Created By: Bobchillingworth on May 12, 2013 Last Edited By: Bobchillingworth on May 18, 2013
Troped

Dead Man's Trigger Finger

A character wildly fires a burst of ammunition immediately after being shot.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
If you are a fan of the action genre (particularly the Heroic Bloodshed subgenre), you’ve Seen It a Million Times. A character, typically a mook, is shot and reacts by firing their gun randomly as they fall. The afflicted individual is almost always lethally wounded and dead as soon as they hit the ground, and they are usually equipped with a one-handed automatic weapon to make their erratic death-spasm shooting more visually impressive. Redshirts killed this way are prone to accidentally offing any comrades standing too close and/or hitting nearby metallic surfaces for the sake of Bullet Sparks. Almost never does anyone manage to kill their attacker in this fashion; if they do, it’s also an inadvertent example of Taking You with Me.

Formerly exclusive to film and television due to technical limitations, certain videogames have included Dead Man’s Trigger Finger animations since the late 90’s. Now you too can enjoy forcing mooks to spray bullets indiscriminately as they’re killed!

Sister trope to Last Ditch Move and Last Breath Bullet, differing from both in that the Dead Man's Trigger Finger occurs whenever the weapon discharge is (at least mostly) involuntary and not deliberately aimed anywhere. Compare with visually impressive but functionally pointless action maneuvers such as the Unnecessary Combat Roll. Combines well with something like a Wilhelm Scream. Slow Motion is optional.

Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Comic Books]]
  • A Captain America / The Punisher teamup comic has Frank do this with a precise knife-throw into a guard with a machine gun, which takes out the other guards for them.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film - Animated]] [[/folder]]

[[folder:Film - Live Action]]
  • During the bathroom fight in True Lies Harry shoots one of Aziz's mooks several times in the chest in the middle of wrestling with the other one for control of the gun. The shot mook spastically lets off a burst from his submachine gun that goes nowhere important.
  • Parodied in ¡Three Amigos!. When El Guapo's men desert him he calls out "Come back, you cowards! You traitors!" His second-in-command Jefe says "I'm still here, El Guapo!" and is shot off his horse. He ends up on his feet, fires one shot in the air, and falls on his face, dead.
  • A variant in Predator. The title creature blasts Dillon's arm off with its Shoulder Cannon. The arm falls to the ground, with the dead hand still pulling the trigger of the weapon it's holding and the gun still firing.
  • Dick Tracy. When Big Boy's minions try to break past the police cordon, Flattop comes out of his car shooting a tommy gun at the cops. He's riddled with bullets, and as he falls to the ground he continues to fire his weapon in the air.
  • Displayed by some of the dozens of random Triad mooks gunned down in John Woo’s spectacularly violent (and awesome) Hard Boiled, a classic of the Heroic Bloodshed subgenre.
  • An early source of conflict (and Dark Comedy) in Starship Troopers, after a recruit shot in the head during a ridiculously dangerous live-fire training exercise spastically fires a long burst from his assault rifle into a group of nearby New Meat, causing further casualties.
  • A rather horrifying example in All Quiet on the Western Front, where a solider wielding a flamethrower is hit and ignites a couple of his companions as he jerks and spins in a panic.
  • Some of the AK-wielding Russian soldiers killed during Bond and 006’s raid on the Soviet chemical weapons plant in GoldenEye’s pre-title credits action sequence.
  • Performed by one of the mafia goons Leslie Nielsen shoots in The Naked Gun 33⅓'s Untouchables parody opening scene.
  • A machine-gun toting American Marine in Invasion USA (1985), gunned down while stupidly standing still in the middle of the huge climactic battle and firing from the hip on full-auto.
  • During the gun battle at Candie's mansion in Django Unchained, Django pulls a One-Hit Polykill on two mooks, who reflexively then blast each other again for good measure.
  • Cash manages to clear a hallway full of mooks in Cyborg 2 by throwing a knife at one them, who then proceeds to mow down everyone behind him in his death throes.
  • Odd example where the shooting mook is dead to begin with: After a shootout in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, there's a face down dead guy holding a shotgun. When Rory turns him over, the dead guy's shotgun is pointed at him. Rory shoots the dead guy and is then promptly killed by the shotgun, due to the movement of the corpse.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
  • In the Nick Carter story "Marked for Death", Nick shoots a gangster named Mike in the back, and initially thinks that he missed because Mike fires while spinning in place. But no, he was just reflexively pulling the trigger as Nick's shot turned him around, and Mike is already dead.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
  • In Quake II most of the enemy fire off a few shots after being "killed" and falling down, unless you manage to blow them to bits first. This was an intentional game mechanic and was mentioned in the game manual. May be the first example of the Dead Man’s Trigger Finger in videogame form.
  • Enemies may rarely do this in Perfect Dark, although it could be a bug due to their shooting animation not terminating properly as they die.
  • Can happen in both Max Payne 2 and Max Payne 3 to mooks wielding a single one-handed weapon, particularly if you shoot their legs out from under them just before they fire at you.
  • Occasionally occurs in Deus Ex: Human Revolution to enemies armed with the machine pistol or assault rifle.
  • Stormtroopers gunned or chopped down in Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast sometimes shoot their blaster rifles into the air while spinning.
  • Happens in Halo. An enemy killed by shooting often fires a couple rounds into the floor before dying.
  • In Blood, cultists who burn to death fire off their tommyguns in a short burst while their burning flesh falls from their bones.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • A possibility in real life, if a person is shot while holding their finger on a trigger and jerks it back due to some combination of pain, surprise and/or instinct. Falls under the general umbrella term “accidental discharge”.
[[/folder]]


Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • May 12, 2013
    StarSword
    Film:
    • During the bathroom fight in True Lies Harry shoots one of Aziz's mooks several times in the chest in the middle of wrestling with the other one for control of the gun. The shot mook spastically lets off a burst from his submachine gun that goes nowhere important.
  • May 12, 2013
    Olaf_Merchant
    Pretty common trope, I admit. Present in just about any heroic bloodshed movie. Hell, take *any* mook with an uzi, he's guaranteed to pull this off when he dies, as likely as there's going to be at least one Wilhelm Scream present.
  • May 13, 2013
    Melkior
    Video Games:
    • In Quake II most of the enemy fire off a few shots after being "killed" and falling down, unless you manage to blow them to bits first.
  • May 13, 2013
    Arivne
    Film
    • Parodied in Three Amigos. When El Guapo's men desert him he calls out "Come back, you cowards! You traitors!" His second-in-command Jefe says "I'm still here, El Guapo!" and is shot off his horse. He ends up on his feet, fires one shot in the air, and falls on his face, dead.
    • A variant in Predator. The title creature blasts Dillon's arm off with its Shoulder Cannon. The arm falls to the ground, with the dead hand still pulling the trigger of the weapon it's holding and the gun still firing.
    • Dick Tracy. When Big Boy's minions try to break past the police cordon, Flattop comes out of his car shooting a tommy gun at the cops. He's riddled with bullets, and as he falls to the ground he continues to fire his weapon in the air.
  • May 13, 2013
    Chabal2
    A Captain America / The Punisher teamup comic has Frank do this with a precise knife-throw into a guard with a machine gun, which takes out the other guards for them.
  • May 13, 2013
    Bobchillingworth
    Added a real description & entries. I'm no expert at wiki formatting- just cribbed a lot of it from elsewhere. Not sure why the Jedi Outcast example won't link properly. Further examples, clean-up fully appreciated :)
  • May 13, 2013
    Shinr
    See also Last Ditch Move.
  • May 13, 2013
    StarSword
    Cleaned up the draft (namespaces and formatting).
  • May 13, 2013
    Bobchillingworth
    Thank you!
  • May 13, 2013
    StarSword
    Just for reference, what you did wrong with the Jedi Outcast example was use curly braces instead of square brackets. Curly brackets, {}, are for bluelinking one-word page titles, or for doing things like making a singular trope title plural (for example {{BFG}}s becomes BFGs). More information at Text Formatting Rules.
  • May 13, 2013
    StarSword
    Film:
    • During the gun battle at Candie's mansion in Django Unchained, Django pulls a One Hit Polykill on two mooks, who reflexively then blast each other again for good measure.
  • May 13, 2013
    dvorak
    • Happens in Halo. An enemy killed by shooting often fires a couple rounds into the floor before dying.
  • May 13, 2013
    oztrickster
    This seems pretty similar to Last Breath Bullet.
  • May 14, 2013
    Melkior
    ^ After looking at Last Breath Bullet, it seems to me that it could be a sister trope. This trope is about a dead or dying enemy involuntarily firing a weapon, while Last Breath Bullet is about the dying enemy deliberately firing one last shot. The difference is unintentional/involuntary vs intentional/voluntary.

    Suggested paragraph for the description: This trope is in force whenever the weapon discharge is (at least mostly) involuntary and is not deliberately aimed anywhere. For cases where the dying person deliberately aims and fires, see Last Breath Bullet.
  • May 14, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Similar in terms practical idea, but very different in tone and significance.

    Now, it is really similar in concept to Deadfoot Leadfoot, which is a similar idea but, you know, with cars instead of guns.
  • May 14, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • The Adventures Of Jonny Quest has The Quetong Missile Mystery where rogue General Fong keeps his personal ICBM hidden in a swamp. Doctor Quest is able to destroy the missile, and escapes by boat with General Fong in pursuit. Fong radios a sentry to release mines to destroy Quest, but the sentry replies that the Quest boat is beyond his minefield. Enraged, Fong shoots the sentry, whose dying body slumps onto the release plunger. Fong's boat gets blown up by the mines instead.
  • May 14, 2013
    SKJAM
    In the Nick Carter story "Marked for Death", Nick shoots a gangster named Mike in the back, and initially thinks that he missed because Mike fires while spinning in place. But no, he was just reflexively pulling the trigger as Nick's shot turned him around, and Mike is already dead.
  • May 15, 2013
    MetaFour
    In The Incredibles, Elastigirl kicks one of Syndrome's mooks in the face, and he fires off a few semi-auto rounds as he falls to the floor. One of the bullets hits the control panel for the door that Elastigirl is stuck in, freeing her.
  • May 15, 2013
    Trueman001
    The laconic description needs to be reworded slightly -- "spastic" is a very offensive term in British English.

  • May 15, 2013
    PolarPhantom
    My future brother in law said that soldiers are trained to aim for the head or mouth of an enemy combatant so that this very thing doesn't happen. This is particularly important on sneaking missions. Not sure if it's true, but it's an interesting bit of trivia, and does make a little bit of sense.
  • May 15, 2013
    Bobchillingworth
    ^^ I'll substitute "wildly", although "spastically" is more accurate on a technical level since the shooting often occurs due to a muscle spasm. I'll leave other instances of the word unchanged however, since it should be clear to anyone who has read the full trope description what its context is, and I don't want to ban a useful adverb just for the sake of political correctness.
  • May 16, 2013
    AgProv
    Real Life

    Trains in Britain are operated on the "dead man's lever" principle, where the driver has to actively exert pressure on an operating bar for the train to move. This worked well until a flaw was discovered in an early model, in the worst possible circumstances. As a London tube train approached Moorgate station, the end of the line, the driver had suffered a fatal heart attack. Forensic reconstruction afterwards indicated that in his dying moments, the driver had fallen forward over the driver's lever, effectively locking it at full speed. The train ploughed right through its buffers and a little way onwards - at full speed. 43 people died and 74 were injured.
  • May 16, 2013
    Larkmarn
    ^ That's just Deadfoot Leadfoot. Related, but not the same trope.
  • May 17, 2013
    kouta
    A live-action film example ... maybe.

    After a shootout in Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, there's a face down dead guy holding a shotgun. When Rory turns him over, the dead guy's shotgun is pointed at him. Rory shoots the dead guy and is then promptly killed by the shotgun.
  • May 17, 2013
    Bobchillingworth
    Hmm. Doesn't fit the definition exactly, but the action may relevant enough. It has been years since I saw the movie, does the act of shooting the dead guy cause the shotgun to go off?

    Unrelated, anyone feel like giving this a final hat?
  • May 17, 2013
    kouta
    The dead guy still has his finger on the trigger when he's turned over, so I think Rory shooting him is what causes the shotgun to fire.
  • May 18, 2013
    erforce
  • May 18, 2013
    Olaf_Merchant
    Looks pretty good to me, description wise. Folders are displaying in an odd way for me, 'tho. Still, hatted.
  • May 18, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Videogames

    • In Blood, cultists who burn to death fire off their tommyguns in a short burst while their burning flesh falls from their bones.
  • May 18, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Not sure if this counts.

    In an episode of Columbo the Killer Of The Week poisons the Victim Of The Week with instantly acting poison, then puts a handgun in the victim's hand & arranges the hand so the gun is right against the victim's temple and his finger on the trigger. The object being, when rigor mortis sets in his hand will squeeze the trigger, shooting himself in the head to make it look like a suicide and giving the killer an alibi for the time of "death."

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ogkpsgue32vgawnyxtyk14ul&trope=DeadMansTriggerFinger