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Film / Lightning Jack

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They just wanted to be Wanted!

Lightning Jack is a 1994 American-Australian Western comedy starring Paul Hogan and Cuba Gooding Jr..

Paul Hogan is Lightning Jack Kane, an Australian outlaw in the American West who wishes to be a famous outlaw. However, his plans to become famous get derailed when a botched robbery leaves him as the last member of his gang still alive.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is Ben Doyle, a mute who gets no respect. Most think that he is dumb, and his employer doesn't even help him out.

Their paths cross when Lightning Jack takes Ben hostage during yet another botched robbery. However, when Jack eventually lets him go, Ben decides to stay with the outlaw. Thus, Lightning Jack decides to teach him how to be an outlaw.

The film features the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Even though this is a comedy, Jack is one of the most capable gunslingers ever put to film. He can draw faster than anyone in the film, and and shoot the guns out of people's hands without hurting them. He wins a fight against two Comanche braves on horseback. He can also convincingly play dead in the saddle without falling from his horse.
  • Awesome Aussie: This is a given, being that Lightning Jack Kane is played by none other than Paul Hogan, the Trope Codifier himself.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Played Straight, and Inverted, both in the same scene, where Lightning Jack and Comanche Doyle try to rob the bank at the end, only to encounter a rival gang after the same bank.
    • Played straight in that the pair simply allow the other gang to rob the bank, to get the money out of the safe.
    • Inverted in that Doyle, having written a note, warns the townsfolk that the bank is being robbed. The townsfolk manage to kill/capture the rival gang.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Ben joins up with Lightning Jack because of this reason - he was the only one who treated him decently, despite having been taken as a hostage by the outlaw.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Lighting Jack Kane dislikes it when folks drop the "Lightning" from his name, and claiming that he ain't "No Jesse James", or calling him British, when he's actually Australian. In one case, he shot a newspaper for these three things.
    • Ben Doyle also has a minor issue about folks thinking him to be stupid, just because he was mute, even writing out that the one person was an asshole for this belief — ironically, the person didn't know how to read.
  • Black Dude Dies First: In Lightning Jack's original gang, the black guy, who functions as the lookout, is the first to die when the shooting starts.
  • Blind Mistake: Lightning Jack, due to having issues reading things up close, knocked off the bank he met Ben Doyle at for $50, as all the money he had was a bunch of ones, instead of tens.
  • Blind Without 'Em:
    • Partially averted by Lightning Jack, who has no issues seeing things far away, but he does need glasses to read things like newspapers, notes, and the dominations on dollar bills.
    • Played straight by the outlaw Jack mentions, known as "Bad Eyes" McBain, who apparently really needed glasses.
  • But Not Too Evil: This is the case where Lightning Jack is concerned. Aside from robbing banks, he doesn't do anything that's really evil, is actually quite likable, and is one of a handful of people who is nice to mute Ben.
  • Casual Kink: The prostitute Ben visits gets very excited when she learns he won't be able to spread word of what they specifically get up to. No details are given but she immediately pulls out horse tack and Ben is into it.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: A group of Commanche briefly pursue the pair, but their leader rapidly calls a halt when he realizes they're only chasing because the outlaws are running (and something Jack said was misinterpreted as calling one of the warriors "coyote droppings").
  • Disguised in Drag: Towards the end of the movie, Lightning Jack and Ben put on a pair of dresses and such in order to pick up Lana. Seems to work well enough for at least one bounty hunter to call Lightning Jack a "mam".
  • Do You Want to Haggle?: Lightning Jack Kane seems to be fairly bad at this. Soon after Ben joins him, Lightning Jack decides to get him a horse, buying it from some Plain Folk, claiming to be able to get it for $5, tops. It costs $30, causing him to remark that he should have shot the fella.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Lightning Jack might be an outlaw, but he never kills anyone. Even early on, during a scene where he has taken Ben hostage, to keep a posse from killing him, when one member of the posse states that Ben is "Only the dummy", Lightning Jack actually looks at his hostage in sympathy.
  • Exact Words: Ben writes a note that states that he'll never tell anyone about Lightning Jack having trouble seeing things up close. Lightning Jack has a laugh once he gets the meaning of the note, as Ben can't say a word anyways.
  • Faking the Dead: During the opening robbery, when some townsfolk shoot at him, Lightning Jack reacts by all but flinging himself off his horse, hanging on with one leg, and letting the horse carry him away from town.
  • Gangsta Style: Lightning Jack will sometimes shoot his revolvers sideways. At least with a revolver, the casings just stay in the cylinder.
  • Guns Akimbo: Lightning Jack tends to use two revolvers, one being a .50 caliber, and the other being a .45. Partially justified in that he's mainly using them to intimidate robbery victims, or fires them one at a time.
  • Handicapped Badass: Both Lightning Jack and Ben have disabilities, but this doesn't stop them from being outlaws.
    • Lighting Jack has trouble with things that are up close, needing reading glasses, and finds it funny to find out that he knocked a bank off for fifty dollars, but he can hit anything another person points at, and the target would be dead before the other's finger straightens.
    • Ben is a mute, but this doesn't stop him from busting Lightning Jack out of jail, nor from setting up a rival group of outlaws to be captured by the townsfolk — sometimes the written word works.
    • An outlaw by the name of "Bad Eyes" McBain is mentioned by Lightning Jack as a fella who really needed glasses. He got around this issue by using a special Sawed-Off Shotgun, which Ben got from Lightning Jack.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lana Castel, as played by Beverly D'Angelo, is a showgirl who is in love with Lightning Jack, and has been for years.
  • Human Shield: This is how Lightning Jack and Ben met, with Lightning Jack using Ben to keep a posse from firing at him. When one member of the posse indicates that he wouldn't mind shooting "the dummy" to get to Lightning Jack, the outlaw looks at his hostage with some sympathy.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Lightning Jack uses this to his advantage, where making his crimes, and why he left Australia. In Australia, if he robbed a bank there, he'd be wanted all over the place. In America, he can rob a bank in one state and go to another state to escape pursuit. Democracy is a wonderful thing, according to him.
  • Magic Feather: Lightning Jack has a number of amulets that supposedly help him out, which include an eagle eye that keeps him from missing his target (he never misses), one that keeps him from getting bit by snakes (he doesn't get bit but he does get a cactus thorn in the backside of his leg), one that keeps grizzly bears away (Ben has a close encounter with one), and a fertility charm (which he gives to Ben as a "tongue necklace" to help him intimidate would-be challengers). All together, they cost over $200!
  • Mistaken Nationality: One newspaper states that Lightning Jack speaks with a British accent. He'd like to remind you that he's bloody Australian.
    • To be fair, depending on when the film is set, Australia was a British colony up until 1901, when it federated. See the Wikipedia article on Australia for more details there.
  • Plato Is a Moron: As far as Lightning Jack Kane is concerned, Jessie James is a peckerhead, and is incapable of teaching Ben on how to even fart like an outlaw. That being said, Lightning Jack claims that Frank is the brains between the two.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Lightning Jack doesn't kill anyone. In one case, after outrunning a bunch of Comanche warriors, Ben asks him why didn't the outlaw shoot any of their pursuers. Lightning Jack responds that, if he shot and killed a Comanche, and didn't know the fella's name, their spirit would go into an owl, and follow him around, calling out "Who?" until he said the warrior's name.
    • In a case of Fridge Brilliance, this might also be a self-preservation tactic — it is one thing to rob a bank, and piss people off, but if you kill them, or their friends, then expect to be at the wrong end of a gunfight.
  • Right in Front of Me: Towards the end, a store owner is talking to two people who are interested in the bank, claims to have shot Lightning Jack Kane. Guess who one of the two he's talking to happens to be?
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: When it's clear that Ben isn't any good with a revolver, Lightning Jack gives him a 20 gauge cutdown double-barrel shotgun.
  • Say My Name: This is apparently the reason Lightning Jack didn't shoot any of the Comanches — he doesn't know their name, and if he doesn't know their name, the person's spirit will go into an owl, and show up by Lightning Jack every night saying "Who?" until Lightning Jack calls out the right name.
  • Shoot the Hostage: Upon finding himself in the middle of yet another robbery-gone-wrong, Lightning Jack takes Ben hostage, in order to use as a Human Shield to keep the armed citizens of the town from shooting him. While the Sheriff tells the members of the posse to hold their fire, and nobody shoots, one remarks that "It's only the dummy", the implication being that they themselves wouldn't mind shooting Ben to get to Lightning Jack. Lightning Jack actually looks at Ben in sympathy.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Lightning Jack tells Ben that a shotgun can blow a man clean out of his boots at 6-7 paces, and has him shoot a barrel, blasting it into splinters. However, he then has him shoot at a barn wall that's somewhat further away, merely peppering it, and informs Ben that at thirty paces, the target would be pissed off.
  • Shot in the Ass: This happens to two townsfolk near the end of the film, when Ben accidentally fires his Sawn-Off Shotgun in their direction. He's quick to point at someone else standing by him who also has a shotgun.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Lightning Jack Kane seems to have this sort of personality, and doesn't like hearing that the price on his head is just $200.
  • The Speechless: Ben is mute, and communicates through writing in a notepad, as well as gestures and body language.
  • Suck Out the Poison: During one scary moment, Jack receives some sharp pain in his backside while climbing down a hillside, and sees a rattler nearby. Fearing for his life, he asks Ben to suck out the venom. Turns out to be a cactus thorn, and Jack has a laugh over it. Ben writes that he won't tell anyone, causing Jack to laugh even more. That being said, Jack later claims that he was the one to suck the venom out of Ben, but that isn't something to exactly talk about.
  • Twilight of the Old West: While the date isn't stated, during one scene, when Lightning Jack has been arrested, he is talking to a town sheriff, with whom he has a past history with, one thing that they admit to is that the times have changed. Seems ten years prior, the lawman would have set him free, and possibly joined him, but he can't.
  • Unexpected Virgin: Lightning Jack is surprised when Ben tells him that he's never had sex before. Jack remedies this by taking him to a saloon where a showgirl, Lana, works at. After being informed of the situation, Lana calls Pilar, a woman who loves to talk, and she goes to give Ben a good time.
  • Villain Protagonist: Played with. Lightning Jack Kane is an outlaw, but he's not too evil.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: After being chased by Comanches, and getting away, Ben mimes shooting them to Lightning Jack, who explains the reason about why it would be a bad idea to do so — an owl would keep shouting out "Who?" until he spat out the person's name.