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Action Genre Hero Guy

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Haven't I seen you before?note 

"Doom's blank slate character paved the way for the generic leads seen in what feels like most modern games; a shaven-headed average joe designed to tread the path of least financial risk."

One example of the Action Hero. With the emphasis on one.

You know this guy, because you have seen him a thousand times. He has the lead role in almost every action movie and video game and, like Bruce Willis or Will Smith, has a single role that he repeats over and over again.

Unlike the Featureless Protagonist, he does have fixed attributes, and they are usually the same:

  • Male.
  • Almost always American (and almost always Caucasian at that. And if not, But Not Too Foreign will usually be invoked.)
  • Born to blue-collar parents.
  • Buzz-cut, fade, bald, or fauxhawk (if the story is set after 2000) black or dark brown hair. In The New '10s onwards, they added an undercut, if the guy is black, they are either bald or have a flat top. note 
  • And shaved, usually with Perma-Stubble. Growing a beard or mustache means developing personality.
  • Usually a former soldier or police officer, very rarely in active service.
    • Can be an ex-convict instead of, or in addition to any of the above.
    • When he was in the military he was overwhelmingly The Sarge, and is probably still called "Sarge" by his military pals.
    • In 1980s media, he will probably be The Vietnam Vet. In 1990s media, this was updated to Gulf War veteran. Nowadays, it is, of course, The War on Terror (probably Iraq) he fought in.
  • Uses handguns as his signature weapon. Rifles and submachine guns are always immediately discarded after using them.
  • Almost always uses Good Old Fisticuffs as his fighting style, and if matched up against even an elite martial artist, will prevail.
  • Will fight dirty.
  • Chances are good his name is a monosyllabic simple name like Frank, Jim, Jack or John.
    • Or he goes by an equally monosyllabic Red Baron nickname like Dutch, Butch, Duke, or Spike.
    • Or the world is permanently on Last-Name Basis with him.
  • Has a dead relative, a dead friend or is only in the action hero business because he has to save a loved one.
  • Is either a Deadpan Snarker or The Comically Serious.
  • No particularly strong political or religious beliefs (at least none they feel strongly enough about to mention), other than perhaps a general mainstream belief in the existence of God and generic national pride typical of a military/ex-military man.
  • Has no respect for authority, but his boss secretly admires him for this trait.
  • A tendency to use One-Liners of varying quality.
  • Usually smokes and drinks heavily.
  • Typically drives a Cool Car or The Alleged Car.
  • Usually voiced by Nolan North or Troy Baker.

This character has become immensely popular as the protagonist in video games in recent years. The difference from a Featureless Protagonist is that those characters are left without real characterization to let the player project their own ideas onto the character, while the Action Genre Hero Guy follows a very specific set of traits as listed above.

If you can remember a character's name, he is probably not an example.

Compare A Space Marine Is You. For a common alternative, see The Ahnold.


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    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher falls into a strange ground between Unbuilt Trope and Trope Codifier: Frank Castle presaged a good deal of this trope's checklist, from his family's death as motivation to his permastubble and Gun Nut tendencies, but was originally an Anti-Villain created to be a Stealth Parody and over-the-top deconstruction of the gritty Vigilante Man characters that been gaining popularity in the 1970s. In his later appearances, Indecisive Parody set in as he was given a Sympathetic P.O.V. and varying degrees of angsty character depth, blurring the lines between being a walking critique of this trope and an influential shaper of it.

  • In Victoria, former Marine protagonist John Rumford fits every item on the checklist, except that he isn't fighting to save a loved one, but his country. He is a somewhat unusual variation in one respect, however, in that he is also a (working-class, one-liner-touting, ex-military) self-taught well-read intellectual, which makes for some funny lines.
  • The four protagonists of Encryption Straffe superficially resemble this trope but also challenge it to varying degrees. For instance Genie is an American Iraq vet known mostly by his callsign, but none of his personality fits the expectation.

    Live Action TV 
  • G. Callen from NCIS: Los Angeles, where his mysterious past is actually a subplot. G. isn't his initial; that's his name.
  • Bodie from The Professionals. His partner Doyle is basically the same except very slightly less jaded and with '80s Hair.
  • Frank Castle from The Punisher (2017). He has the fade haircut and monosyllabic name down. Has a dead family and a hatred of the government after his wartime experiences. Not only that, but he's an expert in pretty much every weapon.
  • Subverted (of course) in Firefly. Jayne Cobb is a character with a buzzcut, love of one-liners, and criminal background who really likes guns. He turns out to be really nice, fiercely protective of the ship and crew, and a savvy negotiator.

    Video Games 
  • Desmond Miles of Assassin's Creed (bottom left in the page image) may have paved the way for similar characters back in 2007, as they began popping up often in the following years. In his early 20s and snarky with short brown hair, a hoodie, and a "cool" name, Desmond has personality enough to avoid being a complete blank slate while being generic enough to serve as an Audience Surrogate for the game's target demographic. Voiced by Nolan North.
  • A couple years after Assassin's Creed we got inFAMOUS, starring Cole MacGrath (top right in the page image). He's got the buzz cut, the growly voice, and the irritable, cynical attitude, with a more average but still "cool" job as a courier before he gains his superpowers.
  • BioShock Infinite has Booker Dewitt, voiced by Troy Baker. Aside from his unusual name he is an army veteran, has a faux-hawk, fights dirty and lost a family member. This aspect was criticized by some fans who found him not fitting in a BioShock game. It's played with some when it's revealed that Booker is an alternate version of the Big Bad from another reality.
  • Resident Evil:
    • Chris Redfield already had the short brown hair and police background necessary for the trope in the first game and Code: Veronica, but by Resident Evil 5, he has muscled up, grown Perma-Stubble, and started using his fists to punch boulders.
    • Jack Krauser in Resident Evil 4 is a subversion, as he's one of the villains. He's a muscular, clean-shaven Special Forces veteran with a giant scar on his face whose military career was ended by an injury, and given that he was a Sociopathic Soldier who lived for combat, he decided to betray the US in order to regain his strength and fighting ability. (In the original game, he does this by working for Albert Wesker so he can obtain a Dominant Plaga sample from Los Illuminados and use it on himself, while in the remake, he joins Los Illuminados straight-up for the same.) When you face him, his weapon is a combat knife.
    • Jake Muller in Resident Evil 6, compared to Chris, is a much more generic character. Aside from the look and the name, he's a hardass mercenary with a dead mother and a disdain for authority. While only a handful of characters have melee weapons, he's the only one who uses his fists. Voiced by Troy Baker.
  • Silent Hill:
    • Alex Shepherd from Silent Hill: Homecoming, who fits the trope to a T. Except for the military background, which turns out to be a delusion to shield himself from a traumatic event.
    • Murphy Pendleton from Silent Hill: Downpour seems a close enough match, with a status as a convicted killer serving as his hard-ass background.
  • The default Commander Shepard from Mass Effect has the looks (and the name; John), but can develop a personality depending on how you play him, and is also potentially gay or bisexual. He's also in active military service at the beginning of the first game.
  • Jimmy Hopkins from Bully is a school-aged equivalent, having a tough, no-nonsense personality, an extreme dislike of authority, a common "J" name, and a shorn noggin. The hardass characterization stays pretty constant, but you can at least give him a different hairstyle later on.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Solid Snake series started as one, but did develop a very detailed and unique personality starting from the Retool he had in Metal Gear Solid.
    • Same goes for his buddy Gray Fox, whose actual name is Frank Jaeger. Similarly to Snake above, Fox became markedly more interesting and complicated after ceasing being a cool Evil Counterpart with a bandanna, and returned as an undead Cyber Ninja with a lot of Gothic Horror elements.
    • Snake also keeps his '80s Action Mullet, being the '80s hero, after all.
  • Galen Marek/"Starkiller" (third down on the right in the page image), the protagonist from Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, certainly has the looks down, but is partially an aversion. Starkiller was born to survivors of Order 66 and is only a teenager during the game's events, but already has a lifetime of traumatic memories, seeing Darth Vader kill his father before spending much of his life as the Sith's apprentice.
  • Nathan Drake from Uncharted fits almost every characteristic, except that he hasn't lost a loved one (he does what he does because he's a naturally curious adrenaline-junkie) and has sufficient charm to overcome his (deliberately) generic design. Played with, though, in that he looks kinda like Nathan Fillion, but he's still voiced by Nolan North. Drake's Deception reveals that Nathan Drake isn't actually his real name. He's just some orphan who was a fan of Francis Drake.
  • Captain Martin Walker from Spec Ops: The Line is a rather savage Deconstruction of this idea. He definitely looks and acts like one (albeit slightly more buttoned-down than average), and he seems to start off thinking that he's a straight example. In fact, it's Walker's belief that he's the hero of an action scenario that kickstarts his slide into violent and unhinged behavior as he tries to justify and rationalize his increasingly monstrous actions.
  • Despite his inclusion in the above article, and his name being as nondescript as John or Jack in his native Serbian, Grand Theft Auto IV's Niko Bellic has a beard as thick as his layered personality, the latter of which is fleshed out (with the player's help, of course) as the game progresses. For starters, his military background is as a veteran of The Yugoslav Wars who committed war crimes and has been trying to run from his past ever since, leading him to his current profession as a criminal.
  • Subverted in Far Cry 3. While Grant Brody might fit much of the bill, both in background (ex-US Army reserve), personality (motivated by a want to protect his family), and appearance (short brown hair and slightly grizzled), he is not the Player Character, and he is killed off quickly in the tutorial level.
  • John "Soap" MacTavish in the Modern Warfare series (though you don't actually get to see his face until Modern Warfare 2, you'll just have to take our word for it in Call of Duty 4).
  • Dead or Alive 5 newcomer Rig has the appearance of one but his genre is cut from a different cloth, ultimately. Series regular Bayman was also redesigned in 5 to have a more "action genre guy" appearance (up until then he had unusually "soft" facial features for someone in his line of work).
  • Max Payne is a deconstructive version of this trope combined with a bit of Film Noir protagonist mixed in. Max's facial features were originally based on the squinty-eyed visage of Remedy lead developer Sam Lake, but in The Fall of Max Payne he got a more unique look. By 3 he basically turns into a washed-up, fat version of this (especially when he goes bald).
  • The majority of the classes in Team Fortress 2 share the traits, including the buzzcut or short hair, the Perma-Stubble, and the tendency to give the One-Liner. Probably the straightest example is the Soldier, though he still seems to be a parody of this. He's got the buzzcut and One Liners down, but never served in the militarynote , favors rocket launchers over handguns and rifles, his first name is (supposedly) Jane and he's also a Cloud Cuckoo Lander who is impossible to take seriously.
  • While most of Halo's protagonists are too soldierly for this trope, Sergeant John Forge from Halo Wars fits the bill almost perfectly, right down to the shaved head and Nolan North voice.
  • The character Rod “Hollywood” Stone from Agents of Mayhem parodies this trope. True, he’s a muscular white guy with short brown hair and Perma-Stubble, who’s always cracking one-liners and toting a huge gun with him at all times, but he deviates from the typical mold quite a bit. Instead of being a police or military officer (like many other characters in the game), Hollywood is a movie and TV personality, Bounty Hunter, and former porn star (not to mention that, despite claiming to be from LA, he’s actually Canadian.) In addition to all that, he’s also a dimwitted Narcissist whose antics frequently end up pissing off his allies. His main reason for being on the team at all is because his marketable appearance makes him a good PR spokesman for the group as a whole.
  • XCOM 2: John Bradford has become one of these, in stark and not unwelcome contrast to his characterisation (or lack thereof) in the previous installment.
  • Zig-zagged in the case of male V in Cyberpunk 2077. His default look (the one used on promotional materials and merchandise) is of a vaguely Caucasian man with a buzz cut, he works Night City's underbelly as a mercenary and has a healthy distrust of authority. As you play the game, however, you quickly find out that V is actually a much kinder, more sensitive and emotional person than you'd think, often showing emotions like fear, grief, or unconditional love. The game features a relatively robust Character Customisation, so V can be of any race/ethnicity and can be played as gay or bisexual, and cisgender or transgender.

    Web Original 
  • The Male Protagonist bingo is a pretty good indicator of whether or not a character falls under this trope.