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Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind

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Emilio Largo did not expect to be harpooned in the back.

"Man, your timing really doesn't suck."
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The hero is cornered. His back is to the wall, his gun is out of ammo, he's bleeding from at least one wound, and the bad guy has him dead to rights. Perhaps the hero is hanging from a ledge by his fingertips with a bad-guy standing over him, and the bad guy is about to play a round of "stomp the fingers". Whatever the case, things look bad for the hero.

But just before the mook can end both the hero and the franchise, one of the hero's allies shoots the mook from behind (or runs him through with a sword, or hits him over the head with something heavy) and thus takes out the mook. Regardless of means, someone has just come to the hero's rescue.

Unlike the In the Back trope, this is rarely presented as morally dubious, even though it literally involves shooting someone while their back is turned. The fact that the villain is threatening someone else is justification enough.

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Often involves Version A of Bait-and-Switch Gunshot, or in some cases Impaled with Extreme Prejudice. A variation on Big Damn Heroes, sister trope of Thwarted Coup de Grâce. Compare Stab the Scorpion and The Cavalry.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Baccano!, when the anachronic storyline finally gets around to showing us some context on Jacuzzi Splot it's to see him in an alley, reasonably enough but a little overeffusively cowering and weeping in front of three guys with guns, begging them to put the guns down. They're rather puzzled because they were expecting a badass. Then it gets weird.
    Jacuzzi: Please, I don't want to kill you!
    Mook: Huh? Isn't it, you don't want to be killed by us?
    Jacuzzi: No...I don't want you to be killed! So please...Donny...I'm sure they're going to put the guns down now...there's no need...
    • And then a giant crushes one of them and an Action Girl cuts their throats, from behind. Jacuzzi has pals.
  • Bleach does this in almost every big fight.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta saves Gohan and Krillin in this manner in their fight against Guldo. Despite being significantly stronger than him, the two Earthlings find themselves trapped by Guldo's time-stoppage abilities, and he is about to finish them off when Vegeta jumps in and slices Guldo's head clean off.
    • He also saves Goku in this manner when the good guys are fighting Android #19.
    • Does it again in the non-serial movie Dragon Ball Z: The Return of Cooler when he saves Goku from being choked to death by Cooler.
    • He does it again at the climax of the battle with Perfect Cell, allowing Gohan to turn the tide in their Beam-O-War struggle.
    • In fact, for a guy that spends half of the time banging on about his noble blood, and the importance of pride and honour in battle, Vegeta sure does like to fight dirty.
    • Vegeta's not the only one who does this, though. In the non-serial movie Cooler's Revenge, after Cooler is defeated, Salza reveals he's still alive and is about to attack Gohan and the exhausted Goku, but proceeds to eat a Special Beam Cannon through his back courtesy of Piccolo.
  • The Council likes to do this to the heroes in Fairy Tail. They make a point of showing up right after the villain has been defeated, twice. One time just to question the guild, another to issue a life sentence to two people who just helped save the day.* In The Familiar of Zero, Cromwell uses his hypnotic ring to take control of Kirche and Tabitha. Cromwell starts gloating that as long as he has the ring, nobody can oppose him... then Guiche smashes a stick over his head from behind and knocks him out.
  • In one of the few real fight scenes in Higurashi: When They Cry Kai which isn't just a Curb-Stomp Battle, one of the girls is cornered by a bad guy, and then Keiichi hits him from behind. Of course, that was just part of act one of the fight, and in act two they all die, ''again''.
  • In the movies of Mobile Suit Gundam, during the Zeon infiltration of White Base, Amuro has just been sprung from his holding cell by Ryu Jose and is on his way to take control of the Gundam when he is waylaid by a Zeon soldier. Things look bad, as the two fight over a gun, a shot it heard and the soldier drops. Standing behind him with the smoking gun is Bright Noa.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka is about to sign a contract with Kyubey to help Sayaka at the end of episode 8, when suddenly, time freezes, and the next thing you see is a frozen Kyubey with holes shot through him, resulting in a ...the heck just happened?" reaction if you're watching for the first time. We then find this was caused by Homura, who stopped Madoka just in time by shooting Kyubey.

    Comic Books 
  • There were a lot of times early in Fantastic Four when some villain had three members of the group at gunpoint or otherwise at his mercy, but got attacked from behind by the Invisible Woman before he could fire.
  • The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones:
    • In #10, a Hovito Indian is about to perform a Hand Stomp on Indy as he is Hanging by the Fingers off the edge of skyscraper. Before he can bring his foot down, there is a shot and he topples off the edge of the building. The next panel reveals Marian, who has followed them on to The Precarious Ledge just in time to save Indy's life
    • in #12, an Ismaili assassin is about to throw a knife into Indy's back when there a shot, blood spurts from his chest and he falls over. The next panel shows Marion doing a Smoking Barrel Blowout.
  • Hitman: How do you out-shoot the fastest gun in the world? Have your buddy sneak up behind him and blow his head off.
  • In the third issue of Monstress, Kippa draws attention away from the friendly human woman Emilia just before the Cumaea can kill her baby for harboring Arcanics. Master Ren draws attention away from Kippa, but the Cumaea surround them both. Kippa is backed up against a tree, surrounded by Cumaea mooks. She fights back, but is no match for them. Then suddenly, one of the Cumaea's unicorn steeds comes running at them, bleeding, in pain, and frenzied, and it soon becomes clear that someone tore off its horn. Cue the Cumaea Elite Mook being gored through the neck by the horn Maika ripped from the unicorn's forehead and threw like a javelin.
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    Fan Works 
  • This happens twice to Mai in Chapter 19 of Perfection is Overrated. At the beginning of the chapter, while she is fighting with Shiho, whom she is unable to take offensive action against lest Yuuichi die, she is saved by Yukino intervening and knocking her opponent out. Later that chapter, she encounters Bachiko and Meiko, but Mikoto arrives and defeats them, killing them in the process. Much earlier, Mai and Natsuki are saved from Hitomi when Shizuru destroys Hitomi's Child.
  • In Crossed Paths, Demongo beats down a disarmed Samurai Jack. As he gloats, Rarity levitates Jack's sword and kills him with it.
  • In Karma in Retrograde, the story starts when a civilian shoots Dabi in the back with a deaging Quirk from behind, causing him to revert back to being Touya Todoroki.
  • The Tainted Grimoire: During the climax of the St. Galleria arc, Auggie is saved from three members of the Archbishop Guard like this.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • The climactic action scene in Beverly Hills Cop II ends with Taggart shooting Karla in the back before she can shoot Axl.
  • Done in Blade Runner when Deckard has lost his Hand Cannon, Leon picks him up and says, "Time to die..." ...only to get shot in the head by Rachel from behind, who has picked up the gun.
  • At the end of The Catcher, Terry is being strangled by Johnny when Johnny is cracked over the head with a baseball bat. The camera pulls back to reveal Beth; who had been knocked unconscious and stuffed into a washing machine earlier in the film.
  • At the end of the 1973 story in Cloud Atlas, when Smoke has Luisa and Napier cornered at gunpoint, the latter having run out of ammo. Just before he pulls the trigger, the Mexican woman whose dog Smoke had shot hits him over the head with a large tool.
  • In Dragonball Evolution, Mai is chasing Bulma and about to deal a killing blow when Yamcha shoots her from behind. A deleted, alternate version of that scene actually has her impaled by shrapnel, but still taken out by Yamcha.
  • Handled much more conservatively in the newer adaptation Dredd than in the earlier Judge Dredd (see below). The timing is a little off here, so Dredd has to stall his intended killer for a few seconds before Judge Anderson can show up from behind and blow the guy away.
    Dredd: Wait.
    Lex: "Wait?" Are you kidding me? Did you just say, "Wait"? Judge Dredd — the Judge Dredd — finally gets on the wrong end of a gun and all he says is, "Wait." You know what? I expected more from you. I mean, wait for what? Wait for me to change my mind? Wait for another two or three seconds of life because you are so fucking weak you can't stand to see it end?
    Dredd: No.
    [Anderson shoots Lex from behind]
  • In The Freakmaker, Lynch catches Brian trying to break in to Prof. Nolter's lab and knocks him to the ground. He is about to smash Brian's head in with a rock when the freaks arrive and Popeye throws a knife into Lynch's back; causing him to drop the rock and stagger away from Brian's unconscious form.
  • Near the end of The Hunger Games, Clove managed to get the best of Katniss and was just about to kill her when Thresh pulls her off Katniss and beats her to death against the Cornucopia, before leaving without attacking Katniss.
    Thresh: Just this time, Twelve. For Rue.
  • I Saw What You Did: During the climax, Steve has pulled a Danger Takes a Backseat on Libby and is choking her to death from behind. Suddenly there is a gunshot, the rear window of the car shatters, and Steve slumps forward: dead. Appearing behind the car is the state trooper from earlier, who has returned after being summoned by Mr. Austin after Kit came clean to him about what was really going on.
  • James Bond:
    • Thunderball. As Largo is about to shoot James Bond, Domino shoots him from behind with a speargun.
    • In For Your Eyes Only, Bond has just defeated Kristatos and talked Melina out of killing him when the sneaky Kristatos draws a hidden knife and tries to stab him, only to fall down with a throwing knife in his back; throwing by the Not Quite Dead Columbo.
    • Another Bond film to feature this is Skyfall, which has Bond kill Silva with a throwing knife to the back while the latter is about to kill M and himself.
  • Johnny English, two mooks hold Johnny and Bough at gunpoint and are knocked over the head by Lorna with a fire extinguuisher.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • An extreme example occurs where this trope occurs not once, but twice in the same scene. During the confrontation with the desert cannibals. Toward the end of the fight, Dredd is about to be speared by the patriarch of the cannibal clan, when the bad guy is killed by a shot from the "cleanup team" sent to make sure that Dredd didn't survive. After the ensuing shoot-out, Dredd is again cornered only to have his attacker shotgunned by Judge Fargo, Dredd's mentor. Fargo is then literally skewered seconds later after saying hello by the cyborg cannibal.
    • And at the climax of that same movie, Dredd is hanging by his fingertips, with the recently-deceased Big Bad's mad scientist henchman standing over him with a gun, gloating about shooting him. Cue the Bait-and-Switch Gunshot as Judge Hershey, Dredd's partner, shoots the scientist from behind, saving his life. Using this trope three times in one movie may well qualify for some sort of record.
  • Multiple times in The Lord of the Rings:
  • In the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven, this trope is combined with a Bait-and-Switch Gunshot. While Chisholm is monologuing and prolonging Bogue's strangulation, Bogue is busily fishing a derringer out of his pocket with which to shoot Chisholm. Emma shows up just in time to shoot Bogue before Bogue can shoot Chisholm. Played with in that Emma comes up behind Chisholm and not Bogue in order to deliver the fatal shot.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • In The Matrix, Trinity does this twice for Neo during the Rooftop Confrontation:
    • First she saves him by throwing a knife at a mook who sneaked up behind him with a gun.
    • Shortly after she performs her the famous Dodge This! on one of the agents who is about to shoot Neo from close range.
  • Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials has one of the guys in the hideout attempting to shoot Thomas and the gang, only to dramatically fall forward, revealing that he'd been shot in the back by Brenda.
  • Happens at the end of Men in Black. After they think that Edgar is dead and are relaxing for a moment, he lurks in the background and then leaps up to kill them. Before they can react, L shoots him.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Played with during the attack on Port Royal at the beginning of first film.
      Pirate: SAY GOODBYE!
      *A sign's chain conveniently breaks, causing it to smash the pirate.*
    • The fourth movie has Jack cornered by a redcoat when Teague steps out of the shadows and shoots the guy.
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark:
    • Marion Ravenwood knocks out a mook from behind with a burning log during the bar fight near the beginning just as he's about to shoot Indiana Jones.
    • She does this sort of thing again later during the fight on and around the Nazi plane. A German pilot is about to shoot Indy when he's hit over the back of the head, and we see Marion Ravenwood lifting some airplane wheel chocks triumphantly.
  • * In the 1994 French film The Revenge Of The Musketeers a.k.a La fille de d'Artagnan ("D'Artagnan's Daughter") the Big Bad has the titular heroine (Sophie Marceau) at his mercy and is about to deliver the coup de grâce when he suddenly notices a sword-point emerging from his own chest — courtesy of her father d'Artagnan (Philippe Noiret).
  • During the fight on top of the space drill in Star Trek (2009), Kirk is hanging off the edge with a Romulan standing over him, trying to stomp on Kirk's fingers. Sulu comes to the rescue by running the Romulan through with his sword.
  • From Star Wars:
    Darth Vader: I have you now.
    (One of Vader's wing-men explodes.)
    Darth Vader: What?!
    ( Shot of Millennium Falcon coming out of the sun.)
    Han Solo: Yahoo!
    Tie Fighter Pilot: Look out!
    (He tries to turn, but misjudges it, slams against the side of the trench, and sends Vader spinning off)
    Han Solo: You're all clear, kid. Now let's blow this thing and go home!
  • In Under Siege, as Ryback is lying wounded on the deck of the USS Missouri after disabling the enemy sub, Daumer walks up towards him and levels his gun. Of course, he just HAS to take the opportunity to gloat and deliver his Pre-Mortem One-Liner...
    Daumer: You're incredible, Ryback. It's a shame you weren't working for us...
    [Gunshots ring out. Daumer falls dead, and Jordan Tate is seen behind him holding a sub machine gun.]
    Ryback: Next thing I know, you'll be dating musicians.
  • In Unknown (2011), when Martin is about to be strangled by the hitman at Gina's place, Gina comes to his aid and rams the syringe into the hitman's neck.

    Literature 
  • Happens more than once in The Wheel of Time, ending the following fights: Rand vs Be'lal, Rand vs Lanfear, Rand vs Rahvin, Nynaeve vs Moghedien (twice), Perrin vs Aram.
  • This happens about once a book in The Pendragon Adventure.
  • Alex Rider: Herod Sayle by Yassen Gregorovich with a bullet at the end of Stormbreaker.
  • The Way of Kings (first book of The Stormlight Archive): Near the end of the book, Dalinar Kholin is losing an honor duel against an enemy Shardbearer (mostly due to the fact that Dalinar just finished having to fight through a large army) when Kaladin rescues him by stabbing the Shardbearer in the leg, slowing him enough for Dalinar to escape.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Angel episode "Orpheus" has Faith do this to Connor before he gets to stab Angelus.
  • Happens in the new Battlestar Galactica, during the Battle of New Caprica. Galactica is cornered by four Baseships, taking a heavy pounding, its point defence batteries failing and its FTL offline. The crew even realise that this is it. Camera zooms out...and shows a barrage of torpedoes heading for the nearest Baseship, the source being the Battlestar Pegasus.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Bronn saving the Hound and Pod saving Tyrion in "Blackwater".
    • Sam is saved this way by both Ghost and Lord Commander Mormont in "Valar Dohaeris".
    • Ygritte saves Tormund this way during their pillaging in "Breaker of Chains".
    • It takes two of these to kill Karl Tanner. First, he is stabbed in the back by one of his victims then stabbed in the back of the head when he rounds on her.
    • Grey Worm spears a Sons of the Harpy member who was about to slash Ser Barristan Selmy's throat.
    • A badly abused Theon Greyjoy does this to save Podrick Payne from a Bolton guard in "The Red Woman."
    • Dickon Tarly does this to a Dothraki warrior who has Jaime Lannister on the ropes.
  • Lost:
    • In the final season, Jin is about to be attacked by some guys when the long-lost Claire shows up out of the jungle and shoots them.
    • In the series finale, Kate shoots and fatally wounds the Man in Black in the back right before he can push his knife into Jack's neck. Of course, it only worked because Jack's plan with Desmond succeeded and rendered the Man in Black vulnerable.
  • The O.C.: #Mmmm whatcha say?# Marisa shoots Trey while he is beating some other guy up.
  • "EscApe From New York," the season five premiere of Pretty Little Liars, sees Aria, of all people, doing this when Shana has Spencer, Emily, Hanna and Alison at gunpoint and is about to kill them in revenge for the Jenna thing; Aria hits Shana with Chekhov's Rifle, and hits her again sending her off the stage to a Disney Villain Death.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Requiem for Methuselah", Flint's guardian robot catches Kirk and Rayna together and prepares to fire. Kirk moves Rayna away and prepares for the attack. Then, pow! The robot explodes with sparks, and we see Spock standing in the doorway, phaser in hand.
  • In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), Dean stabs an angel in the back who has severely beaten Ezekiel.

    Video Games 
  • Zidane saves Squall in this manner in Dissidia Final Fantasy. Then he teases HIM for being a showoff
    Zidane: Stop trying to show off Squall. You make the rest of us look bad.
  • In Fable I, the young Hero of Oakvale is saved from a bandit in his Doomed Hometown when Maze, the Heroes Guild leader, shows up to hit him with a lightning bolt from behind. Maze is later revealed to have invoked this: he is The Mole who led the bandit raid and had a last-second change of heart, killing the bandit to Leave No Witnesses and ensure the Hero's complete loyalty.
  • FreeSpace; In the Inferno R1 mod, this is first played straight, then subverted. The GTVA's Independence carrier pulls off a conveniently timed attack from behind the Earth Alliance's flagship, the EA Nemesis. Said Nemesis then did a precise nano-jump right behind the Independence and shoots the crap out of it.
  • Played straight in the trailer for Guild Wars: Prophecies.
  • In the final dungeon of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link is about to get hit by an arrow when "The Group" comes in with a bazooka. Fridge Logic sets in when you remember that Link has survived much worse than a single arrow, but still a cool scene.
  • Played with in The Matrix: Path of Neo Neo doesn't actually need help, but the Witch NPC shows up and shotguns some mooks to death with a few back shots.
  • This trope saves you in the lost city in Quest for Glory III.
  • In the final cutscene of Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Kerrigan has finally arrived to deliver some long-desired Revenge upon Arcturus Mengsk, but he pulls out an unpleasant surprise (the Xel'naga artifact from Wings of Liberty), which he uses to subdue her, and begins inflicting Electric Torture on the helpless queen, gloating about his deviousness and how his empire will overcome, when Raynor smashes through the half-open door and hurls Mengsk bodily across the room.
    Raynor: Change of plans, Arcturus.
  • Elain attacks Lechuck this way with the cursed cutlass of Kaflu in Tales of Monkey Island: Rise of the Pirate God, but doesn't work as Lechuck had already absorbed so much power it didn't affect him.
  • Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception- Young Drake is on a roof, his back to a corner. There's nowhere for him to run and one of Marlowe's men has him at gunpoint. Before the minion can shoot our hero, in comes Sully from behind who shoots him, takes Drake to a tavern and begins the lasting friendship we see in the series.
  • Xenosaga Part 1 combines this with Surprisingly Sudden Death, when KOS-MOS blasts through a wall to save Shion in the nick of time.

    Webcomics 
  • Little Jyrras from Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures grows a pair, much to everyone's surprise.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Jean saves Bob from King Mook of the Bigfeet with a floorlamp.
  • In Juathuur, Veithel attacks Rowasu just before he kills her father. Soveshei isn't as pleased as he should.
  • Subverted in The Order of the Stick: Wrecan shouts "SNEAK ATTACK FROM BEHIND", only to follow up with an admission that he can't actually do that under the circumstances. The shouting serves only as a distraction.
    It's the least I could do. Also, the most, unfortunately.
  • Problem Sleuth combines this with Pretty Little Headshots at one point.
  • In Tellurion one such attack by their shipmates is the only thing that keeps the Guy and Girl from being done in by a Guard.
  • When Ren from Tower of God has Endorsi and Anaak cornered and is about to kill them, he gets a pebble thrown at his head. Enter Yuri Jahad.
  • An interesting variation happens in Unsounded, where it wasn't completely clear if the person being saved, Bastion Winallis, was going to be killed (or worse) or not, (at least immediately), and that the person saving them (an Efheby, a type of immortal Naga) is the boss of the people threatening them. This boss also doesn't kill the person with the weapon (a knife embued with its venom), but rather the person next to them. By impaling them on it's forearm. It has the same effect, though, thoroughly disuading the attacker from continuing.

    Western Animation 
  • Occurs in the first episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog. Katz manages to tire out Courage by defeating him in a game of squach before grabbing him by the throat and preparing to feed him to his one of man-eating spider pets. However, as he is distracted laughing uncontrollably, Muriel knocks him out with a tennis racket saving Courage.
  • In one episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Obi-Wan and Duchess Satine have a terrorist leader at the point of their weapons, the villain gloats that they can't do anything before he pulls the trigger on some bombs, lest the pacifist Satine become a hypocrite, or the lovestruck Obi-Wan be made a monster in his love interest's eyes... cue Anakin running him through with his lightsaber, with a few chords of the Imperial March playing as he does.
    Obi-Wan: Anakin...
    Anakin: What? He was gonna blow up the ship.
  • In ThunderCats (2011) this serves as Mysterious Protector Cheetara's Dynamic Entry, saving young Prince Incognito Lion-O from a headlock by rapping his mugger in the back of the head with her staff.

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