Follow TV Tropes


Film / Self Defense

Go To

Self Defense (also known as Siege) is a 1983 Canadian action thriller directed by Paul Donovan and Maura O'Connell, starring Tom Nardini and Brenda Bazinet.

The plot is as follows - a neo-fascist group calling themselves the "New Order" (no relation to the band) want to set some "new rules" in town while the police in Halifax, Nova Scotia are on strike. They try to scare all of the patrons in a gay bar, the owner of the establishment is accidentally killed, and the leader of the bullies then decides to execute all witnesses. However, one of the patrons, Daniel (played by Terry-David Després), escapes and takes refuge in an isolated block of flats. The young tenants in the house, Horatio and Barbara (Nardini and Bazinet) and their roommates Chester, Patrick, and Steven, refuse to hand over Daniel, and the bullies then decide to get rid of all the residents in the house. This turns out to be not so easy when the young people in the house barricade their apartments and set up traps and arm themselves in order to fight back.


Think of it as being a bit like a Canadian version of Assault on Precinct 13.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: When the bar owner refuses to be intimidated by the New Order, they throw him over a table and attempt to sodomize him with a baseball bat until he accidentally rolls off the table, and is impaled on a broken liquor bottle.
  • An Aesop: The underlying message of the film is that violence is never an acceptable solution to life's problems, and also that we must all take a united stand against bigotry. As pointed out in this review, the whole thing plays out almost like an NFB anti-violence documentary.
  • Big Bad: Cabe, leader of the New Order.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The neo-fascist bullies are all dead, but so are Barbara and Horatio's roommates, and Daniel is mortally wounded. As for the whole police strike, the union disputes are eventually settled and the police return to active duty.
  • Advertisement:
  • Bury Your Gays: The bar patrons, and possibly Daniel at the end. All of these deaths, however, are presented as being tragic.
  • Camp Gay: Daniel affects somewhat effeminate mannerisms. Curiously, so does one of the New Order members, which leads to some rather interesting implications. Either that or the latter is merely Camp Straight.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Barbara figures she could use a smoke as she's listening to a radio news report on the ongoing law enforcement crisis.
  • Drone of Dread: The soundtrack by Drew King and Peter Jermyn consists mainly of this, the primary exception being the ending theme.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Much like in the above-mentioned Assault on Precinct 13, all the action takes place over the course of a single night.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Cabe wears a distinctive leather jacket, which Daniel uses to identify him during the home invasion.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Daniel uses himself as a Human Shield in order to allow Horatio to get to the neighbouring apartment and arm himself. It's unclear whether he actually dies, however.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted. The silencers in the film eliminate some of the noise but not all of it. Enough of the sound is preserved that the protagonists can tell when they're being fired upon.
  • Homophobic Hate Crime: The neo-fascists' hold-up at the gay bar and their subsequent murder of all the patrons save for Daniel.
  • Improvised Weapon: Using various homemade materials including a toy rocket motor, Chester is able to construct an improvised explosive device which he then uses to take out one of the New Order members.
  • Kick the Dog: One of the neo-fascists can be seen harassing a lesbian couple during the hold-up at the gay bar, while another one taunts the bartender with homophobic slurs.
  • Laser Sight: One of the New Order member is equipped with one.
  • Leave No Witnesses: After things go belly-up at the gay bar, the neo-fascists decide to kill all the witnesses.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The New Order, in case you couldn't tell already.
  • Neutral Female: Barbara refuses to get involved in defending the apartment, and generally doesn't do much beyond standing there being intimidated.
  • Police Are Useless: The main source of tension in the film; the local law enforcement are completely unable to intervene on the protagonists' behalf thanks to their ongoing wage dispute.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: In addition to being neo-fascists, the New Order are also open homophobes.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The plot of the film was inspired a real-life police strike in Halifax two years earlier, during which the city - though mainly the area in the vicinity of the main police station - descended into a state of semi-anarchy for 42 days as the police board argued with the city council over union demands while leaving the streets totally unpatrolled.
  • The Siege: Lampshaded by the film's alternate title.
  • Stock Footage: The film opens with actual news footage of the aforementioned 1981 Halifax police strike.
  • Today, X. Tomorrow, the World!: One of the film's taglines is a variant on this.
    "Today, their city. Tomorrow... yours!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: Steven decides to leave the apartment to pick up some things despite Horatio's protest. The predictable happens.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: The main Aesop of the film. The violence in the film only causes misery for everyone involved, gets several innocent people killed, and is not glorified in any way.