When Movie Characters Go Postal

Cinema history is littered with mild mannered men and women who suddenly decided they just couldn't take it any more.

This week alone sees the release of Law Abiding Citizen at the cinema and Fight Club on Blu-ray - two very different takes on the normal-man-goes-mental character-type.

So we've decided to gather together some of the toughest ordinary citizens we've seen on the big screen.

Some have bomb skills, some have shotgun skills, some have bat-skills. But they're all the sort of people you'd pass in the street without a second look.

Well, apart from Rambo. You'd probably double-take at Rambo.

Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Average Joe: Engineer Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler)

What turns him?: Home invaders raping his wife, then killing both her and Clyde’s daughter.

Proving-a-point postal: It’s not enough to get revenge on the actual perps. That’d be too easy.

Shelton is out to get the entire justice system, as symbolised by crooked prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx).

Which seems a tad excessive. Couldn’t he just have written a letter of complaint?

Next: Falling Down [page-break]

Falling Down (1993)

Average Joe: William Foster, aka D-Fens (Michael Douglas)

What turns him?: Specifically: a traffic jam. But there’s redundancy and his ex-wife’s restraining order bubbling away under the surface.

Equal opportunities postal: With a permanent scowl and zero tolerance for bullshit, D-Fens ain’t fussy about who he blasts away.

Gangbangers, convenience store owners, neo-Nazis, Whammy Burger managers, road repair crew, golfers...

Our wishlist: traffic wardens, people with comedy ringtones, Jedward...

Next: Death Wish [page-break]

Death Wish (1974)

Average Joe: Liberal businessman Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson)

What turns him?: The sexual assault of his daughter and the murder of his wife by muggers. Spot a trend emerging here?

Might-is-right postal: It doesn’t take much for this one-time conscientious objector to abandon his conscience and stop objecting.

His new hobby involves seeking out muggers in action and shooting them point-blank to kill. Beats being a wage slave, eh?

He’s such a folk hero, even the police stop short of arresting him.

Nowadays, he’d probably write a blog about his extra-curricular work.

Next: Saw [page-break]

Saw (2004)

Average Joe: Terminal brain cancer patient John Kramer (Tobin Bell)

What turns him? His condition, which gives him an… interesting new perspective on how mankind lives.

Inordinate response postal: The so-called Jigsaw Killer creates fiendish life-or-death puzzles that reflect his victims’ pereceived sins – only if they really want to live will they survive.

Sounds reasonable… except in practice Kramer tends to raise the bar a tad too high.

Most folk buy the farm; the occasional survivor usually ends up with a body part or two missing.

Still, he's preferable to most life coaches we've met.

Next: Straw Dogs [page-break]

Straw Dogs (1971)

Average Joe: mild-mannered mathematician David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman)

What turns him?: A summer of being belittled by his boorish Cornish neighbours. Their rape of his wife (Susan George) is, for once, almost incidental.

Geek postal: Holed up in his cottage, an army of locals intent on breaking in, Sumner is outgunned and outnumbered.

But he’s a genius, right? So he uses the grey cells to lay a series of fiendish traps, notably leaving a primed man trap on the living room rug.

And like Anton Chekov might have said, “Put a bloody big man trap on the floor, somebody’s going to get mangled.”

Next: The Brave One [page-break]

The Brave One (2007)

Average Jill: Radio show host Erica Bain (Jodie Foster)

What turns her?: Seeing her fiancé killed by muggers. Suppose it makes a change for the fella to cop it.

Civic pride postal: In these pampered, preening metrosexual days, you can’t rely on a man to take out the trash.

Thank goodness for Erica, then – the kind of no-nonsense pundit who actually knows how to walk the walk.

Actions clearly speak louder than words, especially when accompanied by a Kahr K9 semi-automatic.

Next: Taxi Driver [page-break]

Taxi Driver (1976)

Average Joe: Vietnam vet turned NY cabbie Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro)

What turns him?: According to Bickle: “whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal.”

But we’re blaming post-traumatic stress disorder and the boredom of being holed up in his cab.

Existential postal: Travis doesn’t ask for much. He simply wants his life to have meaning, and to make a difference. Especially to the laydees.

So when usual courtship methods (date night at the porno theatre, calling a 12-year-old prostitute a “square”) fail, he has no alternative but to take the bloodbath route.

It’s not something we’d recommend, but it certainly seems to work for Travis.

Next: Man On Fire [page-break]

Man On Fire (2004)

Average Joe: Ex-CIA spook turned bodyguard John Creasy (Denzel Washington)

What turns him?: The kidnapping of Lupita ‘Pita’ Ramos (Dakota Fanning), the girl he’s supposed to be protecting.

Methodical postal: Creasy starts at the bottom and works his way up.

Literally: a Magnum is shoved up a villain’s arse, while fingers and ears get sliced.

But when the scale of his enemies become clear, out come the rocket launchers for a more indiscriminate killing spree.

Next: Dirty Harry [page-break]

Dirty Harry (1971)

Average Joe: San Francisco Police Department's Inspector Harry Callaghan (Clint Eastwood)

What turns him?: Frustration that impertinent serial sniper Scorpio (Andy Robinson) is getting away with murder due to the system’s bureaucratic failures.

Assuming, of course, he hasn’t already turned. Who’d know?

Loose cannon postal: Harry’s one of the ‘good guys,’ but he doesn’t play like one.

His M.O. is straight out of the villains’ handbook: breaking and entering, use of brute force and torture, a surely not department-standard Magnum .44 that would blow your head clean off.

And while we’re on the subject, what’s with all the monologuing? The guy acts like a supervillain. Just shoot 'em already.

Next: Harry Brown [page-break]

Harry Brown (2009)

Average Joe: OAP Harry Brown (Michael Caine). Who just happens - surprise! - to be an ex-Royal Marine.

What turns him?: Snowballing grief and rage, after local chavs stop him from attending his wife’s deathbed, and then kill his bezza mate (David Bradley).

Not-the-years-but-the-mileage postal: Harry might be a pensioner, but old-timer knowhow trumps nu-skool braggadocio any day.

These pipsqueaks don't know what's hit 'em when the Guv’nor sets his target on cleaning up the 'hood.

Please, bring back National Service… just to give 'em a chance.

Next: Mad Max [page-break]

Mad Max (1979)

Average Joe: Disillusioned Main Force Patrol pursuit man, Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson)

What turns him?: Well, it’s the post-apocalypse, so it was probably only a matter of time anyway...

However, even in the future, some things never change. So what actually pushes him over the edge is the murder of his wife and child at the gangs of a feral gang.

Speed demon postal: It’s Max’s job to react quickly to crime, so there’s no time for soul-searching.

He’s straight behind the wheel of his super-charged Pursuit Special and despatches the gang with impressive no-frills efficiency.

If anything, revenge is a little too swift. Pace yourself, Maxy.

Next: Batman Begins [page-break]

Batman Begins (2005)

Average Joe: Billionaire Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). So not particularly average, then.

What turns him?: The desire to avenge the death of his parents, gunned down in front of him before he’s a kid.

But first, there’s that pesky chiroptophobia to deal with. What's that? Go on, guess.

Postal in costume: Bruce didn’t get ahead in business without knowing how to compartmentalise.

By day, he’s good ’ol Bruce… but by night, he dresses up as masked vigilante/crimefighter Batman.

Experimental armoured suit? Yeah, whatever. You’re not fooling us, Bruce; this is psycho stuff.

The technical term, we believe, is 'batshit crazy.'

Next: First Blood [page-break]

First Blood (1982)

Average Joe: Ex-Special Forces soldier turned drifter John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone)

What turns him?: Arrested on suspicion of being a nogoodnik by local Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy), then beaten by his deputy.

All of which brings back bad memories of ’Nam.

One-man postal service: You want a nogoodnik? You got one.

Playing up to perceptions, Rambo goes guerrilla, picking off Teasle’s men one-by-one, but – one accident aside – he makes a point of only maims instead of killing.

Thanks heavens for small mercies? Well… he runs up one hell of a damages bill in town. That’s just spiteful.

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