What IS Bad Assery?

5 Feb

If you asked everyone what scene in a movie embodies “Cool” and “Bad Ass”, I bet they’d all have a different answer. I know David and I have had a few conversations about this, and he says one of his friends claims this scene from Kill Bill is THE COOLEST THING IN THE UNIVERSE:

The thing I love about this particular example is O-Ren Ishii doesn’t even do anything except walk into a building, and yet you know from the music, the way the other characters follow her, the way the establishment owners pander to her, and her own completely flat expression that this woman commands a lot of respect. The weapon on her back is just a tease at that point, a promise of future awesome you can’t help but look forward to.

Another obvious example would be Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name:

There are three common elements apparent in both of these examples:

– Violence or the Promise of Violence
– Characters Oozing Confidence
– A Killer Soundtrack

So are these elements required for badassery? Hrmm.

It seems like a surefire bet, doesn’t it? Mix bravado with a little bit of style, add in a dash of sneering know-better wit and some intense chords, and voila, the movie bad ass is born. I could (if I wanted to) go on a complete and utter link fest of examples that would prove the formula right. The problem is the out-of-left field examples of badassery. Don’t know what I mean?

And even this!

Okay so now we have a new set of examples:

– Wizened old man giving sage advice
– Amazing soundtrack
– An incredible speaking voice

These two things really couldn’t be more disparate, could they? The soundtrack thing is there, of course, but music can make or break any mood in film. Shawshank definitely didn’t have any guns blazing in it, though, and Lord of the Rings was . . . well. It was Lord of the Rings. I suppose you could argue Gandalf’s defining moments would be on the bridge with the balrog or maybe his reveal as the new white wizard in Towers, but this scene was far more effective to me. The delivery of his message gave me tingles.

So I suppose the question is, if you had to pinpoint something in a movie that is the epitome of cool, what would you pick and more importantly, why? What elements make it so effective?


4 Responses to “What IS Bad Assery?”

  1. David February 5, 2011 at 11:07 am #

    This has been a staple question at one of the message boards I frequent, but when my buddy cited that scene from Kill Bill (Vol. 1), the thread basically shut down for a coupl’a days. Everyone was reduced to simple posts of, “Yeah” and “OMG I didn’t even think of that!” Well, not really – the posters on that board actually spell out “oh my god.” But you get the point. For me, the essence of cool – or of badassery, if you will – is distilled into one scene that i first saw at the tender age of three and has carried me for decades:

    Han shoots first.

    Even at that young age, and for years after, I had a very clear idea of what a “good guy” was. He helped little kids and pets. He saved all the moms and teachers in the world. Women looked up to him with the glassy eyes of a girl with a crush (more on that image in a moment), and men looked to him for leadership or even a simple nod of approval. The “good guy” did not get mixed up with a smuggler like Jabba the Hutt (I had no idea what a smuggler or a Hutt was, but I knew it was bad news). The “good guy” did not try and sweet talk a green thing with bug-eyes, antennae, and awful mouth, and hideous speaking pattern. And the “good guy” did NOT shoot that alien under the table with the same casualness that my Dad carried as he read the Sunday newspaper! Han Solo was…well, he wasn’t a “good guy,” but he was something more. And I learned the right description later in the same movie – rogue, scoundrel, pirate. And later, the perfect word would be added to my vocabulary” badass.

    Harrison Ford did it to me years later, this time as a doctor…named Jones. Instead of stealing from a Hutt (and, at 7 or 8, I was still asking “What the heck is a Hutt???”), he was stealing from an entire tribe. Instead of battling an Empire for personal gain, he was battling Nazis. But this time he was made out to be a bit more noble. His personal gain was in the name of history and knowledge. He is the betrayed, not the betrayer (and too bad about what happens to the guy who took the idol and didn’t toss the whip…). He went out of his way – twice, at least – to save his lady fair instead of capturing the bad guys. In fact, early in the film, we actually are shown those starry eyed girls who gaze adoringly at Dr. Jones – one of them actually has written “Love” and “You” on her eyelids!

    But the rogue is still there. The scoundrel is just waiting to rear it head. At thirty nunya-bidniz, I know that the scene would have played out differently if not for a touch of food poisoning or a stomach bug or what my Dad calls the “screaming shits.” I know the scene is one of convenience instead of scripting. It doesn’t matter. Indiana Jones is a man of honor, of science, and of history. So when a big bruising swordsman is ten paces away (duel of honor, anyone?), waving his blade in challenge, standing in the way of Indy’s maiden fair and the Ark of the Covenant, Dr. Jones is supposed to use his weapon of choice – his WHIP!!! – to dispatch his foe. He is NOT supposed to squint his eyes and shake his head as if to say, “oh fuck this…” and shoot his challenger as almost an afterthought!!! That’s dishonorable! It’s unfair! It’s…


    • Lara Martin February 7, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      Yes, yes, yes.

  2. Caulle February 5, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    Gotta go with my #1 movie here from my top 10 list. When the T-800 walks calmly into that bar and fucks all their shit up, takes the guys clothes, and steps out of the bar with “Bad to the Bone” playing in the background? I know he’s a robot but it doesn’t get any badder assed than that!

    Pretty much all the scenes in Kill Bill rank a close second however.

  3. Kel February 6, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Opening scene of Underworld, when Selene steps off that balcony, falls I-don’t-know-how-many stories, and lands in a perfect crouch, then just stands and walks away like it was nothing.

    Also, to quote: “My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.”
    Gotta love it. (Cookie to whoever knows that one ^.~)

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