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Combat Pragmatist / Film

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  • One of the most famous examples in all of film; Indiana Jones, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, after going through a lengthy fight and chase sequence, is approached by a villainous swordsman who proceeds to show off a few fancy sword moves with his BFS. Indy opts to simply pull out his gun and shoot the swordsman. This wasn't in the original script; it was a Throw It In! by Harrison Ford, who had dysentery at the time of the scene and wasn't up for the scripted fight.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Superman gets a dose of this in Man of Steel. He smashes Zod's helmet in their fight, knowing that Zod will be overwhelmed when his helmet no longer filters his Super Senses. He also snaps Zod's neck at the end, although the whole Metropolis-wrecking fight prior to it is Superman trying to not be a Combat Pragmatist, as he has no non-lethal means of neutralizing a skilled Kryptonian fighter sworn to kill everyone on Earth.
    • This is continued by Batman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman kills roughly a third of the henchmen who get in his way. This however may not always be due to Combat Pragmatism; on one hand the warehouse fight scene would be quicker, less lethal and less brutal if Batman just grabbed two guns and targeted shoulders and knees. On the other hand there's the psychological warfare aspect; the henchmen are terrified of the Bat because it isn't a guy with a trigger-finger.
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    • In Wonder Woman (2017), Diana disarms Antiope during a sparring match and thinks it is over. Antiope sucker punches her, takes the sword back, and lectures her that real fights aren't fair.
    • In SHAZAM! (2019), when Dr. Sivana learns that Billy can transform by saying "Shazam", he captures Billy when in his normal, non-powered self and submerges Billy's head underwater to try to drown him while not allowing him to transform. It's a good thing for Billy that his foster siblings, in turn, know how to distract Sivana and give Billy the instant he needs to re-power up.
  • 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. When Batman confronts the Scarecrow, Crane immediately sprays Batman with fear toxin from a hidden dispenser in his sleeve. He brought chemical weapons to a fistfight.
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    • The Dark Knight sees The Joker sucker punch, use a knife hidden in his boot, trick an entire gang of robbers into killing each other, pull off the now famous 'magic trick', violate Mook Chivalry, use a cop as a Human Shield, use a bomb inside a guy's stomach, triggered by a cellphone, disguise hostages as the hostage takers and vice versa, and sic dogs on Batman before going in on him with a lead pipe. However, it's slightly averted at one point, with the Joker telling a cop that he prefers to kill people with knives than guns, since guns do it too quick and don't allow him to savor their final moments... which, given the questionable truth of anything the Joker said about himself, might actually not be played straight, but rather is used to push all of the wrong buttons of the cop guarding him, leading to a fight in which the cop loses. 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?"
    • The Dark Knight Rises: Bane counts as well. To wit, Good Old Fisticuffs, headbutting, kicking them while they are down, with a good dose of The Berserker when Batman cuts off his supply of anesthetics, resulting in Rapidfire Fisticuffs. Nolan has even stated that he wanted Bane's fighting style to be pragmatic and ruthless. And then Catwoman just shoots him with an artillery cannon when his back is turned, making her one, too.
  • In The Wizard of Oz, the Wizard explains to the Cowardly Lion, more or less, that his Trope is actually just a subset of this Trope, and that by running from dangers he cannot safely face, he confuses cowardice with wisdom.
  • The film Hush sees a deaf novelist, Maddie, living in near-seclusion in the woods with only a nearby married couple as neighbors, pursued by a masked serial killer. Obviously, seeing as to how she has the significant disadvantage of not being able to hear him at all, she has to be very creative when it comes to outsmarting him and staying alive. After a night of the killer toying with Maddie, having already killed the married couple, and trying to get into the house at every turn, she realizes that she can't run, hide, or fight him, so she resolves to kill him. Eventually he does get into the house, where upon his entry, she grabs her specialized smoke detector, designed to be loud enough to cause vibrations for her to feel, and a bright flashing light so she can notice it, and holds it directly in his face, disorientating him. She then blinds him with bug spray during their struggle, and when he has her pinned to the floor and has nearly strangled her to death, she reaches across the floor, grabs a nearby corkscrew, and drives it through his neck, delivering the killing blow.
  • 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 brother in-law kicks him in the face. Furthermore, nearly every blow the brother-in-law lands during the course of the fight is some kind of sucker punch or cheap shot.
  • 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.
    • Quantum of Solace also has a stellar fight sequence with Bond fighting a knife-wielding opponent. In the course of about 30 seconds, Bond slams him through two doors and attacks him with no less than 5 improvised weapons.
  • 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.
  • In Big Game, Moore doesn't shy away from fighting dirty and using Improvised Weapons during his confrontation with Hazar. Justified, as he has no combat training whatsoever and has to rely on everything just to survive.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Jack Sparrow beginning with the first movie. He pulls a gun on Will Turner during their sword duel.
      Will: You cheated!
      Jack: Pirate.
    • Will eventually learns (from Jack, of course) a few things about fighting dirty; Elizabeth, on the other hand, takes to it like a duck to water.
    • In another Jack/Will exchange:
      Will: You ignored the rules of engagement! In a fair fight, I'd kill you!
      Jack: Well, that's not much incentive for me to fight fair then, is it?
    • Barbossa is not above punching/kicking people during a sword fight. Though note that a good deal of sword-fighting manuals show that this was encouraged even by "honorable" fighters. In At World's End, he also pulls a gun and shoots someone shortly after marrying Will and Elizabeth in the final battle, with a cackle thrown in for good measure.
    • 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 in ''Dead Man's Chest. 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.
  • Star Wars:
    • The scene between Greedo and Han Solo, where Han shoots Greedo from beneath the table. Han's still got it thirty years later, during a memorable scene in The Force Awakens when he's escaping from the Kanjiklub gangsters and pursuing Rathtars, Han sucker punches a Kanjiklub mook and then throws him into the Rathtar's mouth. Two birds with one stone, that move.
    • 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. This is somewhat justified in that the Jedi teach restraint-start fighting too dirty, and you might fall to the Dark Side. 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 (though admittedly, this was a Thanatos Gambit by the Jedi).
    • 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.
    • The scene in ''Revenge of the Sith" when Obi-Wan and Anakin are dueling. You know which.
    • This is continued into the Sequel Trilogy: In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren takes advantage of his saber's cracked crystal by installing vents on the side of the hilt, like a crosshilt. In his fight with Finn, he uses these as weapons when forced into close combat.
    • Rey displays some shades of this in The Last Jedi during her fight against the Praetorian guards. At one point, she escapes a headlock by dropping her lightsaber, and catching it so that her arm is free to slice her opponent, in a clever-but-unorthodox move. Justified in that she’s self-taught and inexperienced with a lightsaber.
      • Later in the same film, Kylo Ren subverts Leave Him to Me by immediately ordering his forces to fire upon Luke Skywalker. It's only when Luke (apparently) No-Sells the ludicrous amount of blaster fire rained down upon him that Ren goes to confront him personally.
    • In Solo, this is how Han defeats his mentor, Tobias Beckett. He knows that Tobias is better at quick-drawing than him, so he ends up subverting the Showdown at High Noon and fatally shoots him before he could even draw his own gun. Yes, that's right: Han shot first.
  • 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.
    • Ip's Combat Pragmatism gets taken to another level in the sequel, with more Improvised Weapon usage and Attacking Weak Points.
    • 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  by shooting him in the back with a buffalo rifle from a decently long range.
  • Kill Bill:
    • Budd easily defeats the Bride, by pretending that he's not aware of her sneaking up on him, and lying in wait with a shotgun full of rock salt. Unfortunately for Budd, Elle works in the same way, and kills him with poison, just as she did Pai Mei. Despite being a Pragmatist, Elle falls victim to a related trope by insisting that Budd make the Bride suffer rather than just kill her. It comes back to bite her hard. Oddly enough, Budd's final fate (a horrible death by concealed Black Mamba) shows an inversion or even aversion to this trope: just shooting your opponent sounds like the smartly pragmatic thing, up until you discover way too late that you pissed off your victim's Worthy Opponent and she decides you need to die like a dog because said victim "deserved [a] better [death than being shot by some trailer-trash slob]".
    • 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. Justified, this may not be just a matter of preference as in other examples in this movie: In Japan guns are nearly impossible to obtain and, even for the Yakuza, and shootouts are almost unheard of, a whole army of armed mooks in a Japanese restaurant would be too much irrealistic.
    • 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 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.
    • Pai Mei is not a fan of such tactics. When The Bride approaches him for training, he toys with her during their scuffle. Right until she tries being pragmatic and attempts going upside his head with a rock. He immediately ceases screwing around, easily disarms her and threatens to literally disarm her if she tries it again.
  • The title characters from The Boondock Saints who actually kill a guy by dropping a porcelain toilet off a building so that it crushes him. 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.
  • The Bourne Series's Jason Bourne is a definite and obvious example - hitting foes with everything almost literally including the kitchen sink note , preparing traps and ambushes MacGyver style in the heat of combat, and lulling foes into a false sense of security whenever possible (see his escape from the customs officials in the second movie).
  • Liam Neeson from Taken. He only fights "fair" if he needs you alive for questioning. Attacking other people's nuts? Check. Torturing someone for information? Check. Killing him AFTER receiving the information? Check. Shooting someone in mid-sentence while the guy tried to negotiate? Check. It's hilarious. The movie probably should have been named "Combat Pragmatism - The Movie". 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.
    • On the other hand, one of his supposedly pragmatic acts did come back to haunt him in the sequels — although in all probability, the Big Bad probably would probably just have made up some other excuse to seek revenge.
  • Swashbuckler:
    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 starts walking towards his opponent, insisting 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, having gotten close enough and taken the man off guard. Only then does Butch "start" the fight, with his opponent rolling on the ground in pain (and probably the irony that he'd love to complain about breaking the rules now). Furthermore, Butch never intended to let his opponent profit from the whole thing, as he essentially told Sundance "If he wins, shoot him" before accepting the challenge.
  • 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.
    Snake: Draw.
  • 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. And then there's "Wins Without A Knife" Y. Yamasaki, who in the movie's tournament wins his fight by... using a hidden knife.
    "So he does have a knife. Very clever."
  • 1941.
    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.
  • Knights:
    Gabriel: How can there be cheating in matters of life and death?
  • Jim Malone spells it out for Elliot Ness in The Untouchables:
    "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:
    "No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him, because he'll keep comin' back and back until one of you is dead."
  • In the TV movie El Diablo:
    Billy Ray Smith: You just shot that man In the Back!
    Van Leek: His back was to me.
  • Army of Darkness has Ash do this to Evil Ash. Evil Ash taunts Ash and starts beating him up with clownish tactics, until Ash shoots him in the face with his double-barrel shotgun. There's also the beginning of the movie, when he shoots the king's sword's blade in half, as the king was challenging him to a sword fight.
    Ash: Good... Bad... I'm the guy with the gun.
    • The line in an alternate cut is: "I ain't all that good."
  • 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.
  • The Dirty Dozen provides a classic example. When asked to prove their worth in a war games simulation, they stage an accident and sneak into the enemy headquarters while wearing the opposing teams' armband color.
    • Later, during the actual mission, they herd the German officers into the cellar, pour gasoline on them, and drop grenades down the vents.
  • Lord Shen, 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 to fight fair.
  • Hellboy is definitely one of these.
    Hellboy: Skip to the end, how do I kill it?
  • In Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes (2009), 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. Holmes at one point uses a live electrode to electrocute one mook through exposed copper piping, effectively launching him into another mook that Watson was fighting. Averted, in the same fight, when Holmes and his opponent both, at different times, politely request a momentary break in the fight to recover (because, after all, Holmes is an Englishman).
  • 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 Patriot, a 2000 film about The American Revolution, brings this up throughout.
    • 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.
    Martin: (Watching the American side begin its retreat) This battle was over before it began.
    • 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.
    • The film's main villain, Colonel William Tavington, is a firm believer in this trope but his actions are really more out of sadism than wanting to win. He's more than willing to kill civilians, (including children), kill retreating troops, execute wounded troops begging for mercy, burn down the homes of civilians for "harboring the enemy" (meaning they took in and gave care to wounded troops from both sides), and even sets fire to a church full of the families of the militia's men after having promised them that if they told him the location of the militia's base, they would be forgiven. The only time he shows any restraint is when he orders Gabriel to be hanged rather than just having him shot, and even that is only so his body can be put on display as a warning. As he explains to Cornwallis, "I advance myself only through victory." However, in this case Cornwallis is correct in his disapproval of Tavington's tactics. He explains to Tavington that the Americans "are our bretheren, and when this conflict is over, we will resume commerce with them", and tells him later that it's Tavington's fault that Cornwallis's army is still stuck in South Carolina and hasn't advanced northward; Tavington's brutality has gotten results but has angered the colonists and given more support to the Revolutionary cause. Indeed, it's Tavington killing Martin's son, Thomas, that causes Martin, who previously had no interest in the Revolution, to join the Continental Army. Truth in Television, due to the Continental Army's guerilla tactics, the British sometimes resorted to cruel tactics against American civilians, which ended up causing them to support the revolution.
  • 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 Marine 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?
    • Once one of the wounded Marines — the squad's corpsman — is about to point out the shooter, he and his wounded companion outlive their usefulness for psychological warfare. Which in itself is psychologically devastating.
  • 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 thereafter, 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 MP5K, 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 Prince Valiant (1997), 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 Gipsy Danger in particular brings most of these to the table,
  • Schindler's 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.'
  • In Coraline, a quick-thinking Coraline defeats the Other Mother by throwing her own ally, the Cat, at her face. Note that the Cat was not in on this plan.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Alabama in True Romance. She doesn't use graceful kicks, or fancy backflipping, or any other She-Fu bullshit when she's struggling for her life against a brutal hit man three times her size. What she does use is a corkscrew, a porcelain bust of Elvis, shampoo in the eyes, a toilet tank lid, an Aerosol Flamethrower, the corkscrew again, and five blasts from a shotgun.
  • 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.
  • Godzilla (2014):
    • 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • Thor: Loki is a big fan of distracting his foes with illusions of himself and then shooting at them from a safe distance. His magical throwing knives are the only ranged weapons used by Thor's group. Everyone else had to get up close and personal with the Frost Giants to hit them, which turned out to be a bad thing after Volstagg learned the hard way that the Jötnar could freeze by touch. When a Frost Giant who speared Fandral is moving in to finish the job, Loki is able to take down the Jötunn before the latter can reach his target.
    • The Avengers (2012): Rather appropriately, 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.
    • Captain Marvel (2019): After Carol has unlocked her full powers and sent Ronan fleeing, Yon-Rogg challenges her to "put away the light show" and finally prove she can beat him in hand-to-hand combat, a call-back to a sparring scene early in the movie. She responds by hitting him right in the chest with an energy blast, then tells him, "I don't have to prove anything to you."
    • Guardians of the Galaxy: Rocket never heard of fighting fair and would probably think that the whole idea was stupid if anyone ever tried to explain it to him.
  • 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 Grâce 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.
  • Rama from The Raid and its sequel. Using weapons in a fistfight, smashing foes into any convenient hard or sharp object, going for joints or the neck - there are few things off-limits to him.
  • Frank Martin from The Transporter series is defined by this. He's able to use anything to win a fight from his shirt to spilling oil on the floor and sticking his feet into a set of pedals for traction to gain an advantage over his traction-less foes. Most notably he plans to do nothing after his car and his home have been blown up, claiming he can buy a new car, rebuild his house, and the men who did this think he's dead so they're not after him anymore, meaning he has a free pass to start over.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen increasingly becomes this as the movies progress, though moreso during the games.
  • I Shot Jesse James: Robert Ford shoots Jesse James in the back when Jesse turns away from him and is separated from his guns. Truth in Television, as this was how the real Jesse James was killed (though he was actually shot in the back of the head, not the back).
  • In Canyon Passage, Logan has no scruples about breaking a bottle or a chair over Bragg's head, or tricking him into punching a post.
  • Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes is this trope:
    • He defeats Rocket by luring him out into the main room of the refuge centre and then clubbing him with an oil can over the back of the head, and then threatening to sic Buck on him if he doesn't back down.
    • Against the humans in the final battle on the Golden Gate bridge, he uses the fog to attack the human roadblock from above and also sends his subordinates to climb the struts under the bridge to attack from below. He orders them all to attack from all sides all at once, crushing the police handily.
    • Then in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes he defeats the much more powerful Koba by defending against his strikes until he tires out and then repeatedly hits the gash in his side when he opens himself.
  • In Mad Max: Fury Road, the Queensberry rules are one of many things that were lost in the apocalypse. The fight between Max and Furiosa, for example, is best described as a no-holds-barred beatdown involving whatever's to hand, including bolt cutters, car doors, chains, pistols, shotgun butts, and so on, and Immortan Joe is no more concerned about such niceties than the main characters.
  • Mortal Engines:
    • Anna has a both a hidden wrist blaster and another blade in the heel of her boot to give her an edge in combat - in battle with Rustwater's slavers it turns an overhead kick into a One-Hit Kill.
    • In the climax Valentine uses The Reveal of his being Hester's father to distract and then disarm her. He even chides her for letting her guard down.
  • Due to his smaller size compared with his opponents the title character of Bumblebee relies on this trope.
  • Zig-zagged by Buster Scruggs. He never attacks anyone who doesn't reach for their gun first, and fights fair if someone challenges him to a duel. But if someone threatens him outside of the rules, he doesn't hesitate to use whatever tactics it takes (and then lead a rousing song about the person he just killed).
    "I'm not a devious man by nature, but when you're unarmed your tactics might gotta be downright Archimedean."
  • The Karate Kid: This franchise is full of them.
    • One of the most surprising examples is Martial Pacifist extraordinaire Mr. Miyagi. While he goes out of his way to avoid fights, he is a spectacularly dirty fighter when forced into one, favoring Deadly Dodging, the Groin Attack and the Improvised Weapon.
    • John Kreese claims to be this, but neither his philosophy or his actions amount to anything other than ill-concealed thuggery.
  • The Wild Geese. As neither the mercenaries nor the soldiers they are fighting have signed the Hague Convention, the former use Deadly Gas and cyanide-tipped crossbow bolts to take out the guards.


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