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  • Catfish in The Abyss. He boasts on that he knows how to use his fists, but he can't keep up with Bud in swimming. Later however, he knocks the villain out with one punch.
  • In Alice in Wonderland (2010), Alice spends almost the entire movie running and hiding from things more powerful than her. At least, up until the climax, where she starts reciting her Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. The last Impossible Thing is "I can slay the Jabberwocky", and once she says it she finally starts attacking and fighting the beast off.
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  • Private Hudson in Aliens. The film's Plucky Comic Relief, he spends most of the film spouting one-liners and Badass Boasts or whining and complaining when the mission inevitably goes bad. Eventually, however, he ends up going full-on berserk at a horde of Xenomorphs and attempts a a You Shall Not Pass! that buys the heroes time to escape.
  • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Wanda freezes in panic at the start of the battle of Sokovia. Hawkeye then delivers a "No More Holding Back" Speech highlighting how the odds are terrible, but he will keep fighting, and she better join in ("You stay in here, you're good. I'll send your brother to come find you. But if you step out that door, you are an Avenger."). Cue her stepping out the door, spells-a-blazin', to destroy a bunch of Ultron drones.
  • Bruce Wayne in Batman (1989).
    "NOW YOU WANNA GET NUTS? C'mon, let's get nuts."
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  • In Beverly Hills Ninja, Haru is a bumbling, incompetent, fat guy, who is an utter failure as a ninja, yet he believes himself to be the prophesied "Great White Ninja". When he goes to America to help out a woman, his sensei sends his best student Gobei (AKA Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat) to secretly keep him safe, which is what Gobei ends up doing for most of the film. In the end, though, even Gobei is overwhelmed by the Big Bad's Mooks. Then, Haru is finally ready to kick some ass to the tune of "Kung Fu Fighting", including things like successfully hiding his massive bulk behind a thin pole and blocking an assault rifle's bullets with a pair of swords.
    Haru: I may not be a great ninja; I may not be one with the universe; but I will say this: NO ONE MESSES WITH MY BROTHER.
  • In Big Game, Oskari and Moore spend first two thirds of the movie on the run until the former announces that it's time to "be tough". Promptly subverted as he quickly climbs into a bulletproof refrigator with Moore and closes the door behind him, then double-subverted as he sends it rolling down a rather steeps slope and into a waterfall.
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  • In The Black Hole, V.I.N.C.E.N.T. is a cute little robot sidekick. Then he faces up against Maximillian.
  • Though a Flamboyant Gay, Richard from The Break-Up delivers a quick curb stomp when Gary lays a hand on him. Later, the ego-hurt Gary complains that he was sucker-punched before he knew he was in a fight, and promises to bring some "Polacks who don't have a future" to back him up next time.
  • Captain Chaos from Cannonball Run. "When he puts on that cape and that mask, he'll blow your goddamed doors off!'
  • Mané Galinha in the Brazilian movie City of God. He was just the local Casanova, until Zé Pequeno utterly humiliated him (even forcing him to watch his girlfriend being raped) and attempted to kill him, only to kill his little bro instead. Mané Galinha picks a gun and alone chases off Zé's gang, killing some and scaring the shit of the rest. He later becomes the Fallen Hero.
  • The schoolboys-turned-cowpokes in The Cowboys. The rustlers caught them off-guard and by surprise at first, but then the bad guys went and shot John Wayne. In the back. At that point, the villains became dead men... they just didn't know it. And the cattle rustlers certainly didn't expect a bunch of 12-year-olds to take them out.
  • Randy Owens in the 1957 movie Designing Woman is introduced as an effete dancer, but, at the end of the movie uses his dancing moves to knock out a bunch of thugs.
  • In the 1939 Western Destry Rides Again, the eponymous character (played by Jimmy Stewart in his finest "nice guy" style) becomes the deputy of the marshal in a lawless town. At first, he seems to be completely harmless; he doesn't carry a gun, drinks milk at the bar, tells anecdotes to everybody, and makes napkin rings as a hobby. However, he eventually proves to be a very capable gunfighter.
  • In Fried Green Tomatoes, a character's abusive ex-husband disappeared mysteriously after he showed up to her new house and tried to kidnap their baby. It's not until the end of the movie that the audience learns it was Sipsy, the previously very quiet housekeeper, who crushed his skull in with a frying pan.
  • The look Godzilla gives the male MUTO before tail-whipping it to death screams this in Godzilla (2014).
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Gizmo, the adorable cute thing, after being put through hell by the Gremlins, watches clips from Rambo: First Blood Part II, ties on a bandanna, and starts shooting flaming arrows.
    Kate: What happened to him?
    Billy: I think they pushed him too far.
  • "Legendary Outlaw," pelvic-sorcerer and apparent giant tool Peter "Star Lord" Quill is definitely this in Guardians of the Galaxy. To a lesser extent, so are Rocket and Groot: a talking, sarcastic cyborg raccoon (who doesn't know what a raccoon even is) and a giant, goofy tree-person generally capable of only three words of speech ("I am Groot"). However, Rocket demonstrates his effectiveness (and his giant gun) early and often, and Groot is, well, huge.
  • In the Russian film Guest from the Future, a space pirate corners the child protagonists. Then their sports teacher shows up, the pirate threatens her, she throws him out of the window — on the 5th floor...
  • Hot Fuzz uses this no less than three times.
    • The main character is a total Action Hero and City Mouse. A small town's combination of culture shock and having a dark secret reduces him to fleeing because he "can't prove anything"... until seeing covers of the movies Point Break (1991) and Bad Boys II (yes, really) reminds him that he is a badass. He comes back.
    • In another example, the formerly comedic and apparently useless other policemen reveal themselves to be competent badasses once they figure out that yes, Nick is right about the myriad of accidents actually being murders.
    • In the oddest and funniest use of this, the evil schemers of the town turn out to all be members of the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance - and almost all of them are over 70. This includes the Police Chief, a woman who runs a corner shop, a husband and wife who run a pub, and a priest! And they're all fucking badass!!!
  • Anna in Hudson Hawk is more or less useless throughout the movie, due to being a nun, until of course Minerva Mayflower makes the mistake of insulting the Big Guy.
  • I Come in Peace: FBI agent Larry Smith has a moment like this when he and his local partner Jack Caine get ready for their climactic showdown with the evil alien.
    Larry: Let's kick some ass.
  • In Iron Man, when the frivolous playboy with no combat training Tony Stark first puts on his suit of Power Armor. He proceeds to wreck every terrorist fool in sight using flamethrowers and other volatile munitions.
  • Mr. Miyagi in every single The Karate Kid movie. Given, it's no longer surprising after the first movie, but it isn't until the end of it that he demonstrates he "still has it after all those years."
  • Used a lot in Kung Fu Hustle:
    • The three masters of Pig Sty Alley kick the crap out of the Axe Gang after looking pretty ridiculous earlier on.
    • The Landlord and Landlady display their superior abilities against the zither-playing assassins after looking like little more than a trashy, middle-aged couple.
    • The Beast is a bald, tubby old man in a wife beater, boxers, and flip-flops, but displays his badass abilities by casually catching a bullet with two fingers, fired inches away from his head.
    • Sing spends most of the film as the Butt-Monkey, but transforms into a one-man wrecking crew for the final battle.
  • Jonathan, the Plucky Comic Relief from The Mummy Trilogy. The guy's a greedy, cowardly swindler, but he later demonstrates devastating accuracy with a rifle, good pickpocket skills, and disturbing proficiency with a tome of magic spells.
  • Mystery Men takes this trope as its premise.
  • Pacific Rim outlines this pretty clearly in its opening:
    Raleigh: To fight monsters, we created monsters of our own.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • In The Curse of the Black Pearl, a couple of ineffectual bumbling soldiers at one moment climb onto a ship where a fierce and pretty one-sided battle between soldiers and undead pirates unleashes. Having taken in that horrifying sight, they promptly shake hands and rush into the fray with a battle cry.
    • These same guys survive to the end of the third film. Their fate after that is unknown, although they seem to have left the Army (or Marines) and joined the pirates.
    • Also, in Dead Man's Chest, Pintel and Ragetti, who have up to this point been portrayed as bumbling idiots, are seen carving up some of the crew of the Flying Dutchman, who are nigh-unkillable supernatural baddies.
    • Jack Sparrow himself is eccentric, never fights when he can run or swindle and generally acts a coward. Doesn't stop him from being one of the most formidable swordsmen in the franchise. Word of God is that he's actually the worst swordsman in the first film, which is why he cheats so heavily.
  • For most of The Quiet Man, Sean Thornton is a relatively passive character who just wants to settle down in his ancestral cottage and avoid confrontation. This frustrates his wife Kate, who is ashamed that Sean won't fight her brother for her dowry. When she finally leaves him, Sean, a former boxer who retired after killing a man in the ring, realizes that he will have to fight to keep the woman he love. The result is one of the greatest brawls in cinema history.
  • R100: The protagonist is a passive masochist, but when he discovers two murderous dominatrixes lying in wait at his father-in-law's house, he promptly shoots them both in the head.
  • Ready or Not (2019): Grace has moments of this throughout the whole film, but there's one that sticks out in particular, right before the climax: After Charity kills Daniel for freeing Grace from the ritual, Grace calmly walks right up to her, grabs Charity's gun and bashes her face in. After that, she vengefully brutalizes Tony and smashes Becky's head until she's dead with no remorse.
  • Reservoir Dogs has the dying Mr. Orange, who before appeared to be a sniveling wreck (not to mention an unconscious one) dragging himself up and shooting Mr. Blonde. Fifteen times. And then repeatedly pulling the trigger of his empty weapon, just in case there was another bullet hiding in there somewhere. Blonde, having finished torturing the police officer, was about to light him on fire. Orange wasn't going to let that happen.
  • Shaolin Soccer uses the same trope. The team of monks play their first game with a local bunch of hooligans and are getting their butts literally kicked until they turn themselves around and finally harness their kung fu superpowers.
  • This is the entire point of Sky High (2005). All the quirky "sidekick" characters use their powers to great effect at the end. Granted, one of them simply refused to take the classification test and didn't use her full powers until the big fight...
  • Patrick Winslow and the time-lost Smurfs approach Gargamel's hideout in Central Park to rescue Papa Smurf, with Patrick wielding a crowbar, the Smurfs cricking their necks, and the soundtrack playing AC/DC's "Back In Black" in The Smurfs.
    • A similar scene plays out in The Smurfs 2 as Patrick Winslow goes to help rescue Smurfette with him wielding a fire poker.
  • Snakes on a Plane: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" And the rest is history. Not that they weren't getting dangerous before that. But this is when the movie completely acknowledges what lengths they'll go to.
  • In Star Trek (2009), Sulu pulls this off. After several lighter, comedic moments, he proceeds to brawl out two massive Romulans (while Kirk is busy getting his ass kicked, no less).
    • The Captain asks for volunteers with "Combat Training". In the shuttle, Kirk asks Sulu what his training was: the response, "Fencing", gets a look of disdain from Kirk. Landing on the drill, Sulu promptly whips out a folding sword and goes to work
  • Star Wars:
    • Even though we knew Yoda was supposed to be a badass, really, his ping-pong lightsabering in Attack of the Clones was still totally unexpected. Yoda also does this before/after in The Empire Strikes Back. At first, he appears to be a harmless yahoo who might conceivably be useful in guiding Luke to someone else, and a few scenes later he's lifting Luke's fighter out of the bog. With his mind. Granted, the argument with the ghost of Obi-Wan is a pretty big hint, but still, the first time you see it, it's an eye opener. And this is taking into account the fact that Yoda's implied to be a bit rusty/out of practice by this point, what with having been hiding from Palpatine this whole time. ...And that he's in the final year of his 900+ year existence.
    • The Ewoks. Despite their size, they are still a warrior/hunting race with old-style ingenuity.
    • In The Force Awakens, Finn finds himself without a weapon while under attack by stormtroopers and has nothing within reach but an old lightsaber. When he tries using it he's immediately noticed by a random stormtrooper who is not intimidated in any way and flips out a force bayonet on his blaster rifle. And turns out to be much more competent with it than Finn with a lightsaber.
  • In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the aging Decepticon Jetfire seems to be a harmless, senile old robot that spends his days hiding in a museum. That is, until the last battle, where he flies in, whips out a battle ax, and cuts another robotic combatant in half while yelling "Let me show you how we brought the pain in my day!"
    • Bumblebee Took a Level in Badass in the film series. Try harming Sam in front of him and see what happens.
    • It took Sam three movies, but he finally decides to get dangerous when he decides that not even the ravaged Decepticon-occupied battleground that is Chicago will stop him from rescuing Carly. Even when the militia he rounds up opts out of going in when they see the extent of the horror, Sam decides to go in anyway to save his girlfriend.
  • Faisil Heslov, the geeky junior agent in True Lies. He's skinny, inexperienced, geeky, and absolutely the type of character who usually ends up a Sacrificial Lamb. He ends up taking out two of the terrorists by himself in a smooth bit of gunplay that ends with him blowing across the end of his gun, James Bond style after walking into the terrorist's den disguised as a TV cameraman.
  • The Watch (2012): Jamarcus. Doing deadly groin attacks with a shotgun. Then saying, "Hi!". Then repeating it with two pistols.
  • We're the Millers: Near the end of the movie, Dan disarms and subdues a Mexican drug cartel enforcer using nothing but a mug.
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit: When Eddie Valiant, who's already been starting to drop the alcoholic slob act as he's been forced into action, gets ready to finally enter Toontown, digs out his giant toon gun, and instead of taking a swig from his bottle of booze, throws it in the air and shoots it with an anthropomorphic Indian bullet that produces a tomahawk bigger than itself and smashes the bottle in mid-air. That's the only thing the gun or its anthropomorphic bullets are ever useful for in the movie.
    • Roger himself also gets a moment to shine. After Eddie and Jessica are taken captive, Roger attempts to save them by bursting up through a drain in the floor. (Hey, he's a 'Toon. He can do things like that.) He holds Judge Doom at gunpoint and declares "We 'Toons may act idiotic, but we aren't stupid!" Of course, his heroic act comes to a halt after a literal ton of bricks is dropped on his head.
  • The Wild Hunt is basically a countdown to this trope as a simple live-action role-playing game suddenly devolves into Lord of the Flies style murder.
  • In X-Men: First Class, the newly recruited mutants panic when Shaw's experienced killers rip through their CIA guards. Shaw makes the mistake of killing Darwin however, so the survivors elect to stay and fight.


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