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Pay Evil Unto Evil / Live-Action Films

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Paying evil unto evil in live-action movies.


  • In Batman Returns, Catwoman electrocutes Max Shreck to death with a taser in his mouth. She also beats up and slashes up the face of a mugger/rapist earlier in the movie on her first night out as a vigilante.
  • In Goodfellas, Henry confronts a man who harassed and hit his future wife and pistol-whips him until blood starts flowing.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2 has the Lancer going that path when he answers to the proposal to spare the enemy's civilians.
    Gale: "That's a luxury we weren't given. It doesn't matter [that they are civilians]. Even if they are civilians just mopping floors, they are helping the enemy. If they have to die, I can live with that."
  • The Toxic Avenger:
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    • Played straight with our hero, Toxie. He's one of the kindest beings you could ever meet, unless you are a villain. He has a girlfriend, eventual wife, that he is very devoted to. And he does things as big as saving lives to helping someone open a jar or cross the street. But if you're an enemy, he'll kill you in a way that makes Freddy Krueger seem nice. One example being he holds a robber down by the neck, pours milk and whipped cream into his mouth, then turns on the blender and blends his throat -making a human milkshake.
    • He saves Sweetie Honey in Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV from being raped by brutally killing the rapists. He rips out Tex's tongue, shows it to him, and throws it on Dex's face. As Tex screams in pain, Toxie lifts him up and breaks his neck by slamming him into a ceiling. Dex and Lex are then killed by Toxie using his trusty mop. Afterward, he goes to comfort Sweetie, asking if she's ok, telling her the men won't hurt her anymore, and holds her hand while offering to take her to his shack so she could call someone to take her home.
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  • Little Sweetheart gives us an example of evil paying evil on to evil back and forth, or at least trying. Thelma blackmails Robert without knowing he was a bank robber, and later on, he roughs up the person he thought it was (her older brother) before the brother explains the truth. He then plans to scare the shit out of Thelma (but not harm her, she's only 9), but the cops get in the way.
  • A common perception of Sheriff Wydell's actions towards the Villain Protagonists of The Devil's Rejects. Yes, what Wydell did was to embrace He Who Fights Monsters to anvilicious extremes, but, on the other hand, the people he was horrifically abusing and butchering had a years-long, if not decades-long, history of torture, rape and serial murder.
  • In Dead Man's Shoes, the Anti-Hero Richard comes back to his town to take bloody revenge on the people who bullied his brother when they were younger, killing them brutally one by one. The film is interspersed with disturbing flashbacks showing what they did, any of which could explain the extent of Richard's fury, culminating in the most horrific: they drive him out into the country, literally torture him and abandon him with a rope around his neck that he uses to hang himself. The brother, who had appeared as a character throughout the film, was Dead All Along. However, whilst the bullies were indeed monstrous, we're not entirely expected to agree with Richard's actions — and in the final scene, Richard acknowledges that the things he's done have been terrible.
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  • In Dogville, a woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, however, they force her to do more chores within the same time, for less pay. The townspeople then start treating her like a slave, eventually escalating their abuse of her, up to and including rape. Unfortunately for them, she turns out to be the daughter of a mob boss — and the townspeople have lost all chance of her forgiveness.
  • The Boondock Saints believe in this. It's arguable whether their actions and success are a result of divine intervention or just plain dumb luck — but either way, you do not mess with the MacManus brothers.
  • Clint Eastwood:
  • From Aquaman (2018), Arthur willingly leaves both David and Jesse Kane behind to drown, since the two had massacred a submarine crew and Jesse tried shooting him in the back after trying to spare them the first time. Even when David is insisting he rescue his father, Arthur just blows it off. Of course, this does backfire on Arthur later on.
    David: Wait! Help me, he's trapped! You can't leave him like this! Please!
    Arthur: You killed innocent people! You ask the sea for mercy!
  • Star Wars: This is most of Anakin's Dark actions in the prequels. In Attack of the Clones, he kills the Sand People who kidnapped, beat, tortured, and quite probably raped his mother. What keeps it from being justified is that he killed all of them, women and children included. He later takes down Dooku at the start of Revenge of the Sith, which would have been completely justified, except Dooku was almost-literally unarmed. The moral of this, however, is that this trope is a bad thing and is part of what leads Anakin to The Dark Side.
  • What Jigsaw perceives to be his modus operandi in the Saw series. Of course, when you're taking people who don't appreciate their lives and killing them with methods of steadily escalating atrocity, maybe the message doesn't come across so clearly.
  • Part of the premise of Law Abiding Citizen. Particularly when Clyde Shelton dismembers Clarence Darby, who killed his family.
  • In Mad Max, Max gives Johnny the Boy a Life-or-Limb Decision, handcuffing his ankle to a wrecked vehicle and setting a crude time-delay fuse. It's all a part of his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • In John Wayne's The Cowboys, the evil guy is finally defeated by the young boys. Instead of just shooting him dead (as he deserved), the boys leave him attached to a horse by the ankle and send the horse off running, with him dragging on the ground (which he deserved just as much).
  • Wild Wild West: Dr. Arless Loveless is a racist bigot who is constantly making racial slurs and jokes against Will Smith's Jim West. He's also lost his entire body below the waist, so James West responds by making "short" jokes about him.
  • The protagonist of Grosse Pointe Blank uses this as justification for his career as a hitman. He comments that the files on most of his targets read like a demon's resume, and says "If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there." This gets deconstructed for him when he discovers his last intended target is his former flame's dad, who is about to testify about faulty seat-belts killing people in accidents. It's enough to make him decide he wants no part of the business anymore.
  • The Inglourious Basterds would be tried for war crimes and hanged for what they did in France. Such crimes include but are not limited to: murdering soldiers, beating them to death with baseball bats, scalping their corpses, permanently scarring survivors for life, shooting into crowds of unarmed citizens, and suicide bombing a crowded theater. However, it's all okay, because they're committing all these atrocious acts on the Nazis!
  • Much of X-Men: First Class is composed of Erik (later Magneto) doing this. He's Jewish, as a child he and his family are sent to Auschwitz, and a Nazi there (who we later find out is the mutant Sebastian Shaw) murders Erik's mother when Erik is unable to use his (latent) powers. As an adult, the first part of the film has Erik hunting down, torturing and murdering Nazis and their supporters. At the end of the movie he gives Shaw a very Karmic Death - the film clearly intends it to be a Jumping Off the Slippery Slope moment, but Shaw's such a madman that much of the audience is inclined to cheer Erik on for doing it, especially as there's also little reason to believe Shaw could be safely captured. And then the US and Soviet militaries try to murder the mutants who just saved them from nuclear war, and Erik turns their missiles back on them. Paying evil to evil is basically his personal philosophy, contrasting with Charles' pay-good-unto-evil-and-maybe-they'll-have-a-change-of-heart ethos (and influenced by the fact that Erik's seen a lot more of evil than Charles has at this point), and it's a substantial part of what ultimately separates them.
  • The book and movie A Time to Kill are about a father who kills the two men who raped his ten-year-old daughter, before they have even been brought to trial. He was afraid that they would be acquitted, despite being caught red-handed, because they were white and his daughter was black. It was set in the Deep South, after all. The daughter's father throughout expresses no remorse, even loudly declaring in court, "Yes they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!"
    Lucien Wilbanks (to Defense counsel Brigance): If you win this case, justice will prevail. But if you lose, justice will also prevail. Now that is a strange case.
  • Subverted rather well in The Magnificent Seven: Calvera, the movie's Big Bad, who corners the seven and lets them go by taking their weapons and riding them out of town. His justification? An old Mexican quote: "A thief who steals from another thief is pardoned for a hundred years." Of course, he assumed that they were just Hired Guns who'd skip town the moment they were paid... By the end of the film, Calvera finds his assumptions were very, very, wrong.
  • In the Made-for-TV movie Outrage! (1986), Robert Preston (yes, of The Music Man) plays the father of a woman who is raped and murdered, by a man who ends up getting away with the crime on a technicality. After this incident causes his wife so much grief that she dies, he hunts down the man and shoots him dead, then calmly drives to the police station and turns himself in.
  • Taken is 90 minutes of this. In most other films, the protagonist doing things like jamming rusty nails into a villain's thighs and then leaving them to be electrocuted to death would be something that disgusts the audience into reviling said protagonist. But when said villain is a human trafficker who kidnaps teenage girls, addicts them to drugs and then sells them to be prostitutes and sex slaves and is planning to do so to the protagonist's daughter, you find yourself cheering instead.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek (2009): Averted. Nero has just spent the whole time running around slaughtering everyone in his path and blowing up a planet on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. That doesn't stop Kirk from offering to save him and his men when the Narada is being disintegrated into an artificially-created Negative Space Wedgie (Spock, who was personally targeted by this revenge, finds the offer logical but hates it). Nero declines the offer, whereupon Kirk orders the Enterprise to hasten/ensure his passing.
    • Near the end of Star Trek: Insurrection, Picard has managed to keep the Son'a leader Ru'afo off his back long enough to trigger the self-destruct of the Phlebotinum collector. The Enterprise, the sensors of which have been depicted moments earlier as sensitive enough to identify a lone Klingon on an entire battleship, flies past the exploding collector and beams off Picard... but not Ru'afo, who must have been detected when the transporter operator scanned the collector to locate Picard.
  • This is the premise of Paparazzi, with a celebrity going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against a trio of cartoonishly evil Paparazzi who put his wife and son in the hospital, including orchestrating a Suicide by Cop scenario and directly murdering another one off-screen. The guy in charge of investigating all this even secretly roots for whoever's doing it (though he still has to bring him in because, of course, he's breaking the law,) and in the end the guy viciously beats the final Paparazzi and manages to frame him for all the murders while he gets off scot free.
  • While the main philosophy in Swordfish is the idea that a few innocent casualties are OK if you stop a greater evil, it is heavily implied that Gabriel Shear is a terrorist who only targets terrorists who are plotting against the U.S.
  • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon the Wreckers tore a Decepticon pilot limb from limb, said Con was vaporizing civilians for several seconds before.
  • In Let the Right One In, the bullies who have tormented Oskar throughout the movie are joined by the older brother of one of them who plans to force Oskar to stay underwater for three whole minutes in the school swimming pool -if he can't, they'll cut Oskar's eye out with a knife. After a minute of this, Eli crashes into the swimming pool through the skylight and literally rips them apart. The audience never considers Eli to be evil for doing this. She was saving Oskar's life and the bullies had previously shown themselves to be sadistic bullies who enjoyed hurting Owen simply because they could.
  • Teaser posters for the American film version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo feature the tagline "Evil Shall With Evil Be Expelled".
  • The Dark Knight: Two-Face's entire M.O. becomes this after Rachel Dawes' death. As a Well-Intentioned Extremist, he starts out by shooting Det. Michael Wuertz.
  • In Dogma, as the Angel of Death, this was Loki's role. He throws down his fiery sword after disagreeing with God on who deserves to die and is cast out of Heaven. Upon Bartleby's finding a way back in, he returns to his role with gusto.
  • It's implied at the end of The Collection that Arkin is gonna return the favor back at The Collector himself after all the hell he went through due to said killer's hands after setting him on fire, finding out he escaped, learning his past, tracking him down thanks to his new knowledge and ambushing The Collector in his own home.
  • Played for laughs in True Lies when Harry is under the influence of a truth serum.
    Helen: Have you ever killed anyone?
    Harry: Yeah, but they were all bad.
  • Sartana does this to all the evil men he's ever encountered. The series even hints that he's a supernatural spirit of vengeance because of how often he takes down bad guys.
  • In Goldeneye, Valentin tells Bond a story about the Lienz Cossacks, who worked with the Nazi government against the Soviets during the Second World War, then helped the British against the Nazis when it became obvious the Nazis were going to lose. After the war, the British government handed the Cossacks over to Stalin, and many of them died in the gulags. Bond claims it was "not exactly our finest hour", and while Valentin agrees, he considers the Cossacks ruthless people who got what they deserved.
  • I Spit on Your Grave, one of the most infamous Rape and Revenge films of all time, is about a woman taking violent revenge upon her rapists.
  • Drive Angry: John Milton slaughters the cultists en masse and shows no mercy towards them, especially their leader Jonah King, whom he erases from existence with the Godkiller and uses his skull to drink some beer from. The villains are really bad to make this serviceable. These people are a baby-sacrificing cult, and King is a sadistic rapist, murderer and power-tripping maniac.
  • Unfriended: Laura Barns was Driven to Suicide after having a humiliating video of her uploaded to YouTube and suffering bullying and harassment. When her vengeful spirit goes after her tormentors, she drives them to Cruel and Unusual Suicides.
  • In Slumdog Millionaire, Salim's first villainous action is his cold-blooded Vigilante Execution of crime boss, pimp, and child-abuser Maman.
  • In I Shot Jesse James, Robert Ford shoots Jesse James, an infamous killer and outlaw, In the Back.
  • Discussed in The Hitman's Bodyguard. Darius Kincaid is a Professional Killer, but he only takes contracts on other criminals. He contrasts this with Michael Bryce, a professional bodyguard who protects rich underworld figures from their enemies, asking him which job is really the less moral.
  • Francis from Mr. Right has this as essentially his moral code. He used to be a hitman, now he only kills people who try to hire him. Because killing is wrong.


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