This Week: The Last Bullet
How many times have we seen a wild gunfight come down to just the hero and the bad guy? And when the showdown comes, you can count on a few good movie cliches to come with it, including the ever popular One Last Bullet. The trope is everywhere, and in different forms. It could be a missile as in Top Gun, Iron Eagle, and Independence Day or a homemade pipe bomb in Tremors. It doesn’t matter. If it’s the last one, it’s gonna be cool. Here are two ‘last bullets’ we’d like to fire your way.
Melissa’s Pick: Clue (1985)
The Summary: Based on the board game of the same name, Clue centers around six strangers who come together for a dinner party at the elusive millionaire, Mr. Boddy’s (Lee Ving) mansion. As the evening gets underway, Mr. Boddy reveals that he has been the one that has been secretly blackmailing all the guests. When Mr. Boddy is found murdered the strangers must do everything they can to uncover the murderer and protect their secrets.
The Moment: There are three different endings to this film and they were each shown in different theatres when it was originally released in 1985. This is a perfect depiction of the random outcome of the board game and lends itself to the way in which this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. The ending that we’ll be looking at, the best ending in my opinion, the ending which features the unforgettable “One Last Bullet” moment is the one in which we discover Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) is the mastermind behind all the murders. When she is discovered, she takes the gun and holds everyone in the room at gunpoint. This is when Mr. Boddy’s butler, Wadsworth (Tim Curry), confronts her and tells her that there are no bullets left in the revolver. After a hilarious exchange of trying to count the remaining bullets, Scarlet declares, “Okay, fine. One plus two plus one… Shut up! The point is, there is one bullet left in this gun and guess who’s gonna get it!” Before she can fire it, however, Wadsworth wrestles the gun out of her hand, we discover that Wadsworth is an undercover FBI agent and the police barge in to arrest her. When Scarlet tries to persuade Wadsworth that she wouldn’t have shot him, he replies, “Frankly Scarlet, I don’t give a damn. As I was trying to tell you, there are no bullets left in this gun, you see?” He fires the gun to prove that it is empty and lo and behold, The Last Bullet shoots up into the ceiling, hitting the chandelier cord, causing it to come crashing down.
Why it matters: Clue is an incredibly fun movie that spoofs the rampant McCarthyism of the 1950s and shows how ridiculous baseless accusations can be. The finger pointing that ensues throughout this movie is so clever in it’s delivery and the characters are perfectly suited to their roles, particularly Tim Curry. In general, he’s a comic genius with impeccable timing and this scene in particular showcases his skills. The back and forth of the counting of the bullets has us so confused about the bullet count and so thrilled with the pithy dialogue that we can guess there’s a bullet left but it’s still hilarious when Curry’s unquestionable certainty is shattered when the last bullet explodes out of the end of the revolver. To top it all off, the beautiful crystal chandelier comes crashing down, nearly crushing Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull). It’s also hysterical that prior to the chandelier crashing down, all the characters are still trying to do a bullet count. All in all, this is a great scene and this last bullet gives us one heck of a laugh.
David’s Take: There is a method to the madness in this wildly goofy film that is much better than it might appear. As Mel points out, it has rich context hiding beneath its silly sheen and is a real gem of a comedy as well. The zany cast is side-splittingly funny, led by the hyper-kinetic Tim Curry who is at his comedic best, especially as the movie approaches the (numerous) finales. This moment is a great ‘last bullet’ scene because instead of the (other tropes) of two combatants eyeing each other or the bad guy monologuing, it comes down to math, in a kind of irreverent homage to Dirty Harry and the “Do you feel lucky?” moment.
David’s Pick: Mission: Impossible III (2006)
The Summary: The second sequel in the Mission: Impossible series, this time the team faces Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an arm’s dealer in search of the mysterious Rabbit’s Foot, which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his crew try to find first. The problem is, Davian targets Hunt and kidnaps his new wife and it’s a race against time to stop him before he kills her and acquires a dangerous new weapon.
The Moment: At the start of the film, Hunt is technically not a field agent anymore, now training recruits. He’s approached by a fellow agent about a mission to rescue one of Hunt’s best trainees, Agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell) who has been captured in Germany tracking Davian, so Hunt and his team fly over and stage a rescue. She is held in an abandoned warehouse, and as the team set up operations to secretly infiltrate and steal computer data, Hunt goes in and rigs the place with mini explosives as he works his way closer to the secured Farris. Hunt, armed with a Heckler & Koch MP5K submachine gun, frees Farris and tosses her a Beretta 92G Elite with an attached maglite. The two begin to shoot their way out, using their training and weapon’s skills to one-by-one take out the henchmen in a blistering firefight that sees them crossing through the building. At their evac spot, hunched behind a concrete pillar while a terrorist fires blindly at them with a machine gun, Lindsey declares she is out of ammo. “How many rounds you got?” she asks him, breathlessly. He checks. “Enough,” he relies, then, in slo-motion, spins out of cover and fires one shot into the chest of the bad guy, sending him crashing through the window behind him. “Now I’m out,” Hunt says. The last bullet.
Why it Matters: Firefights are a mainstay of any action films and the Mission: Impossible series has their fair share. This opening shootout establishes that M:I III is not going to deviate from the formula, but still delivers a great moment of suspense. We already know that Hunt is a master spy and weapon’s specialist from the earlier entries, and here, he runs through the bad guys with relative ease. We aren’t really meant to be concerned as of course he will survive. But the one defining characteristic of Hunt that has always come up is his willingness to take risks for missions. Here, instead of waiting out the gunman, who surely would have run out of bullets in no time at the rate he was shooting, decides to draw his fire and lose his one bullet even though that was undoubtedly a move with very low odds of success. Well, if you’re anyone else other than Ethan Hunt that is. Naturally it works and the last henchman is taken down. Because it’s M:I and we are watching Cruise, it all feels perfect and exactly in line for how it should be.
Mel’s Take: This is such an intense moment! There’s so much adrenaline pumping and, although we know that Ethan Hunt can do anything (especially the impossible), this situation seems quite dire. We know he’ll succeed but we don’t know how and that’s always the most fun, seeing him complete his missions as only he can. This scene is also incredibly important to the movie because (*SPOILERS*) it precedes Farris’ death. Watching this scene, we are so exultant that Hunt has managed to save Farris that we think they are both in the clear. This makes her impending death all the more tragic. It’s crushing to see this daring and seemingly successful mission end in tragedy. The Last Bullet here is such a testament to Hunt’s skill and abilities that we think he’s unstoppable; that he can solve any problem and do anything. It’s a great moment and it makes the moments to follow much more impactful.
Melissa is a contributing writer to TMI. Visit her Homepage for Movie Reviews and More.