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Wounded Gazelle Gambit / Live-Action Film

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Wounded Gazelle Gambits in live-action movies.


  • In An American Crime, Gertrude tells everyone that Sylvia "came into [her] house and just kept lying" and is a troublemaker who she just doesn't know what to do with. This is to hide the fact that she currently has Sylvia tied up and beaten in the basement.
  • The confrontation between Commander Richter and the Camerlengo in Angels & Demons, where the Camerlengo brands himself with the Illuminati symbol, then tells the would-be Big Damn Heroes that the attacker is the other guy.
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  • Rhoda in The Bad Seed manages this while unconscious, as it is assumed her near-lethal poisoning was due to her mother being crazy rather than her being a complete psychopath.
  • In Beethoven, veterinarian Herman Varnick, does this because he wants to use Beethoven for an ammunition test. Varnick comes to the Newton's home and stages an "attack" by Beethoven on him, by ripping up his sleeve and putting red dye on his arm and Beethoven to look like blood, and says that Beethoven bit his arm. Varnick says Beethoven must be euthanized or he will press charges, so George takes Beethoven to Varnick to be euthanized. Later the Newtons discover the lie when Varnick's bandages are ripped off, revealing the absence of bite marks.
  • Bob Roberts is full of these, seeing as its a movie about politics. Perhaps the worst one, though, is when Bob Roberts stages an assassination attempt on himself and frames an innocent journalist who is later killed by vigilantes.
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  • In Catwoman, our heroine confronts the villainess in her home, who reveals her husband's dead body which just so happens to be covered in deep scratches, right before she triggers an alarm and cues crocodile tears, screaming "IT WAS CATWOMAN!"
  • Class of 1984. A student is caught doing something wrong in the boys' bathroom. Instead of taking his punishment, he beats himself up by doing things, like banging his head into the paper towel dispenser. When security arrives, they think the teacher is trying to beat up the student.
  • Cruel Intentions: In order to goad Ronald into attacking her brother and (indirectly) causing his death, Kathryn claims (over the phone) that Sebastian hit her. (This trope gets twisted around in the movie's original script: Sebastian does hit Kathryn, for taunting him.)
  • Selina Kyle can turn this on and off like a switch in The Dark Knight Rises. When she's attacking Bane's men in the bar (even as a SWAT team is pounding a battering ram against the door), she calmly manages to shoot two of the henchmen down, and immediately starts screaming hysterically the moment the SWAT team breaches the front door and enters. Then she sobers up as soon as the officers chase the remaining henchmen into the back alley.
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  • Used to devastating effect by The Blank and 88 Keys to frame the title character for murder in Dick Tracy (1990). Having just gassed Tracy after luring him into a greenhouse to search for his kidnapped girlfriend, they take the detective to a hotel where District Attorney Fletcher is staying. The Blank shoots Fletcher dead and then puts the smoking pistol in Tracy's lap. 88 Keys then takes out a piece of note paper and loudly reads from it, shouting for help because Tracy is "trying to kill him." A police officer downstairs hears the commotion and arrives on the scene just as Tracy is waking up. The Blank and 88 Keys have escaped out the window by this time, and the now-disgraced hero is unable to account for the D.A.'s dead body and the fact that the murder weapon is on his person.
  • Die Hard: Hans Gruber pretends to be an escaped partygoer when he first meets John McClane.
  • Scorpio in Dirty Harry pays someone to beat the ever-loving snot out of him, just so he can accuse the hero of tuning him up. Harry doesn't buy it for a minute, telling his superiors that anyone can tell he didn't do that to him. How? "'Cause he looks too damn good, that's how."
  • In Fear, the female protagonist's psychotic boyfriend beats himself and claims that her father did it.
  • When the unnamed protagonist in Fight Club is about to be fired, he tries blackmailing his boss by threatening to leak sensitive information. When that doesn't work, the protagonist starts throwing himself around the boss's office, breaking furniture and smearing his own blood everywhere while the boss looks on in a state of utter disbelief. When other people come in to find out what's going on, the protagonist begs for mercy. Crude but effective; the boss gives him a very generous severance package to avoid any more trouble. He started beating himself up after the supervisor called security, and was too shocked by his actions to hang up. It was a brilliant double play because not only did the arriving security misread the scene, but whoever was listening on the phone would have heard what sounded like the supervisor beating up a helpless subordinate. For bonus effectiveness points, he was kneeling right at the supervisor's feet when the security arrived. Also, the protagonist was grabbing at the supervisor's hand at the time. The supervisor pulled back his hand in shock and disgust which made it look like he was cocking back for another punch when security arrived.
  • In the film version of the musical Hairspray, Velma Von Tussle is trying to seduce Wilbur Turnblad, and he's oblivious. When his wife Edna comes in, she pulls him on top of her and makes it look like he was the one who initiated it.
  • During the climax of Halloween (2018), Karen pulls this trick on Michael, feigning panic and fear over the whereabouts of her mother, Laurie. When Michael walks into view after hearing this, she drops the act and shoots him dead-on in the head.
  • Holocaust 2000: When Robert finally confronts Angel about his desire for global genocide, the latter keeps gloating about his evil plans until Robert eventually flies into a rage and tries to strangle him, which just makes him seem like a crazy person to the rest of his staff.
  • The heroine of House of Whipcord pulls this off. After getting flogged, one of the matrons visits her in her cell. The girl appears to be so weak she can't even put her own uniform back on. This appeals to the old lady's conscience who leaves the cell to fetch her some water. She leaves the door unlocked and the heroine escapes.
  • Ice Station Zebra. The Mole plans to invoke this trope, telling an American officer to beat him with a crowbar so he can be shot in 'self defense'. The officer is incredulous that he would go along with this plan, but the mole points out that he's the type to die fighting. Instead of reaching for the crowbar, the officer attacks him directly, eventually gaining the upper hand until he's shot dead by the hero under the assumption that he is The Mole.
  • In Inception, Mal planned to kill herself (though only to "wake up"; she thinks she's dreaming) and convince her husband to go with her, and she used this as part of the means of convincing him of that. She told her lawyer that she was fearing for her life, and then trashed the room Cobb was in, just so that if she died and he didn't agree to go with her, everyone would think he killed her. She threatened her own husband with false incrimination on murder, and actually followed through on that threat when he didn't agree to go with her. Because of this, she manages to come across as the most manipulative character in the movie, which says a lot in a movie where even the good guys are manipulative.
  • In Intruder, the dying killer accuses the two survivors of the killings and the police arrest them.
  • Jason X: Kay-Em pulls this off. After having a dramatic introduction after being "upgraded", Jason seemly takes her out instantly by throwing his machete into her. She immediately crumples into a heap, but it turns out she was goading Jason into approaching her to retrieve his machete.
    Kay-Em: [slasher smile] GOTCHA!
  • Judge Dredd. After Rico slaughters the other high ranking Judges on Chief Justice Griffin's orders, Dredd arrives. Griffin shoots himself in the arm to make it appear he was wounded in the assault and tells the arriving guards that Dredd committed the attack.
  • In The King and the Clown, two other wives of the former king are portrayed as using this tactic against the current king's mother in a dramatic "reenactment" of the events surrounding her poisoning. The king takes it very seriously. The two women in question happen to be attending the performance. The results aren't pretty.
  • In Last Action Hero, Jack Slater's daughter Whitney is dragged into a bedroom to be roughed up by one of Benedict's henchman. She turns the tables on him, but continues screaming as if she's the one being attacked, until she finally comes out packing a gun to save Danny. Later, in the real world, Benedict smacks Danny into a wall, making him start crying that Benedict broke his arm from the impact. Benedict turns his attention back to Slater; Danny, dropping the crying, angrily resumes rushing Benedict.
  • Liar Liar: Amoral Attorney Fletcher Reed learns that he is suffering from his son's wish that leaves him unable to lie for 24 hours. Determined to get himself excused from a case that he will almost certainly lose if he tells the truth, he slips into the men's restroom at the courthouse and repeatedly punches himself and throws himself into the stalls and walls, hoping to injure himself so badly that the judge will not allow him to continue. He is eventually found bruised and bloodied and brought into the courtroom; when the judge asks him what happened, he explains in a half-truth that "a desperate man" beat him up. But Fletcher's scheme backfires when the judge asks if he still feels well enough to continue, and Fletcher is forced to admit that he does.
  • The Lord of the Rings: In The Two Towers, Gandalf and Co arrive to the court of King Théoden and are demanded to disarm before they are admitted in. Gandalf urges his companions to go with it, but when the guard, Háma, asks him for his Magic Staff, makes a pathetic face and pleads that he's an old man and this is just his walking stick (and even leans on Legolas for support). The abashed guard obliges. It's unclear whether the guard knows that his staff is more than a simple walking stick and defies his orders, as he does in the book.
  • Used in Mad Max: Fury Road by Furiosa's all-female tribe to bait possible raiders: one of them perches naked in an old electrical tower and the others lie in ambush. Max sees through the ruse almost instantly.
  • The titular dog from Marmaduke gets attacked by Bosco after the latter loses in the dog surfing competition, but then he gets fed up and stands up to him. However, this makes Bosco pretend to cower in fear, thus he and his owner Phil get scolded for being out of control.
  • In the film Marshall (Based on a True Story), a wealthy woman accuses her chauffeur of raping her and then throwing her off of a bridge. The man's lawyers pick up on major inconsistencies and improbabilities in her story and realize that she had consensual sex with the man, and in a panic over the thought of her infidelity being discovered, tried to kill herself, and when that failed, concocted the rape/attempted murder story for the same reason, knowing full well that the racial difference, class disparity, and stereotypes about black men that were very common at the time (1940s) — and still are — would lead to her being believed rather than him.note 
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • This is a major facet of Black Widow's unique interrogation methods in The Avengers (2012), as seen in her first scene when she's being held captive by some Russian baddies. Her strategy focuses on putting her target in a position of superiority over her, where they're highly likely to spill the beans on their plans through all the hubrisnote . She later puts this to good use when questioning Loki by feigning agony over the villain discussing about what he plans to do to Hawkeye, her fellow SHIELD agent. However, she does later admit that Loki managed to get under her skin after all.
    • Played for Laughs in Thor: Ragnarok: While in an elevator with Loki, Thor excitedly says that they should do "Get Help," much to Loki's annoyance. When the doors open, Thor is carrying a seemingly injured Loki and cries to the guards to get help for his "dying" brother. When the guards come closer to investigate, Thor throws Loki at them, knocking them all unconscious.
      Thor: Ah, classic...
      Loki: [gets up from the floor and adjusts his collar] Still hate it. It's humiliating.
      Thor: Well, not for me, it's not.
  • The antagonist of Mean Girls writes evil things about herself into her book of gossip, then distributes it to frame the protagonist and her former minions.
  • A strange example from Memento: Leonard goes after Dodd because he beat up Natalie. At least, that's what she says — in reality, it was Leonard who beat up Natalie (who deliberately provoked him by saying some very nasty things about his late wife), only he's forgotten. Of course, by the time he meets up with Dodd he's forgotten why he's there...
  • Once he gets out of his room, the Pyro Maniac Saul in The Old Dark House (1932) pretends to be a victim of family plotting, and insists to Roger that he isn't mad. But once he takes hold on a knife, he starts have problems to keep up with that story.
  • In The Omen the Villain Protagonist is Damien, the Anti-Christ. The first two movies have Downer Endings where The Bad Guy Wins, but in the third, Damien is finally defeated and killed. A big reason is, in the first two, he's a child, and uses this trick for all it's worth. In the third, however, he's an adult, and he can't fool other adults any longer.
  • In Orphan, Esther breaks her own arm and accuses her mother of doing it.
  • Riley's final showdown with Garcia in Peppermint consists of this. Upon confronting Garcia, she goads him into fighting her, despite being seriously wounded to retaliate, and suffers a brief but brutal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown from him, but manages to stall him long enough for the police to arrive. She then chases down Garcia and shoots him in the head in front of the police before escaping.
  • The Princess Bride:
    • Humperdinck's plan to kill Buttercup is an attempt to pull off this trope as part of a False Flag Operation.
    • Inverted later when Wesley talks Humperdinck down by challenging him to a duel To the Pain. As it turns out, Wesley was too weak to move due to only recently having been "mostly dead"; he was pretending to be the lion while actually being the wounded gazelle.
  • In The Room, Johnny's cheating girlfriend claims to her mother that Johnny got drunk and hit her. She either misses the point entirely or sees through the claim as she knows that Johnny doesn't drink.
  • The final part of the villain's plot in Scream (1996). The villain in Scream 4 pulls it again, only that time, it actually works. Almost.
  • "Buffalo Bill" in The Silence of the Lambs uses this for very nasty purposes, with a fake cast and an awkward burden, which moves a well-meaning Catherine to offer her aid. This gets her kidnapped and dumped in a pit. (This aspect of the "Buffalo Bill" character was in fact based on Serial Killer Ted Bundy.)
  • Ravenna of Snow White and the Huntsman pulls this off to great effect. As the king's knights are fighting an army, they find her chained up in a cage. The king takes her back to the castle and ends up marrying her. On the wedding night she murders him and it turns out she's leading the invading army, and conquers the castle in a matter of hours.
  • In Something Wicked The main character Christine uses this in her elaborate plot to get revenge on her boyfriend. She seduces another boy to kill him, then calls her police officer brother and pretends she had nothing to do with the murder and that the boy was raping her, causing her brother to kill him.
  • In Species, Sil escapes from the heroes at one point by running up to a woman in a parking lot naked and pretending to be a rape victim. The woman then drives her to safety. Sil then kidnaps her, steals from her, and eventually kills her in a ploy to fake her own death.
  • Star Wars:
    • Emperor Palpatine pulls this off in Revenge of the Sith to make Anakin Skywalker side with him against Mace Windu. He's just a tired old man viciously attacked by the ruthless Jedi despite being willing to surrender. He's barely alive . . . surely Anakin wouldn't allow a murder to occur? And not only has Anakin been spending a great deal of time alone with Palpatine and beginning to be swayed by his words, but he has good reason to resent the Jedi after they grant him only token representation on the Council and force him into becoming their spy, and sees Windu as an arrogant Rabid Cop who is subverting the laws of the Republic. (But of course he doesn't actually want to kill Windu, and his horror at Windu's death is palpable.) Palpatine is a rare example of this trope in that he's both a gazelle and a lion. One moment he's begging for mercy; the next, he's gleefully electrocuting Windu while screaming "POWER! UNLIMITED POWER!" This is the same man who orchestrated the invasion of his homeworld to get the sympathy vote to become Chancellor in the first place.
  • Stroker Ace: Stroker is at a bar sulking about having been forced out of a race by Aubrey. What's worse, Aubrey is there to gloat. Stroker realizes that Aubrey is dancing with a woman he knows (but he can't remember her name) and decides to mess with Aubrey. While Aubrey has his back turned, Stroker gets her attention and then fakes a leg injury while leaving the bar. Aubrey is left in the dark, only knowing that his partner left without a word.
  • In Sunset, Alfie Alperin roughs up his sister Victoria enough to leave convincing injuries so she can press charges of assault and rape against Tom Mix.
  • In the Canadian film Trojan Horse the presidential candidate hero/villain hires an assassin to shoot him non-fatally during a speech, implying his opponents are using serious dirty tactics as well as giving himself the opportunity to fake a near-death religious experience.
  • The Usual Suspects: Verbal goads Keaton into punching him so he can guilt Keaton into joining a heist. In many ways what he is doing throughout the entire interview is the same stunt, Kujan never believes that Verbal could actually be anyone of significance because of his crippled appearance.
    Verbal: I'll probably shit blood tonight.
  • The entire plan of Wild Things began when Denise Richards' character accuses Matt Dillon's character of rape. Though he was in on it too. In a variant as revealed in The Stinger Kevin Bacon's character also pulled it off. Using the false self-defense excuse to cover his murder of Denise Richard's character.
  • The Woman in Red: Joey pulls one, acting like he's going crazy and saying that he needs to kill his wife as a way for he, Buddy, and Mikey to get Teddy to Charlotte's photo shoot.
  • Working Girl: The deceitful Katherine barges into a meeting being led by her secretary Tess, trying to take credit for her idea. When she realizes that attendees might believe Tess instead of her, she exaggerates a genuine injury (she has a broken leg and is on crutches) by faking a dizzy spell, instantly garnering the attention and concern of nearly everyone present.


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