depravity and, best of all, junkie loser Jared Leto injecting straight into the blackened center of his festering, soon-to-be-amputated arm.

Good grief.

This movie should be compulsory viewing for Junior High students the length and breadth of the country. I mean it. Twelve-year-old girls need to be reduced to tears by the sight of Jennifer Connelly’s skag-induced degradation and Leto’s stinky limb. The War on Drugs would be won within a generation.

Balls up!

Humor is intrinsically cruel. It involves laughing at someone or something, an unfortunate truism that the po-faced Left wants to ignore or, better still, eradicate. That’s why it’s so difficult to generate laughs from respecting stuff and tediously sending the ‘right’ message. Hence, the dearth of great comedies over the last couple of decades. The likes of Blazing Saddles and Life of Brian simply wouldn’t get made these days (although if you’d like to crowdfund an Islamic version of Brian, please get in touch). Remember the good old days when Empire Strikes Back was on TV and you could run to school the next day to mercilessly label the fat kid Jabba? Oh, to have our funny bones once again tickled by pedophile airline pilots! And yet the way things are going we’ll soon end up with ‘comedies’ in which the only thing we’ll be allowed to laugh at will be plants (but not gay, black or disabled ones, of course).

And so to 1998’s There’s Something About Mary, a gleeful V-sign to political correctness if ever there were one. For a start it’s all about stalking. When it isn’t mining humor at the expense of the disabled, it’s setting an overdosed dog on fire or puncturing the corner of Ben Stiller’s mouth with a three-pronged fishing lure. Now this is what I call funny, although any viewing is tinged with a little sadness that such defiantly non-PC movies are very much on the wane. Mary might be best-known for the unfeasibly perky Cameron Diaz hair gel gag, but for most guys it’s the horrific, snagged-cock-in-zipper set piece that really sticks in the mind. My God, the Farrelly brothers really go balls out for a reaction here, submitting our virginal, sweet-natured hero to a lengthy and excruciating humiliation in front of his prom date’s family. It’s impossible not to wince when we finally get a glimpse of his mangled organ, prompting the immortal line from Mary’s incredulous stepdad: “How the hell’d yer get the beans above the frank?”

The King of Suicide Scenes

I remember reading about a Yank who went to a town centre traffic lights, knelt down by the back wheels of a truck, stuck her head under and waited for the signal to turn green. Full marks for imagination, but surely there are easier ways? For a start I thought slipping a gun into your mouth and blowing out your brains was America’s second favorite sport. You know, after blowing out the brains of others. Still, I find it bizarre that no matter how you do yourself in some people are always happy to trot out blasé crap like suicide is the coward’s way out. Huh? They’ve obviously never waited for a stationary ten-ton truck to roll over their head.

Of course, we all fantasize about ending things, often spending an idle minute or two picturing the grief-stricken mourners at our funeral (shit, I was picturing myself in a casket at my christening), but let’s be honest here: It takes a pretty brave soul to purposefully check out. If you’ve ever stood on the edge of a cliff looking down at the distant ground, you’ll know what I mean. Cowards like me simply turn around, go home, sob into a cushion, and stare dead-eyed at yet another shitty Netflix movie while shoveling down mint chocolate ice-cream.

Frank Dodd from The Dead Zone is another case in point when it comes to barely believable suicides. Easily one of the best Stephen King adaptations, this tremendously melancholy 1983 flick sees the haunted psychic Christopher Walken revealing Frank to be a multiple sex-killer. Now I know Frank’s a law enforcement officer and might be a tad emotional at the thought of imprisonment or execution, but he really does suffer from a lapse in rationale here. So how does he choose to go bye-bye? With his own easily accessed firearm, perhaps?

Hell, no!

Why do it that way when there’s a handy pair of scissors in the bathroom?

And so we get to see Frank sitting in the bath in his beloved Mackintosh, fingers laced behind his head, as he opens his mouth and prepares to plunge his soft, easily punctured head onto the tip of the upended, wickedly sharp blade. All I can say is this man is obviously well past the comfort of delving into two really big tubs of Haagen-Dazs.

A Shit Bit of a Movie

What is it with Danny Boyle and bogs? First it was Renton’s headlong dive into The Worst Toilet in Scotland, then it was a five-year-old child pretty much repeating the trick in Slumdog Millionaire. Renton proves the luckier of the two, his fantasy escapade turning into a liberating, turd-free swim. Things turn out worse for Jamal. A lot worse. Just at the moment he wants to meet a visiting Bollywood star and get a treasured photo signed, a disgruntled friend locks him into a pit toilet perched over a swamp of shit.

What’s a star-struck but determined child to do?

In a great hand over the mouth moment, we see him take a final glance at his crumpled photo, pinch his nostrils shut, hold the photo up high, and jump into the God-knows-how-deep pile of shit beneath. In his only stroke of luck it just about submerges his head, leaving the much-loved photo untouched. He then runs to meet his hero, the gathered crowd unsurprisingly parting like the Red Sea.

So would you do the same to meet Ben Affleck?

*Gasping is also acceptable

Dave Franklin’s novels have also been known to make readers wince/gasp, although hopefully for their subject matter rather than writing style.

About Dave Franklin

Dismayed by the state of the post-2000 cinema, Dave Franklin hasn't visited a movie house in more than a decade. He can usually be found in a dingy room dressed up as Marilyn Monroe, pining for the lost days of the 70's cinema. Saying that, he will visit you for an appropriate fee to read excruciating excerpts from his novels.