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False Roulette

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Harry: I just put in one bullet, didn't I?
Perry: You put a live round in that gun?!
Harry: [stammers] Well, yeah, there was, like, an 8% chance—!
Perry: "Eight percent?" EIGHT?! WHO TAUGHT YOU MATH?!

A form of Perp Sweating, invoking Russian Roulette, where a gun is emptied out and one bullet is palmed while apparently being loaded into the chamber. The perp is then asked questions and awarded a dry-fire for tardy answers.

Akin to a mild form of High-Altitude Interrogation, this can cause more trouble than it's worth in Real Life — if the participant calls your bluff, if you pull the trigger one too many times without re-spinning, you use a blank that goes off, or (God forbid) you actually load it for "effect", chances are you're going to end up with a mess on your hands.

See also Two-Headed Coin for a similar but less violent game of "chance".

Generally falls under Artistic License Gun Safety, since "a gun is always loaded, especially when it isn't".


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Baccano!: The Gandors pull one of these on a traitorous subordinate, confronting him with their knowledge of his betrayal and then presenting him with a fully loaded revolver, with which, they inform him, he must now "play Russian roulette". When he panics and tries to shoot Keith Gandor, he quickly discovers two things: the revolver was loaded with harmless empty cartridge casings, and the whole production was actually a Secret Test of Character.
    Luck: You know, Jogi, we... We are very thankful for all the work you've done until now. So, we three came to a decision after a little discussion. If you came to an understanding and pulled the trigger on yourself, then we wouldn't say anything and just chase you out of the organization. If you cried and begged for mercy, we would beat you half to death then chase you out of the organization. If you persisted in pretending to be confused, we would cut off your tongue then chase you out of the organization. Looks like you chose the worst of the lot. This is truly regrettable.
  • Double subverted near the beginning of Black Cat. Train puts a bullet in his gun (in a way that only he can see it), hands it off to his partner Sven and tells him to shoot him in the hand. Sven does end up shooting him with the one bullet...but it was just a blank so he wasn't actually hurt.
  • A variation occurs in Black Lagoon. Revy and Dutch, after shooting their way through a small army of Neo-Nazis, have the leader cornered, alone, and sobbing. They make a cryptic bet with each other — Revy choosing "black" and Dutch choosing "white" — and toss one of Revy's Berettas to the Neo-Nazi. He slowly brings it up to his own forehead, and then at the last moment turns the gun on Dutch and pulls the trigger. Naturally it's empty. It turns out Revy and Dutch were betting on whether or not the Neo-Nazi would pull the trigger on himself ("white") or Dutch ("black"). Needless to say, the Neo-Nazi buys it soon after.
  • Upgraded in the Gunsmith Cats manga. Rally Vincent puts in the bullet without palming it, spins the chamber, pulls the trigger FIVE TIMES in a row rapidly, and finally fires the gun into the wall (right over the perp's head) to prove the bullet wasn't palmed; she's so good with guns that she can time the spin and lock the chamber so she knows where the bullet is when it stops. After demonstrating her prowess she puts in another bullet and points the gun at the perp. Naturally this scares the perp even more than regular Russian Roulette.
  • Maria pulls this in one episode of the second Sakura Wars OAV. Ohgami seems to consider it a sign of progress that she didn't load the gun (considering that she used to have no qualms whatsoever about killing).

    Comic Books 
  • One issue of Daredevil has the title character playing a version of this with a paralyzed Bullseye. A version in which the cylinder of the gun is not spun after each pull of the trigger, meaning that someone is going to die by the time the trigger is pulled six times at the latest. At the end of the story with both still alive, Daredevil points the gun at Bullseye...CLICK. It was never loaded. "We're stuck with each other, Bullseye."
  • In an episode of Lucky Luke, an extended shootout ends with Luke running out of bullets and Jack Dalton having one left. Jack suggests Russian roulette. After failing to shoot the hero he hands over the gun and starts shivering in mortal fear. Realizing Jack is too preoccupied to keep an eye on him, Luke deftly empties the gun, puts it against Jack's head, and shouts "BANG!!" Jack, believing he's been shot, passes out from the shock.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted hilariously in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: The lead character is an ex-magician, so the audience expects him to palm the bullet. However, he has no idea he is supposed to do this, puts one bullet back in the gun, spins the chamber per usual, threatens the suspect by firing a shot, and the suspect is killed. When his partner says What the Hell, Hero?, he says that he thought there was only an "8%" chance.
    Gay Perry: 8 percent!? Who taught you math!?
  • Variant from The Dark Knight: Harvey Dent threatens one of The Joker's mooks with a coin flip: Heads, he doesn't shoot him; tails, he does. When it lands on heads, he says he can flip it again. Of course, he's using his two-headed coin, so the goon is in no real danger, but he doesn't know that. Later on he uses the same coin for actual "games of chance," with one side damaged.
  • The Heat: Mullins, right there in the interrogation room at the police station. She's crazy enough to make the threat believable, and it brings about the desired result.
  • Played straight in L.A. Confidential during the interrogation of the three Night Owl murder suspects, when Bud White realizes the suspects have kidnapped and raped a woman who's still being held hostage. However, in the film, we never actually see if Bud takes the last round out of his .38...
  • In Life of the Party, Michael claims he's loaded the gun with one bullet, but he reveals that he never did after pointing the gun at his friends four times and pulling the trigger, then putting it to himself and squeezing twice.
  • In Malcolm X, Malcolm does this to a co-conspirator in a burglary to force him to accept his leadership. Malcolm X claimed to Alex Haley that he actually did this.
  • Subverted in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Jack assumes this is what's happening, as even Blackbeard surely wouldn't risk his daughter's life as an interrogation method. Then Jack fires one to prove his point...
  • A variant of this is used in The Punisher (2004). Frank captures low-level mook Mickey and strings him up by his ankles, tying his hands together. He then goes into a fantastic description of how a blowtorch flame will affect him: it won't burn, so to speak. Instead, Mickey will smell burning flesh, but, because his nerve endings are being destroyed, all he'll feel is cold. After the appropriate one-liner ("Isn't science fun, Mickey?"), Frank then proceeds to use the blowtorch to burn a steak, and presses a popsicle against Mickey's back, causing him to react as though he's being burned. When Frank has given away all the information he has...he pops the popsicle in his mouth and lets him down.
    "You're not a nice man."
  • Used in reverse in the 2004 Starsky & Hutch movie. Starsky lifts the gun up while he loads one bullet and lets the bullet fall into his sleeve. Then he puts his arm down before closing the chamber and the bullet falls back into the gun. The perp being questioned sees the whole thing and Hilarity Ensues as the perp (who knows the false roulette trick, and would therefore not ordinarily be intimidated) tries to keep Starsky from blowing his own head off with the really loaded gun.

  • A variant appears in the novel Dominion. The leader of a gang is fond of subjecting his members to Russian Roulette, using a live round, but he's always the one to spin the revolver and if he sees the round in the chamber about to be fired, he just spins it again. He reassures all his gang members that nobody has ever died while playing with him, although he doesn't tell them his secret.
  • There's a short story where a young man plays Russian roulette and finding that he cannot lose assumes that he is invincible and attempts to use this power to fight an enemy army. He dies and the narrator explains that the man had been using a well-oiled Nagant revolver (see Real Life below) for the Russian roulette and gravity had made the bullet end up the bottom every time.
  • Subverted in L.A. Confidential, where the cop in question apparently leaves at least one bullet in the revolver.
  • Happens in book three Alpha of the Monster Hunter International series. Since the player was a werewolf the gun was loaded, with the trick being that it wasn't a Silver Bullet. It was a Secret Test of Character that the werewolf passed after willingly pulling the trigger and blowing his own brains out (he got better after some time unconscious).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bosch: Played with; Bosch, while undercover, is forced to play Russian Roulette with his own gun. Fortunately, he sabotaged the gun beforehand specifically to prepare for such a situation; however, the antagonists have no idea and think he's playing for real.
  • Mac does this on CSI: NY to force information out of one of the guys who was involved in kidnapping Mac's girlfriend, Christine.
  • In the Dempsey and Makepeace episode "Extreme Prejudice", Dempsey plays Russian Roulette to a terrorist he's interrogating. Makepeace and Spikings arrive seconds after Dempsey extracts what little information the terrorist actually knows. Dempsey then pulls the trigger of his revolver in front of them multiple times, resulting in a series of clicks. He then shows them that he had palmed the bullet all along.
  • A bad guy in Foyle's War tries this on with a burglar who has stolen something very incriminating from him; unfortunately, the burglar gets the bullet before the bad guy gets the information.
  • Justified: A minor villain has addicts play for pills, getting a single pill for each trigger pull. One of them gets fed up and pulls the trigger on the villain several times, revealing that the gun was never loaded to begin with.
  • A variation used by Aramis in episode 1 of The Musketeers when he and Porthos are interrogating one of the Red Guard about the name and location of a murderous captain. He goes through a long speech about how good he is with the musket and asking which vital organ he should hit, very slowly prepping it to fire... And 'remembers' just as he pulls the trigger that he forgot to put the bullet in. Needless to say, the Guard suddenly remembers the name before the bullet is even dropped into the barrel.
  • Used by Doug in The Riches, when he is trying to get hired as a lawyer.
  • The Shield: Tavon interrogates a suspect this way. This raises his status in Vic's eyes, as he sees that Tavon doesn't necessarily do things by the book.

    Video Games 
  • During the campaign of Call of Duty: Black Ops, Mason, Woods, and Bowman are captured by Soviet/NVA forces, with Woods and Mason forced to play Russian Roulette with one another. Subverted in that the gun was loaded, but after Woods' first turn, Mason takes the chance to shoot the Viet Cong bookie watching over their game instead - and he gets the live bullet.
  • Double subverted in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019), Price interrogates the Butcher by handing Gaz a revolver and ordering him to aim at the Butcher's wife and son. When the player eventually pulls the trigger, Price reveals the revolver was never loaded, and then hands Gaz six rounds. Actually firing at the Butcher's family results in a Non Standard Game Over.
  • Variant done in Killer7. Garcian Smith is forced to play a game of Russian Roulette (the "barrel is not spun" variation) against one Benjamin Keane, with the stipulations being if Garcian wins, Keane will teach him the secret to hitting on women with 100% success, but if Keane wins, Garcian has to kill the President. Keane goes into a great deal of dramatics as he picks up the gun and puts it to his temple... pulling the trigger and putting the gun down... Garcian meanwhile simply picks it up and methodically, almost robotically, picks it up, puts it to his head, and pulls the trigger. It's a revolver, and it comes down to the fifth pull of the trigger. It's Keane's turn. He shudders as he pulls the trigger - no bang. He chuckles and slides it to Garcian. "Well, I suppose I win, Guess you have to do what I say." Garcian, after a short moment, picks it up and just calmly pulls the trigger a sixth time. Click. "This gun holds seven bullets. I'm a professional. You can't fool me, old man." Cue Keane killing himself after revealing the true secret to wooing women - They're all the same.

    Western Animation 
  • A non-gun variation is performed in Batman: The Animated Series. A germophobic crook has broken into a hospital. Batman chases after him, and during the chase, he accidentally winds up in a storage room for samples of diseases. Batman picks up one of the jars and inspects it. "Hmm... crimson fever. Lousy way to go. No cure, you know." He places it on a shelf above the crook's head and begins asking him questions. For every dishonest answer, he pounds the wall, causing the jar to shudder and come one step closer to falling... then a security guard interrupts the proceedings. Batman pounds the wall one last time, causing the jar to tumble through the air. The crook yells and cowers, but Batman grabs the jar before it can hit him. The camera lingers on that shot a little bit longer, and we see what the label reads: "Seawater For Analysis".

    Real Life 
  • Derren Brown played Russian roulette on a TV special, demonstrating his ability to manipulate a person into picking a number between 1 and 6 of his choice. It was later revealed that the gun would not have fired.
  • Incidentally enough, the original Russian Roulette is an example. The design of the Nagant revolver makes it more than likely the bullet (or bullets — the original version was played with six loaded chambers out of seven) will end up at the bottom of the chamber if the gun is greased well.