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Film / Most Wanted

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Most Wanted is a 1997 action thriller film written by, produced by and starring Keenen Ivory Wayans and an All-Star Cast comprising Jon Voight, Paul Sorvino, Eric Roberts and Jill Hennessy. Wayans portrays James Anthony Dunn, a Marine Force Recon sniper on death row who is rescued by a black ops group and tasked with assassinating a traitorous Corrupt Corporate Executive. However, the assassination must take place while said executive is escorting the First Lady of the United States on a visit to a Veterans Hospital in LA. While Dunn is lining up his shot, someone assasinates the First Lady - and then sets Dunn up to be the fall guy.

However, a young radiologist at the VA hospital, Dr. Victoria Constantini (played by Jill Hennessy) was videotaping the First Lady’s arrival with her camcorder and therefore has visual recording of the actual shooter - and thereby evidence that exonerates Dunne. This makes her a target too. Pursuing Dunn is Major General Adam Woodward of the 82nd Airborne Division played by Jon Voight as well as the CIA director played by Paul Sorvino. Dunn finds and rescues Constantini before the assassin can blow her up, and after some work evading police, hole up in an abandoned marine base. Dunn was given a number to call for “extraction” which happens to be a direct line to the CIA director. Agreeing that Dunn is a patsy, the CIA director sends him out to uncover the truth - which may link back to a brutal bio weapon experiment carried out on soldiers in the 82nd Airborne - and thus implicating General Woodward.

Although this film shares many similarities with Shooter (Marine sniper setup as a fall guy for a political assassination) and U.S. Marshals (an African American Marine spec ops fugitive looking to clear his name), it actually predates both of them.

Tropes identified in this movie are:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Dunn is provided with a bullet made of ice for his (supposed) protection mission, which will dissolve in the target and leave an untraceable kill (and aside from this it's supposed to have the same ballistics coefficient as any other regular bullet). This was one of the Tropes Examined by the MythBusters, with a resolution of "Busted" — the bullet dissolved instantly when the gunpowder went off and couldn't do much damage even at point-blank range, let alone with a sniper rifle.
  • Armies Are Evil: All of the US Army characters are evil in the film, but they're either criminals or the brutal general who they serve. Dunn's good and a former Marine, but his CO was also a bloodthirsty asshole who threatened him with a gun when he refused to shoot an Iraqi boy.
  • Asshole Victim: Dunn’s lieutenant, who ordered him to kill a ten year old boy, then tried to shoot Dunn when he refused. When Dunn shot him in self-defense, he had it coming.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Dunn easily identifies that Victoria is single and her house is rigged to explode by just looking through her house’s contents.
  • Chased by Angry Natives: One of the action set pieces on the middle act of the film is Dunn being noticed by several people as he's walking down the street, prompting a foot chase with a large crowd coming after Dunn.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Victoria's taser, which initially she tries to use on Dunn. Later he tases Braddock right in the groin with it.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Subverted in this case. Here it is Army Evil CIA Good.
  • Clear My Name: Dunn is set up to look like he'd murdered the First Lady, and has to show otherwise on the run.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Bicker, the CEO of Bicker Pharmaceuticals, which tested a bio weapon on unsuspecting paratroopers.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Dunn struggled with the gun that his CO threatened him with, which accidentally went off and killed him. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for it.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Kind of impossible to do so, when the girl has a bright medical career ahead of her, while the guy is effectively presumed dead and unpersoned.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Dunn was given a death sentence for shooting his crazy CO in self-defense. The lack of witnesses may have been a factor, however given the circumstances even when they didn't believe it was self-defense this would be hard to prove as first degree murder let alone be heinous enough to merit death.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Dunn was not just a Marine, but in Force Recon, who are elite special operations.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: This is why General Woodward is pretty proud of showing a pretty impressive burn scar that he has on his arm and he advises his fellow soldiers to do the same. Later on, Dunn notices that the man has covered the scar and removes the wrist band, exposing the security disk that Woodward had shoved beneath his scar tissue.
  • Frame-Up: Dunn is framed for murdering the First Lady after being sent on a supposed mission to assassinate a corrupt businessmen supplying enemies of the US, with him being left as the fall guy.
  • Groin Attack: To The Dragon by Dunn, with a taser.
    Dunn: Now you're a dickless warrior!
  • Hollywood Law: US Army General Woodward takes over the investigation into the murder of the First Lady by the President's order. No one mentions the Posse Comitatus Act that prevents the military from law enforcement absent exceptions that don't apply here, and the LAPD meekly complies in this (when real life civilian/state police would be up in arms if this happened). Interestingly, it was accurate until then with showing that the murder is under LAPD jurisdiction, since "First Lady" isn't a federal position, just the honorary title a President's wife is given and so the crime is covered by California state law (whereas murdering federal officials is covered by the US Code).
  • Indy Ploy: Although he does plan ahead as best as he can, Dunn is still facing large odds. He even makes it a Badass Boast at the climax:
    Dunn: General, Marines don't plan. We improvise!
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: US Army General Woodward flings anti-Marine insults Dunn’s way quite frequently.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Braddock, established as a rapist early on who assaulted a teenage girl, gets tased in the groin by Dunn later.
  • The Most Wanted: As the title says, the plot is about a Marine Force Recon sniper on a mission to kill a Corrupt Corporate Executive who's close to the First Lady of USA. Instead, someone else killed the First Lady and he's framed for the crime.
  • The Neidermeyer:
    • General Woodward cares not one iota for the paratroopers under his command. It is why he subjected many of them to a bio weapon test, then had the First Lady killed to cover it up.
    • Dunn’s lieutenant in Desert Storm was also one. They were tasked with eliminating an enemy courier. But when a ten year old boy showed up at the location they were watching, the lieutenant ordered Dunn to kill that boy anyway, then tried to threaten Dunn at gunpoint when he refused.
  • Semper Fi: Dunn was a Marine “gunny” who was previously decorated with a Navy Cross.
  • Un-person: Dunn is exonerated of this fracas, but his original death sentence is not overturned. It is instead used to fake his demise but Dunn is allowed to go free. He therefore does not exist as far as Uncle Sam is concerned. Now whether he is working for the CIA as a covert operative or is just living off the grid blending in to the urban African American community is unknown.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: As a Marine sniper Dunn was ordered to shoot a 10 year old goat herder. He refused and ended up in prison for shooting his CO who tried to kill him for it.