By: Peter Suciu
“A new coalition of celebrities and activists…announced plans to take on the National Rifle Association and elected officials who accept money from the powerful gun advocacy group,” Time magazine reported last week.
Members of the new No Rifle Association – or “NoRA” for short – include many Hollywood elitists, among them, Jimmy Kimmel, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Ashley Judd, Julianne Moore, and Minnie Driver.
“Your time signing checks in our blood is up,” NoRA members wrote in letter to the NRA. “We’re coming for your money. We’re coming for your puppets. And we’re going to win.”
But where would these movie stars be without the “blood,” guns, and violence they purportedly are so against?
A public service announcement video made the rounds in 2013 in which Hollywood elites called for an end to gun violence. Soon after, some clever person intermixed the calls of “enough” with footage from movies and TV shows featuring the same actors and actresses in violent gunplay, exposing their audacious hypocrisy.
The bigotry of these celebrities would almost be laughable if their words didn’t carry so much weight. It’s a sad truth that many Americans buy products based on celebrity endorsements and look to them for “wisdom” on matters of politics. Yet many movie stars, the majority of them intensely left-wing, publicly support gun control while making their livings starring in violent movies that would not be possible without guns.
Increasingly More Guns in Film
Hollywood and guns have had a symbiotic relationship since the release of The Great Train Robbery in 1903, and with each passing decade, it seems more gun violence makes its way into blockbusters.
The 1920s and 30s were the eras of swashbuckling adventure films. Then came the first wave of gangster films. World War II became the backdrop for many films, even as actual soldiers were doing real fighting across the Atlantic and in the Pacific Theater.
The post-World War II/Cold War period saw not only biblical epics, such as Charlton Heston’s Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, but also some equally epic war films. By the 1970s, the tone of Hollywood shifted to more gritty crime dramas like Dirty Harry and Death Wish, and the pro-war films were replaced – for a while at least – by war protest films such as Apocalypse Now and The Deerhunter. Yet, even when the theme was that violence and war wasn’t the answer, these films were far from short on action. About the only “war film” I can think of made in the last 70 years to take a step back from action and violence was David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia masterpiece, which downplayed what could have been a truly graphic battle.
It wasn’t just in America, either, that cinema became increasingly action-packed. The Hong Kong cinema genre of the 1980s and early 90s put director John Woo and actor Chow Yun Fat in the spotlight with highly choreographed action scenes that borrowed from Hollywood musicals as much as from past action films. American directors soon copied this Asian film style.
The mid-1990s saw two pivotal moments in filmmaking. The first was Michael Mann’s 1995 crime boiler Heat, which featured an intense, 15-minute bank shootout sequence (that reportedly inspired the real-life 1997 North Hollywood shootout), and the second was Steven Spielberg’s 1997 World War II epic Saving Private Ryan.
Prior to Heat, police dramas featured shootouts, of course, but they were typically in close quarters and lasted just a few minutes, at most. Heat upped the ante, and Hollywood directors have really never looked back. In 1999, for instance, The Matrix hit theaters, utilizing CGI (computer generated imagery) in a film that is remembered more for its shootouts than its somewhat hard-to-follow plot.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years, and it is now common – I would actually go so far as to say expected – for “dramas” to have as intense action sequences as films that were once billed as “action-adventure.” One example is Gangster Squad from 2013, which features a shootout that lasts nearly 20 minutes. In reality, though, Mickey Cohen (the gangster on whose life the film is very loosely based) was taken down for tax evasion and was never involved in anything resembling the film’s shootout. How is it that Sean Penn, who plays Cohen in the film, is so anti-gun in real life, but had no qualms about including a completely fictionalized sequence of gun violence that really wasn’t required for the purpose of the story?
Violence in movies is nothing new, of course, but short, climatic exchanges of violence, such as the famous scene in the 1983 classic, Scarface, introducing viewers to Tony’s “little friend” is less than three minutes long! Today, movie trailers run that long and contain just a small portion of a film’s action sequences.
Consider the amount of senseless violence that occurs in recent movies where someone goes to extremes to “clear his name,” such as Liam Neeson’s character in Taken 3. (Neeson is very anti-gun, by the way. He once said, “It is the right to bear arms which is the problem. I think if the Founding Fathers knew what was happening they would be turning in their graves with embarrassment at how that law has been interpreted.”) Even if Neeson’s character had managed to get the bad guys who killed his wife, he should have ended up in jail for the pointless accidents he caused on the L.A. freeway!
I know of no evidence showing that audiences really want more on-screen violence. Clint Eastwood, a star who has spent a lot of time over the years wielding a firearm for film roles, not once, but twice showed a good story doesn’t need a massive shootout. He played a reluctant gunslinger-turned-cowboy-turned-gunslinger in Unforgiven (1992), making the point that to be a great western, a movie doesn’t need an intense shootout à la The Wild Bunch. Eastwood’s character in Unforgiven – which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director – wasn’t even a good shot! Likewise, in Gran Torino (2008), Eastwood’s character fires a gun only once, and instead of a Hollywood reckoning, the film ends with a short “shootout,” if it can even be called that.
It’s ironic, and downright hypocritical, that Eastwood, who is considered to be conservative by Hollywood standards (he was once quoted as saying, “I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”), doesn’t feel the need to include over-the-top gun violence in his films, but radical, left-wing ideologues seem to relish doing so.
We shouldn’t be surprised. Liberals have never been known for sticking to their guns (pun intended).
Peter Suciu is a freelance writer based in Michigan. Contact him at [email protected].
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.
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