Question of the Day: Why Do All Gun Movies End Up in a Hand-to-Hand Combat

Scorched Earth (courtesy

I’m not a huge fan of MMA fighter turned action hero Gina Carano. Please don’t tell her that, m’Kay? But her post-Superman boyfriend movie Scorched Earth looks well worth a look, what with its Western feel and all. OK sure . . .

I haven’t seen those stupid goggles in an action movie since the Mad Max met the Gyro Captain in The Road Warrior. And then there’s my pet peeve: every gun heavy movie ends with a hand-to-hand (or knife to hand) battle between the good guy and the bad guy.

If only Ms. Carcano had gotten a cold before the final scene, like Harrison Ford did with this one:

Question: why the hand-to-hand climax in just about every action movie? So to speak . . .


  1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    Because the bad guys in movies can never hit sh!t but there’s always enough of them for the good guy to run out of bullets.

  2. avatar Hank says:

    Because most movies are fiction.

    1. avatar Truthteller says:

      Yep silly fiction, just like a “female action hero”. Waif-fu

      I recently visited one of our local taquerias, and they had a game of women’s soccer on Spanish TV. I was amazed how slow, and relatively unskilled the women were. These were national teams, and they looked weaker than an average high school boys team.

      Women really are FAR weaker and slower than men. It is absurd to delude people into thinking otherwise.

      That reminded me of the soccer team of 15 year old boys absolutely destroying the Australian national women’s team 7-0.

      and these woman/man fights on YouTube.

      Women simply cannot physically compete with men.I

      Testosterone is real

      Sure, the Australian national women’s soccer team could beat some men who never play soccer.

      A REALLY TOUGH woman like Gina Carano (5’8″ , 143lbs Wikipedia) could probably beat up an average man, who never trains or lifts.

      Neither one would stand a chance against a well trained male high school athlete.

      In the real world a woman like Gina Carano would be absolutely destroyed by any serious male fighter.I

      Feminist movie makers are full of crap.

  3. avatar Cruzo1981 says:

    Are you not entertained? 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

  4. avatar CalGunsMD says:

    It’s called a formula.
    Have you not seen the one with the pizza guy delivering a pepperoni to two coeds on a steamy evening?

    1. avatar Ing says:

      I like that one. 🙂

      1. avatar pieslapper says:

        I like those.


    2. avatar troutbum5 says:

      Bow-chicka -bowwow

    3. avatar V Leggett says:

      I’d buy that for a dollar

    4. avatar Big Bill says:

      “Whoa! He’s deformed!”

    5. avatar Johnny108 says:

      Make America Giggity Again!

  5. avatar TheUnspoken says:

    Guns fights are horribly fast and efficient, which doesn’t lead to much time for drama. Our hero needs to make contact with the nemesis, draw some blood, get punched in the face, take a knee or elbow, get thrown into a pile of bricks, or through a wall. The fight has to seem like our hero is up against a giant, with great personal danger, which in the last moment when it seems they can’t win, they triumph.

    Taking a few bullets is usually a bad thing for our hero, especially since movie bullets throw you back 20 feet and maybe take your soul.

    And just sitting behind cover while the boss fires but misses doesn’t feel as threatening as the lip bleed, spitting blood face punch. Again, we need the hero to take some hits to show the fight is serious!

    1. avatar DoomGuy says:

      Michael Mann pulled off the “hero taking a serious hit” thing off pretty well in the final shootout of “Thief” (Spoiler: there’s no epic hand to hand combat scene):

    2. avatar Arc says:

      I’ve seen a few movies were the hero isn’t interested in a speech and just executes the ‘bad guy’. Although some of the best story telling is when the hero dies, it leaves viewers and readers all WTF!? And perhaps the sequel picks up with the hero’s kid.

    3. avatar CarlosT says:

      The Unspoken has it exactly right. The reason the scene in Raiders works is it sets up like an epic fight (which is what it was intended to be but Harrison Ford got sick), then subverts that expectation when Indy just shoots him.

      However, if all fights are over that quickly, it’s bad for drama and excitement. So filmmakers go to hand-to-hand to extend the sequences and give themselves options for badassery.

    4. avatar John of Austria says:

      I dunno, I thought “Way of the Gun” did a great job of a dramatic and realistic final shootout. Although you’re right, it doesn’t lend itself to the basic trope of lingering shots and the protagonist furrowing their brow to show how serious everything is.

  6. avatar Mystickal says:

    Complainers always gotta complain.

    It’s either a complaint about never having to reload a gun during a gunfight, or having a never-ending supply of magazines, or gunfights devolving into hand to hand.

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      Some of us lose our immersion when our suspension of disbelief fails. Stupid plot devices and formulaic endings often fires up our critical faculties (which we try to tamp down to enjoy the film) and ruins the movie for us. You are lucky that you don’t have that problem.

  7. avatar IdahoPete says:

    Because shooting the perps would make the movie too short. “Chainsaw massacre meets NRA” would be about 5 minutes long. Have you seen the bit in “Hombre” where Paul Newman asks the bad guy (Richard Boone in a great role): “Hey. I’ve got a question. How are you going to get back down that hill?” Then he shoots Boone. The best part was that Boone came up the hill under a “flag of truce” to threaten the stagecoach passengers.

    1. avatar mick1706 says:

      Yeah, I liked that movie too. Newman did what a normal person would do in a life or death situation,take out the opposition and increase the odds of survival. Way to go Paul.

    2. avatar NateInPA says:

      John Wick seems to stretch a gunfight out for sizable links of time…you just need an insurmountable number of baddies.

    3. avatar anonymoose says:

      They actually did that in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3. The survivalist guy shows up to save the day with his FAL and mows down the whole family, but then they still had to have like half an hour of melee.

  8. avatar DoomGuy says:

    Among other things, I’d say lazy filmmaking and a lack of creativity and risk taking. There’s less risk involved to the characters in a fistfight than there is in a gunfight.

    Also hand to hand combat scenes can be used as filler because you can throw in more hits, and longer more elaborate fights.

  9. avatar Joe R. says:

    Liked Carano in Haywire.

    Like post-apocalyptic movies that don’t go too Beyond Thunderdome. Book of Eli was close, don’t know how/why people barely eking out an existence want to do fancy biker leathers except (hollywood).

    Other than that, they can pound their communist infested global-warming-greeny sh_t back up their a _ _.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      As far as “post apocolyptic” stories go, I think the ” World Made By Hand” series of books by James Howard Kunstler is pretty good. His stories are far more plausible than the Hollywood crap.

      A combination of financial grind down, declining energy production, debt, wars, climate change, terrorism, and pandemic would really be rough.

      Maybe not exciting, but plausible

  10. avatar RogUinta says:

    What do you have against Gina Carano? She’s cute, kicks ass, actually CAN kick ass, and is brunette.

    PS I hate blondes.

  11. avatar Ralph says:

    “Why Do All Gun Movies End Up in a Hand-to-Hand Combat”

    Because people like it.

  12. avatar BobFromPineCreek says:

    James Bond in “The Spy Who Loved Me” just kind of nonchalantly shoots the movie’s big bad to death repeatedly after one of his murder traps doesn’t work, it’s great.

    1. avatar NYC2AZ says:

      One of the few “main bad guy deaths” in the James Bond movies that ended without some elaborate unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism.

  13. avatar DB says:

    Watch Den of Thieves (out in theaters now).

    Overall, it was an ok movie (ie, it will keep you entertained but thats about it, noting to write home about). One thing I really liked about that movie was the way they treated all the guns in the movie. Very realistic. The ending is a rather long shootout between the good guys and the bad guys and ends up being a shootout till the very end. No hand to hand.

  14. avatar little horn says:

    really, you can’t figure this out? because hand to hand combat is more personal and intense than watching them shoot at each other from afar. and that is usually how they show who the real “bad ass” is.

  15. avatar guidoc says:

    I don’t remember any “Hand to Hand” combat in “the Wild Bunch” (If you don’t count Angel getting his throat cut).

    1. avatar guidoc says:

      Then again, I forgot the scene with Ben Johnson, Warren Oates and the girls in the wine vat.

  16. avatar Richard Steven Hack says:

    I’ve got a lot of complaints about bad writing and directing, but having gun fights turn into fist fights isn’t one of them.

    I get ticked off when I see a couple people running down a corridor, followed by four bad guys with AR-15 or M-16 in full auto, who cut loose on the couple, who promptly turn a corner and NEVER GET HIT. Trust me, four guys open up on you in a corridor and you’re gonna die.

    Same with two guys in a car being shot at by half a dozen guys with full-auto .223 and they simply drive out of the way. Sorry, you’re gonna die again.

    Then there are the superheros like Arrow who, despite being attacked by a dozen guys with guns, always manages to either block the gun arm or trip the guy so no one gets a round off unless it goes into the air or into the ground. Sorry, not buying that one either.

    Then there are the gun fights where both parties are behind cover. One pokes his gun and shoots in the general direction of the opponent. Then the opponent does the same. This goes on until both are out of ammo. No fire and maneuver, no suppressing fire, and definitely no aimed shots at the spot where the opponent is likely to stick his head out.

    I see a lot of that in videos of the Ukraine civil war. Some guy pokes his AK around a corner and fires off a full-auto magazine in the general direction of a sniper. Does he think his bullets have eyes and can find the sniper on their own? This is why in most armies – including the US Army – it takes tens of thousands of rounds to get one enemy casualty.

    People tend to forget that shooting per se does absolutely nothing. Hitting is the actual goal.

  17. avatar strych9 says:

    As others have pointed out gunfights are generally over too fast. The “boarder battle” scene in Sicario pretty much sums up how quickly guns ends things in a movie.

    1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

      Overall I didn’t like that movie. That scene was great, though.

  18. avatar ATFAgentBob says:

    well look at it this way. Okay let’s say our action movie isn’t really an action movie but rather a storyline from 1980’s pro wrestling. All the gun fighting and hardship our hero easily overcomes well that’s their moment to shine. The bad guy hiding behind his goons, killing the hero’s dog/wife/kids/car/beer, or just being a evil S.O.B well that’s him gaining heat until we get to the final scene where they finally meet face to face hero vs villain smackdown (WRESTLEMANIA 376.2!) now, they have to have the hero get busted up a bit for the audience to actually feel something for him they have to make him look weak or at least look like he may go down (see every wrestling show before the good guy beats the bad guy at the pay per view and every pay per view match ever that didn’t involve one of the participants executing a character turn) so in that final fight for a little while at least the bad guy is building heat and shining that hero up but good. Then, outta no where (RKO Bah God! Stop the dayum match he just killed him!!) the good guy turns it all around on the bad guy, now the bad guy starts takin an ass whippin till he’s either arrested or killed. The audience cheers for the hero, the hero gets to go home and get it on with the gorgeous damsel in distress and all is right with the world. Never mind the fact that realistically that explosion a few minutes ago would’ve killed them all or that the bullet to the leg would’ve shattered his femur he still managed to power bomb said bad guy through that wood chipper.

    Also it’s hand to hand because it builds more drama, denotes a deep personal grudge between the combatants, and infers a more honorable and equal form of combat even though the bad guy will have at least one goon left to help aid him in givin the hero a proper beat down.

  19. avatar Dan H says:

    It’s for the dramatic value of the medium. Hand-to-hand fight choreography is a very viable form of storytelling on its own, you can build swings in momentum, you can build heroic comebacks over adversity. Forget every action movie you’re thinking of and realize that this is the storytelling medium of WWE for decades as well.

    My instinct is that there’s a lot less margin for that from a storyboarding standpoint for a gunfight between single combatants. You have the ‘duel at high noon’ and that’s about it. I guess “Equilibrium” tried to make it happen, but even their “close” form of “gun kata” ended up being ultimately a vehicle for hand to hand fighting.

    1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

      I didn’t like this movie either, but the short scene where Cruise gets his case back was great.

    2. avatar Dan H says:

      That scene in Collateral basically *is* the duel at high noon trope. It would be exceptionally hard to write/storyboard a protracted 1v1 gun battle that doesn’t end the first time any real advantage is gained. I love that movie, but it definitely does more to prove my point than disprove it.

  20. avatar Hank says:

    Because anyone can just shoot the bad guy. The good guy has show he’s physically superior, but only after getting beaten to a pulp first. Only then can he summon the strength of righteous rage necessary to end the fight with his bare hands.

  21. avatar guidoc says:

    Even before silent movies featuring the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, theatrical dueling with knife and swords relied of large sweeping movements as opposed to economy of movement required by actual combat.

    Basil Rathbone was one of the better actor swordsmen in Hollywood but he had to make Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power look good.

  22. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    Not to pick nits, but I believe that Ford has dysentery, which resulted in a quick resolution to that “fight”.

  23. avatar Rick says:

    Why don’t they take the guns of their downed adversary, or not make sure they’ve been deaded to come back and haunt you.

    And superhero/superspy movies, why doesn’t somebody shoot that baddie with a Barret from 6 blocks away. I loved the new Thor movie, but the end shows dual wielded M16 wrecking people, so why the sword fights. One dude pops the bad lady in the grape, drinks on me, done.

  24. avatar Badwolf says:

    Guns are too fast. In reality, a single solid punch to the head will knock you out too, but easier to suspend disbelief for hand to hand.

    And also in your example, carano has martial arts background, so of course you wana showcase lots of that. And shes not bad looking, so theres also the obligatory gratuitous showing of skin during fighting.

  25. avatar Dave Lewis says:

    Hey I’m still trying to figure out why the bad guys watched six rounds of .38 special bounce off Superman in the old black and white TV days and then throw the gun at him. I know that a steel Colt or Smith and Wesson can put a knot on your head, but Superman?

  26. avatar VerendusAudeo says:

    Because it’s more dramatic? That’s basically the reason any movie does anything. If it were realistic, the protagonist would pretty much always end up dead anyway.

  27. avatar Sian says:

    You missed one of the most iconic in film history.

  28. avatar Alex in Oregon says:

    For some reason, that trailer really reminds me of the Tug Speedman trailers at the beginning of Tropic Thunder….

  29. avatar Wally1 says:

    With all the end of the world movies and SHTF movies out there, just once would I like to see something actually based in some reality. End of the world and people are bugging out, really? Face it, any large metro area on a Friday afternoon and the freeways look like a parking lot. Try to imagine when things really go wrong, no one will be bugging out unless they have their own aircraft. The protagonist never arm themselves. Small outlying communities welcoming people from the city? NOT! Nice people helping people, sharing their food? NOT! None producing people (lawyers/bank managers etc) being in charge, NOT! Just once I would like to see a real EOTWAWKI movie.

    Face it, In a EOTWAWKI situation, most people in metro areas have less than 3 days food, no electricity, no water, No gun, no like minded friends, Within a week they will be eating their neighbors dog. Now that’s a movie I would like to see.

  30. avatar J_cobbers says:

    Because movies are entertainment and not reality. If they were realistic we’d never have gun fu like Equilibrium

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