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The 2000's Batman films saw his fighting style noticeably updated to reflect this, moving away from the flashier style he is usually shown to have in live action media. This was a deliberate choice by Nolan and Bale. In Batman Begins Henri Ducard even hangs a lampshade on this while training Bruce Wayne saying, "This isn't a dance." Ducard is also one himself. "You've sacrificed sure footing for a killing strike (tap, Bruce falls through the ice)." His mantra is "Mind your surroundings.", which Batman is doing by the end of the movie. The Scarecrow is also one. Crane immediately sprays Batman with toxins upon being confronted by him.
Shortly after the Joker is arrested, it's rather comical as to how many knives the police take off of him. What's even more comical is that in the shot where they're laying the knives out on the table, the last one is a POTATO PEELER..., and the cop handling it clearly takes a second look as if to say "wtf?"
And then Catwoman just shoots him with an artillery cannon when his back is turned, making her one, too.
In The Quiet Man, John Wayne's brother-in-law challenges him to a fight using Queensbury rules. As soon as John agrees to it, his in-law kicks him in the face.
The newest incarnation of James Bond played by Daniel Craig is particularly appealing due to being this kind of character, not that the other Bonds were averse to getting a little dirty themselves.
Most notably, in The Man with the Golden Gun Bond faces a trained martial artist in a karate match. When the other man bows, Bond kicks him in the throat. The next opponent comes and bows while keeping a careful eye on Bond to prevent getting sucker kicked himself.
In Quantum of Solace, Camille shows herself to be this when she finally goes up against Medrano, using groin attacks, biting, an improvised weapon, and finally shooting him when he's unarmed.
The professional fighter "Mad Dog" in Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior was a particularly dramatic example of this, using absolutely everything that came to hand as a weapon, even ripping out electrical wires to attack his opponent.
Jack Sparrow beginning with the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. He pulls a gun on Will Turner during their sword duel.
Also Commodore Norrington, to some extent. He kicked Will in the chest, kicked sand in Will's face and tripped Jack during the fight over the key.
Although that may have been more about mercy than pragmatism; while all three men wanted the key very badly and wanted the other two to know how serious they were about it, and while Norrington had significant grudges against the other two, none of them really wanted each other dead. Those kicks and trips could easily have been stabs or slashes.
The Jedi and the Sith usually subvert this in terms of weapons, only using lightsabers and refusing to use blasters, but the Sith, being the villains, are more willing to fight dirtier.
Usually. Obi-wan ends up taking out Grievous with a blaster, though he does complain about it afterward.
In A New Hope while Obi-wan is dueling with Darth Vader, as soon as Obi-wan deliberately lowers his defenses, Vader immediately strikes with his lightsaber, killing Obi-wan.
Except, Obi-Wan wasn't there any more. He dematerialized just before Vader's lightsabre would have struck him, leaving Vader perplexedly prodding Obi-Wan's empty robe with his boot. This delays Vader just enough that a blast door ends up closing in front of him, cutting him off from the landing bay where the rest of the heroes are about to escape, while also removing their need to wait for Obi-Wan.
There is also Tarkin. Tarkin, ah, yes; showing combat pragmatism extends to overall strategy, he extorts a Rebel base location out of Princess Leia on pain of blowing up Alderaan.. then blows it up anyway, for strategic reasons as well as the possibility she was feeding them a line of bull (which she was).
In The Empire Strikes Back Luke grabs a broken pipe that is spraying exhaust and uses it to blind Vader, while Vader uses the Force to throw tons of large debris at Luke.
Han himself doesn't waste any time pulling his gun on Vader. Unfortunately for him, Vader can make an effortless Bullet Catch.
In Return of the Jedi, though it's part of Palpatine's plan, Luke Force grabs his lightsaber and attempts to kill the unarmed Emperor. When Luke turns off his lightsaber and tells Vader he will not fight him, Vader still attempts to strike him (though he gives Luke a small warning, telling him "You are unwise to lower your DEFENSES"). Palpatine tells Luke that since he will not turn to the dark side he will die, but rather than attempt to kill Luke with a lightsaber or challenge him to a lightsaber duel, Palpatine immediately uses Force Lightning.
In The Phantom Menace, the battle between Darth Maul, Qui-gon Jinn, and Obi-wan features kicks and punches as well as lightsaber dueling. Maul eventually gets the drop on Qui-gon by hitting him in the face with his lightsaber handle, stunning him just long enough for Maul to run him through.
Goofy acrobatics aside, most of Jackie Chan's characters are perfectly willing to strike some wince-inducing blows and think around their opponents almost as much as they hit them. And that is not even taking into account Jackie being the poster boy for Improbable Weapon User.
A number of characters from Ip Man. Even the titular hero, who is a Martial Pacifist, is not above kicking joints in, knees to the face, chops to the throat etc. He may not outright cheat, but he certainly isn't a stickler for the rules of gentlemanly sparring.
Viciously subverted with Zealot Lin, who tries to attack General Miura In the Back. Unfortunately for him, General Miura has a Badass Back. The results are not pretty.
The Twister also shows this, with things like repeatedly slugging Master Hung in the face when he refuses to go down or nailing Ip just when the round-ending bell sounds. However, rather than seeming impressive, it only reinforces how nasty he is.
Long before Indiana Jones there was Paul Newman's Judge Roy Bean who dealt with one challenger, "the Albino,"note who is of sufficient badassedness to eat onions straight out of the ground and boiling coffee from the pot by shooting him in the back with a buffalo rifle from a decently long range.
Actually, all of the assassins are this to various extents. O-Ren doesn't use guns, but instead sics her highly trained Yakuza Mooks on the Bride. They die, but it's just to buy time for another few dozen mooks. Vernita is caught off-guard by the Bride and forced into a fist fight, but escalates things to knives and doesn't hesitate to use a concealed gun in a cereal box when she gets the chance. Even Bill is packing heat when the Bride first confronts him, though one can't discount the psychological advantage of having their daughter there. Since the Bride thought that she had lost her child during the coma, it was particularly effective.
Though in this last case, Bill's being armed with a handgun isn't the typically "unfair" case of Combat Pragmatist, as the Bride opts to enter Bill's place with an uncharacteristic and hitherto unseen pistol of her own.
The titular characters from The Boondock Saints who actually kill a guy by dropping a porcelain toilet off a building so that it crushes him.
To be fair, the toilet was literally what Connor had handy (well, that and a pair of handcuffs with which the Russian mob dude in question had forced him to cuff himself to the toilet). Connor also landed right on the bad guy's buddy after dropping the toilet on the first bad guy. (It Makes Sense in Context). Ignore any theories involving Huge Friggen Guoys.
Of particular note is his use of the (rarely-used-in-movies) trick of dealing with imminent reinforcements by simply playing possum in a room full of dead enemies, then blasting said reinforcements a few moments after they arrive.
Ned Lynch: Never fight fair when you're fighting for your life.
The sole reason why El Topo survived every and all fights in the first half of the film. Eventually subverted because the last master is so good, no amount of cheating done by El Topo can even come close to tipping the scales in his favor.
Used ironically in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. When challenged to a knife fight by a mutinous crew member, Butch insists that they first go over the rules. As the other man scoffs, "There are no rules in a knife fight," Butch delivers a swift Groin Attack.
A playful non-combat echo of this occurs in The Adjustment Bureau. Elise challenges David to a race, he asks her what the rules are, and as soon as she says there are no rules, he takes off running. She chases after him, pretends to run out of breath, and when he comes back to check on her, she punches him in the stomach and wins the race.
Snake Plissken from Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.. To put out one example offhand, he offers a bunch of thugs a chance to do an old fashioned Duel to the Death with guns, where he throws a can, and once the can hits the ground, they all draw and shoot. He throws the can up, and promptly draws his gun and kills all of them, not even waiting for the can to hit the ground.
William Munny from Unforgiven. He shot a man crawling to safety from behind a rock, an unarmed saloon owner (although he should have armed himself if he was gonna decorate his saloon with William's friend), and the Big Bad without letting him have the chance to draw.
The One-Armed Boxer from Master of the Flying Guillotine is not above tricking other martial arts masters into ambushes and booby traps to survive. He lures the barefoot Muay Thai fighter into a hut with a metal floor. His entire martial arts school arrives to lock them inside the hut and light a fire beneath it so the Thai boxer roasts from the feet up. For the blind Flying Guillotine, however, One-Armed Boxer first manufactures a field of bamboo targets to destroy the master's signature weapon. Then he lures him into a coffin shop that he has booby trapped with birds to deafen the master, and axe-throwers to chop him down to size.
Wally Stephens: I know I can't beat you in a fair fight.
'Stretch' Sitarski:[scoffs] Stupid, I don't fight fair.
Wally Stephens: Neither do I!
[kicks Stretch in the crotch, then hits him across the face with a belt of .50 calibre machine-gun ammo. Stretch smiles dumbly for a second then falls over]
Gideon, Pierce Brosnan's character from Seraphim Falls doles out pragmatism and damage throughout the movie.
This was Steven Seagal's distinguishing feature back in the nineties. Instead of more striking arts, like Karate or Kung Fu, he employed Aikido, which is focused on defense and using the opponent's strength in one's favor, with a heavy dose of this trope. He would often target vital spots (eyes, throat, groins), twist and break joints, use improvised weapons, etc.
Gabriel: How can there be cheating in matters of life and death?
"You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"
Later in the film, Malone is attacked in his apartment by a gangster but fights him off saying, "Just like a wop to bring a knife to a gun fight".
The gangsters are pretty pragmatic too. Said gangster lures Malone to his tommy-gun wielding partner.
The same goes for Ace Rothstein's initial description of Nicky Santoro in Casino:
In Mystery Men The Sphinx is training the titular characters. When he meets Shoveler during his sparring session, he asks how many weapons does he wield. After he responds one, The Sphinx replies: No. The fist, the knee, the elbow, the head! You must lash out with every limb, like the octopus who plays the drums.
The Expendables: The titular guys completely ignore ANYTHING that might even resemble fair fighting and instead go for an exquisitely liberal use of Groin Attacks, ganging up on the baddies, and pulling out guns in the middle of CQC/melee confrontations.
A humorous moment in Dagon has a Deep One attempting to drown Paul Marsh in its toilet bowl, but Paul brains it with the lid.
Later, during the actual mission, they herd the German officers into the cellar, pour gasoline on them, and drop grenades down the vents.
LordShen, the Big Bad of Kung Fu Panda 2, knows that he is too weak to defeat his opponents and conquer China with kung fu alone. So he uses cannons instead. As well as fight with knives.
This is evident when he uses the weapon instead of facing Master Thundering Rhino in a kung fu fight which he knows he cannot win.
It's specifically mentioned that Master Thundering Rhino's "Horn Defense" is impervious to any attack, and we see it when he casually blocks all of Shen's thrown knives with his horn. Naturally, Shen's not going fight fair.
In Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, Holmes and Watson find themselves in a fight with a number of dirt antagonists. Both Watson and Holmes are willing to improvise. Pots, pans, cans, etc abound. In fact each is the quintessential dirty fighter, going so far as to throw one bad guy into another.
Averted, in the same fight, when Holmes and his opponent both, at different times, politely request a momentary break in the fight to recover.
Doomsday has a lot of 'effective combat'. Although this includes eye-gouging, biting and using a gun in a knife fight, it never feels very wrong because there are no friendly characters around in the first place. Partly neutralised by a Gray and Gray Morality, although the Squick remains.
The protagonists of the film are a militia for the American Continental Army that use guerrilla warfare against the British Army and cause serious damage to their supply routes.
The film's main protagonist and commander of the militia, Colonel Benjamin Martin, mentions this while witnessing a Real Life battle between the Continental Army and the British and makes a comment regarding the American side's commander, Real Life General Horatio Gates
Martin: That Gates is a damn fool. He spent too many years in the British army. Going muzzle-to-muzzle with Redcoats in open field. It's madness.
Real Life General Lord Charles Cornwallis does not believe in this trope at all and invokes it with both his enemies and his own side. Earlier in the film he gets angry at one of his officers, the film's main villain, Colonel Tavington, after explaining how King George III has rewarded him (Cornwallis) with 400,000 acres of land for his conduct in the war, explaining "This is how His Majesty rewards those who fight for him like gentleman". Later in the film he brings this up again in a meeting with Martin in regards another example of this trope; the militia's targeting of British officers during engagements. He tells Martin of the chaos that can result from leaderless armies on the battlefield. Martin replies that their doing this is in response to the British Army's even dirtier tactics of attacking civilians. A few moments later, Martin says he wants to arrange a prisoner exchange of some captured British officers for some of his own captured men which results in this exchange.
Cornwallis: This is not the conduct of a gentleman. Martin: If the conduct of your officers is the conduct of a gentleman, I'll Take That as a Compliment.
Full Metal Jacket has a sniper use a rather dirty tactic on a squad of Marines; shooting one who was sent to scout ahead but deliberately only wounding him and not killing him, causing him to lie there screaming in pain. When another Marine in the squad comes to help him and drag him back, the sniper shoots him as well. When another Marines does not come, the sniper puts more bullets into the two wounded Marines causing them to scream loudly in pain with the rest of the squad now having a Sadistic Choice; watch and listen to the two wounded Marines screaming in pain or try to retrieve them most likely getting themselves shot as well?
Saving Private Ryan: Like the Full Metal Jacket sniper, the German sniper that kills Caparzo just leaves him to bleed out in the street, knowing that he is a) no longer a threat, and b) bait for further targets.
During the climactic battle in the Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sentinel Prime has no problem calling for an air attack on Optimus when he starts losing the fight. Shortly therafter, he is shot in the back by Megatron. Throughout the series, both sides tend to be absolutely ruthless, bringing guns into melee fights as their baseline. Also in the third film is effectively taking America—yes, all of it—hostage in order to force the Autobots off Earth. And while they're leaving, they shoot their ship with a missile, just to be sure.
Old School Frank gets into a fist fight with Dean Pritchard. While getting beat badly, Frank starts saying "Time out", which Pritchard ignores and keeps hitting him.
Last Action Hero parodies this. In school, Danny is watching a film version of the scene in Hamlet where Hamlet has an opportunity to kill Claudius but refuses due to Claudius being in prayer. Danny starts whispering to himself, "Just do it", and then has a fantasy sequence of an action movie version of Hamlet with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role. In the scene where Hamlet discovers Polonius hiding behind a curtain, Polonius says "Stay thy hand, fair prince" to which Hamlet replies "Who said I was fair?" and shoots him with an MP 5 K, then mows down several palace guards with it.
The Mighty Ducks has a sports version. The Hawks' coach tells one of his players to "finish off" Banks, the Ducks' best player, who was previously a Hawk. The Hawk player is more than happy to do so, and trips Banks causing him to fly headfirst into the metal portion of the goal requiring him to be taken out of the game.
The second film has another sports version. Tibbles introduces Gordon to his new players, one of whom, Dean, is a large, tough guy who starts playfully rough housing the other team members. Gordon tells Tibbles his kids "don't play that kind of hockey" to which Tibbles replies, "They're called enforcers" and that Gordon is going to need them when he places against the Iceland team.
The Rundown The film's protagonist, Beck, (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) Does Not Like Guns, on account of his past. When asked about his not wanting to use guns, he says, "I pick up guns; bad things happen". He fits this for just about everything else though, including using a herd of cows on the villains. He resists shooting guns for the whole movie (though he's more than willing to use them as blunt weapons) however, at the film's climax, he's up against way too many armed bad guys and finally gives in and uses guns to defeat them and isn't shown having any regrets about it.
In Letters from Iwo Jima, the senior commander, Kuribayashi, directly orders his troops to stay alive as is practical in their course of their duties to inflict as much damage to the American invaders as possible and not throw away their lives in honorable suicide at setbacks, as was traditionally encouraged in the Imperial Japanese military.
In Apocalypse Now, Colonel Kurtz discusses this extensively in his monologue to Captain Willard. He talks about how there is a deep moral terror in the hearts of men that hold them back in a war from doing what is necessary to achieve victory, and that you must make a friend of that terror and overcome it if you are to succeed in a war. He then lists an example of how one time on a humanitarian aid mission the Vietnamese enemy came into the village and massacred all the villagers the Americans had just helped simply to spite them, this demoralized Kurtz deeply and is the turning point that led him to reconsider the way the Vietnam War was being fought. Kurtz realized that the enemy was willing to do whatever it took to win because they wanted the Americans out of their country that badly, and that there was a genius simplicity to war in that you can have men who are moral and show love to their friends, family and community, and yet when it comes time to fight they have the strength to do cruel things in order to win. He then says that America's problem is that we let judgment defeat us, we care too much about how people would view us if we did cruel things to win, if there were as few as 10 divisions of men like that willing to do harsh things in order to win then the Vietnam War could be won with alarming speed.
In Mirror, Mirror, the seven dwarves train Snow White in fighting. They quickly explain that fighting fair isn't an option since everyone is bigger and stronger than them. When Snow White faces Prince Alcott in a sword fight, she has to pull out every trick in the book just to keep up, like throwing snow in his face and stomping on his foot, as the Prince is stronger and more skilled despite his adherence to the rules. Snow White wins by throwing a rock at a branch, making snow fall on a horse and inducing it to kick the Prince.
In The Three Musketeers (2011), when D'Artagnan first challenges Captain Rochefort to a sword fight, Rochefort shoots him in the arm (he was intending to kill him but missed) and schools the idealistic boy about how combat really works when D'Artagnan accuses him of cheating. D'Artagnan pulls this himself when he later runs Rochefort through during a monologue.
The protagonists in the 1973 version of the film display a similar attitude.
Played hilariously straight in Safe (2012), when Alex and Luke both drop their guns and it looks like they're going to have a good ol' fashioned beatdown. Wrong. Mae shoots Alex in the leg with the pistol he just dropped the moment he turns his back, giving Luke a second to finish him off... by immediately picking his gun back up and emptying it into Alex's face and chest. Kinda justified, though, considering Mae saw Alex butcher a bunch of armed mooks with a pencil.
In the 1997 film version of Prince Valiant, Valiant may be a noble knight and prince, but he fights dirty and uses improvised weapons. When a man challenges him to a fight in a bar, Valiant asks if there are any rules. The man says no, and Valiant immediately tries to pull the rug out from under him, though the tactic fails because the man is too heavy.
Pacific Rim brings some dirty, dirty fighting to the mix of Kaiju vs Mecha. Double-teaming, flares to the eyeball, oil tankers, watchtowers and storage containers getting swung around, feigned deaths, faces pushed into volcanic vents, everyone has their share of filthy tricks, but Gypsy Danger in particular brings most of these to the table,
Schindlers List has a rare example of a completely unarmed person using a dead body as a weapon of non-violent self-defence. A camp inmate has stolen some food and the SS guards want to find out who, among a particular detachment, is the thief. They line the inmates up and ask if anyone knows who stole the food. Nobody steps forward. A guard shoots a random prisoner dead, and then asks again, Does anyone know who stole the food? A small boy, weeping, puts his hand up, and when ordered to speak, points at the dead man and says: 'He did.'
Azog the Defiler from The Hobbit. After Thorin cut off his arm in their first encounter, he doesn't hesitate to use every advantage he has the second time they meet, rather than just rush head on like an average orc. Later on, he ambushes Gandalf as Gandalf searches for him in Dol Guldur.
His son Bolg is equally as dirty, if not more. He's not above shooting Kili with a Mordor Arrow, siccing his Mooks on Legolas during a one-on-one fight, or throwing Legolas into his Mooks to make a getaway.
Arguably invoked in Man of Tai Chi, when the Big Bad pulls a knife on Tiger to force him to kill in self-defense, after regular hand-to-hand didn't work.
Scream: When pinned down by the killer in the first film, Sidney doesn't hesitate to do anything to regain the upper hand, up to and including jamming her fingers into a wound she'd inflicted earlier. This comes back to bite her in the fourth film, when Jill Roberts - the killer - does the exact same thing to her.
While it can be difficult to see, Godzilla does adapt to his opponents based on their strengths and weaknesses. It's also how he kills them most effectively. This may also be why he seems to avoid the boats by diving under them and does not destroy the Golden Gate Bridge until he literally falls through it.
The Mutos are not averse to double-teaming Godzilla or biting him and latching on.
In X-Men: First Class, Azazel's initial tactic when breaching the CIA compound is simply teleport next to an enemy, grab hold of him, teleport himself and his target hundreds of feet into the air, let go of his target and teleport away, letting gravity do the rest.
Rather appropriately, in The Avengers, the entirety of the team are shown to be this to various extents, with Tony using taunts/JARVIS' help with Loki, Steve not even approaching the realm of 'fair fight' when dealing with *anyone*, even Iron Man and Thor (choosing to smack them with his shield rather than any other method of stopping their fight), and of course Black Widow and Hawkeye are shown biting and pulling hair respectively in their fight, and Thor deploys wrestling moves on Loki. Hulk sort of goes without saying.
Chon Wang in Shanghai Knights finds himself completely outmatched in a sword fight. Once he realises he can't win he cuts the ropes supporting the platform they are both standing on, throwing his opponent and himself off the top of a tower.
John Wick is a master of this. Bringing guns to a melee, always shooting more than once, always making sure to Coup de Grāce downed mooks and going In the Back whenever possible. The Dragon Kirill also shows some of this, letting the mooks distract John while he blindsides him with a car.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), April is clearly outclassed by virtue of being a normal human against other normal humans with guns and training and one ninja master in Powered Armor. April takes every opportunity she gets to screw with the Shredder, from, stabbing him in the back to distracting him before he can kill a helpless Leo.