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Film / Kingpin

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Kingpin is a 1996 Slapstick comedy made by the Farrelly Brothers.

It stars Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson, a former top bowler who lost his hand after an attempt to hustle some other bowlers went awry. In the present, Roy leads a pathetic life, forced to have sex with his repulsive landlady just to stay in his lousy apartment. When he discovers Ishmael (Randy Quaid), an Amish bowling prodigy, Roy sees his chance at getting out of the gutter. He offers to take Ishmael to the bowling championship in Reno, offering Ishmael the prize money to save his family's farm. Along the way, they pick up Claudia (Vanessa Angel), an attractive lady with her own goals.


Kingpin provides examples of the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Roy in his prime during the 70's as well as his old partner, Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray)... at first. He later proves himself to be a Broken Ace.
  • Actor Allusion: Roy is offered a million dollars by a playboy gambler for a night with his partner, à la Indecent Proposal.
  • The Alcoholic: Roy, big time. Following his Game-Breaking Injury, he turns to booze so hard that his kitchen cabinets are stocked with nothing except hard liquor.
  • Awesome Ego: Ernie is a shady piece of shit and quite the con man, he is also a really good bowler. He even won the final match against Roy during the film's climax.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Despite referring to her as "dear" Stanley is shown to be physically abusive to Claudia, at which point she decides to flee with Roy and Ishmael.
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  • Breast Attack: Roy does this after Claudia hits him between the legs.
  • The Cameo: Roger Clemens and John Popper (who turns up with his band Blues Traveler during the Dance Party Ending). In addition, professional bowlers Parker Bohn III, Randy Pedersen and Mark Roth appear as opponents that Roy defeats on his way to the final match in Reno against McCracken.
  • The Casanova: Ernie McCracken again, as he sponsors many fatherless boys in order to get with their single mothers, and is questioned by a reporter about his purported illegitimate child.
  • Dance Party Ending: With Blues Traveler performing "But Anyway" dressed as Amish people.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This becomes the group's main strategy after Claudia joins them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Or, as Roy puts it...
    Roy: Listen, lady, I've done a lot of creepy things in my life. I'm not gonna lower myself into having a fistfight with a girl.
  • Farm Boy: Ishmael comes from an Amish community
  • Groin Attack: Claudia does this to Roy.
    Roy: You must have really wide feet. You got both of them!
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Claudia: Look, Mr. Munster, you're not exactly the smartest guy I ever ran across.
    Roy: Oh yeah? And who are you, Alfred Einstein?
  • Ignore the Fanservice: Claudia's method of distracting Ishmael's opponents fails when he bowls against some farmers. It takes a sheep to grab their attention instead.
  • Jerkass: McCracken to an outrageous degree, and Roy to a lesser extent. McCraken takes pretty much every opportunity to rub his superior skill in people's faces, sabotaged Roy's car in the prologue after losing to him, took advantage of his naivety to get him into hustling which resulted in Roy's Game-Breaking Injury, and more.
  • Jerkass Hero: Roy certainly has his moments, most egregiously when he beats up Ishmael and rubs Tabasco sauce in his eyes in order to "save" him from a redneck whose girlfriend Ishmael had danced with in a bar, before having a round of drinks with said redneck and his friends.
  • Karma Houdini: Zig-zagged. It was McCracken's idea to hustle the bowler who cut off Roy's hand. He fled before Roy was confronted, and went on to become an unbeatable (yet incredibly smug and obnoxious) pro bowler, even winning the tournament in the climax. However, Claudia's Bastard Boyfriend Stanley arrives soon after, accusing Roy of stealing his gambling winnings. Roy pins the blame on McCracken, whom Stanley vows to find and kill.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Claudia shows up as Roy is trying to ditch her, which causes him to change the last word of the lie he is telling Ishmael.
    Roy: Yeah a big military train derailed and this whole area's in danger of being contaminated by a huge cloud of...shit!
  • Memetic Mutation: In-Universe as Roy's last name Munson has unflatteringly become slang for getting screwed over in the worst way.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Stanley hits Claudia after she mocks his bowling skills during his bet with Roy. Because of this, she helps Roy and Ishmael escape Stanley's wrath after he learns Roy was gambling using mostly Monopoly money. She even tells them as they escape that she will not stand for being hit.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Claudia, which she uses extensively to help with hustling bowling games.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy
    Ishmael: (snickering) I didn't want to be the one to tell him, but with those narrow hips, that girl couldn't have more than 6 or 7 children!
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: McCracken refuses to be addressed by anything but "Ernie" or "Big Ern."
  • Person as Verb: To be "Munsoned" develops as an in universe slang for anyone who is in deep shit.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Roy and Claudia are at each other's throats throughout the film, even engaging in a fistfight. Guess what happens during the ending.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: A love song starts playing while Roy and Claudia have a no-holds-barred smackdown.
  • Use Your Head: Claudia does this to great effect against Roy in their fistfight.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Despite what the announcers at the final tournament say, Ernie McCracken is not a nice guy.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Roy is this at first, until Claudia hits him a couple of times.