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Film / The Evil That Men Do

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The Evil That Men Do (1984) is an action/psychological-drama starring Charles Bronson and directed by J. Lee Thompson.

Bronson plays Holland, an ex-CIA agent summoned out of retirement to assassinate Dr. Clemente Molloch (Joseph Maher), the quintessential Torture Technician. Accompanying him is the wife (Theresa Saldana) and daughter of one of Molloch's recent victims.

Perhaps best known for the scene in which Bronson brutally crushes both the windpipe AND joypipe of Miguel Angel Fuentes, who is himself perhaps better known to MST3K fans for his role as the guardian Vadinho in The Pumaman.


The Evil That Men Do provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Mine: Holland decides to set up the ransom exchange at an abandoned opal mine, only when he turns up it's full of poor peasants chipping away at the workings in an attempt to find any remaining opals.
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: Played with in the opening scene, when Molloch is revealed to be a white-haired, distinguished-looking man instead of a monstrous figure.
  • Banana Republic: Though named rather than fictional; most of the action takes place in Guatemala.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Briggs talking to the owner of the cafe where he meets Holland.
  • Blackmail: Randolph threatens to leak the fact that Molloch has been doing the CIA's dirty work to Congress if he doesn't get any help from Briggs.
  • Bound and Gagged: Claire Molloch.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Charles Bronson shoots a CIA assassin with a shotgun, only for him to get up again. This time Bronson shoots him in the face.
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  • Chase Scene: Holland being pursued by a carload of CIA mooks.
  • Choke Holds: Holland killing the second bodyguard.
  • Closet Shuffle: While scoping out Claire's apartment, Holland has to hide under the bed, only for Claire and a hooker to end up using it.
  • Come Alone: Molloch doesn't, of course.
  • Dead Guy on Display: In order to put pressure on Dr. Molloch, Holland kills his bodyguards, dumping Randolph outside Molloch's house and throwing another bodyguard out a high-rise window with a fire hose wrapped around his neck.
  • Do with Him as You Will: Rather than kill Molloch himself, Holland leaves him to be killed by his former victims.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Holland pumps the action of his shotgun twice in the mine scene without ejecting a shell.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Molloch is introduced wearing a black hood.
    Dr. Molloch: Now the hood which serves to separate the interrogator and subject psychologically is not always necessary. There are times when one does without it.
    (removes his hood to show the face of a white-haired, dignified-looking man)
  • Eagleland: Molloch gets help from local CIA man Briggs, as they've used his services before.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Molloch probably crossed the MEH long ago in his demonstrations of Cold-Blooded Torture techniques, but we see it right away as he dispassionately electrocutes Jorge Hidalgo, not even showing the slightest perturbation when he dies.
    • Molloch's sister almost simultaneously shows herself to be just as bad:
      Claire: He was a nuisance, and I'm glad he's dead. I only wish he'd suffered a little longer.
  • Electric Torture: The opening scene in which Molloch demonstrates this technique on journalist Jorge Hidalgo is unforgettable. A later scene lists the extensive injuries inflicted on him, including teeth shattered from being clenched so hard.
  • Elite Mooks: Molloch is protected by three bodyguards, all veterans of the CIA or special forces. Holland decides to kill them first before kidnapping Claire.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Holland plays on this by kidnapping the only person Molloch cares about, his sister Claire.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The CIA car chasing Holland goes off the road and explodes in a ball of flame.
  • Evil Brit: Molloch
  • Evil Counterpart: The CIA bring in their own hitman, Cannell. This causes problems when he recognises Holland and realises this is an assassination, not a kidnapping for ransom.
  • Evil Versus Evil: An ex-CIA hitman sent to kill a torturer guarded by other ex-CIA hitmen.
  • External Combustion: Some other assassins try to kill Molloch this way in Surinam, but he switches cars at the last minute. The agent who planted the bomb gets caught underneath the unused car when a guard starts it...
  • Fanservice Extra: We get a brief glimpse of a prostitute stripping in Claire's apartment to have sex with her.
  • Fan Disservice: The Electric Torture of a naked prisoner in the opening scene.
  • Forced to Watch: The taped interviewees describe how "The Doctor" made them watch their friends and relatives be raped and tortured.
  • Groin Attack:
  • Honey Trap: Holland lures Randolph to his room by pretending he and Rhiana are into wife-swapping. Randolph doesn't have a wife, but agrees that A Threesome Is Hot.
  • Human Shield: Holland can't shoot Molloch's driver, who's holding a pistol to Susan's head, until one of the miners throws a rock at his head and he turns to fire at them.
  • I Have Your Wife: Holland plans to lure Molloch out into the open by kidnapping his sister Claire, ostensibly for ransom. Molloch then gets his hands on Rhiana's daughter Susan, and suggests a Prisoner Exchange instead. Problem is Claire is already dead.
  • It's Personal: Holland turns down money for the assignment, seeking only to avenge his friend Jose Hidalgo. However, he's reluctant to take Hidalgo's wife on the assignment for the same reason.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Molloch teaches the use of torturing people for information. In fact, the film opens on him demonstrating it to some military men.
  • Karmic Death: Molloch is killed by the miners, all of them former victims of his torture.
  • Mind Screw: Holland starts by killing off Molloch's bodyguards, then kidnapping Claire.
    Holland: I'm going to rattle his cage. And when he sticks his neck out I'll nail him.
  • Meaningful Name: Moloch, a Canaanite god who received child sacrifices.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate
    Dr. Molloch: Human rights violations? There is no such thing. There is only the security of the state and those who'd undermine that security.
  • Mr. Smith: Holland introduces himself to Randolph as "Bart Smith".
  • Office Golf: Paul Briggs at the US Embassy.
    Randolph: Well, well. Protector of the Free World, hard at work.
  • Oh, Crap!: Holland hangs up after making the ransom call to Molloch.
    Holland: He knows where we are.
    Rhiana: How do you know?
    Holland: He didn't ask.
  • One-Hit Kill: Averted with Randolph's death — he cops a knife in the throat, draws it out and staggers after Holland, backing him into the shower before finally collapsing due to blood loss.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word
    Cripple: Hey, mister, do you want some dope?
    Holland: Do you have elephant?
    Cripple: Heh?
    Holland: Do you have Mingtoydop?
    Cripple: Heh?
    Holland: I guess you don't.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Claire, who serves as her evil torturer brother's assistant, wholly approving of his work, is revealed as a lesbian when a female prostitute comes to her apartment (they have sex while Holland's hiding underneath the bed).
  • Punk in the Trunk: This backfires; when they open the trunk Claire is dead, because the trunk was shot full of holes while making their getaway.
  • Reading Lips: Holland discovers Claire will be alone in her apartment by watching through binoculars and lipreading her discussion with her brother. The skill is foreshadowed by having Rihanna complain to Max how cold Holland is. Holland picks that moment to smile at her, apparently disproving her point. She just says sourly that she knows he can read lips.
  • Recorded Spliced Conversation: After Claire gets killed, Holland has to use a tape-recording of her voice to fool Molloch.
  • Retired Badass: Holland pals around with a dolphin friend he's named Quasimodo in the Caymans, and shows no signs of wanting to give up his idyllic lifestyle, but when he's given proof and a reason to hunt Molloch down he jumps back into action.
  • Scary Black Man: Randolph.
  • Shameful Strip: Molland lectures on the importance of this.
    Molloch: You have seen, gentlemen, how a woman must be made to remove her own clothing, depriving her of her dignity. With a man, it is the opposite. Strip him!
  • Shotguns Are Just Better
    Holland: What I really need is a shotgun, with a sawed-off barrel and the shells to go with it.
  • Softspoken Sadist: Molloch when torturing people.
  • Spell My Name with a "The"
    Hector Lomelin: The Doctor. The Doctor, the Doctor, the Doctor! Dr. Clement Molloch, the man they call The Doctor!
  • Spiteful Spit: Naked and tied up for torture, Jose Hidalgo spits in Molloch's face. Molloch calmly wipes it off and says "Notice, gentlemen, how the subject clings to compensatory morale, and habitual defenses." Then he calls for the electrodes.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Averted; Molloch lives in a well-guarded house protected by CCTV cameras and electronic sensors, so Holland has to lure him out in order to kill him.
  • Tempting Fate: "I guess they're away safely." Cut to Max being tortured.
  • Tested on Humans: Molloch uses Jose Hidalgo as a demonstration of electric torture.
  • There Is Only One Bed: Averted; there is a second bedroom, but Holland sleeps on the floor anyway so he can hear anyone sneaking up on them.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: A "cripple" that accosts Holland for drugs later turns up at Molloch's house.
    Holland: No crutch, and he walks like a champ.
  • To Shakespeare: The title is from Julius Caesar. "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones".
  • To the Pain: Molloch's lecture.
  • Torture Technician: Dr. Clement Molloch, a doctor who advises different Latin American dictatorships on how to torture people. He says he's advised twenty different ones in his career.
    Dr. Molloch: Gentleman, torture as a political instrument is no longer the crude and brutal extraction of information from one's enemies. It has become a subtle and sophisticated specialty.
  • Translation Convention: Averted.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Justified as a family draws less attention from the authorities. Once Molloch's security has checked them out and are convinced they're just tourists, Holland tries to send Rhiana and Susan away, but Rhiana can't bring herself to leave because It's Personal.
  • Villain Protagonist: Holland.
  • Wall of Weapons: Handguns are seen on the wall of Holland's contact in Guatemala.
  • We Need a Distraction: Holland throws the third bodyguard off Claire's balcony with a fire hose wrapped around his neck, then walks out the front door while everyone's gaping up at the body.