In anticipation of Thursday’s show about Under Siege, in which an ex-Navy Seal becomes a cook, we’ve decided to count down our favourite career paths for ex-military action movie characters.
5. Drifting (as seen in Hard Target, First Blood)
If a shaggy-haired drifter comes to your town, whatever you do, don’t pick a fight with them– according to action movies, there’s a high probability that they’re actually a highly-trained, potentially deadly, ex-military officer. For instance, in John Woo’s Hard Target, drifter Chance Boudreuax (played by Jean-Claude Van Damme) may seem scruffy and improbably-named, but he’s actually a kick-ass, punch-snake ex-Marine. While his drifter status causes his enemies to underestimate him (thus leading to their downfall), it is kind of a bummer that all of his friends are homeless. Also, between his dirty trenchcoat and his mullet, he probably smells terrible.
Similarly, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) in First Blood gets railroaded out of town by Sheriff Brian Dennhey (Brian Dennhey). Rambo soon becomes a one-man army, proving the old adage: overweight small-town sheriffs shouldn’t pick fights with lean, muscular guys wearing army fatigues.
4. Teaching (as seen in Dangerous Minds, The Substitute)
Once you’ve been in ‘the shit’, son, held your buddies’ GUTS in for him as he lay dying or strangled the last breath from your enemy’s throat with your bare hands, teaching sixteen year olds algebra isn’t as intimidating as you’d think. In fact, many teachers with military backgrounds discover a slew of transferable skills such as leadership qualities and practices in rhetoric. That’s how Michelle Pfeiffer as ex-Marine Louanne Johnson inspires a group of well-behaved Amish kids to behave well-er in Dangerous Minds (I haven’t seen it, just remember the song Weird Al did for the trailer).
In more extreme situations, however, you might need someone with real combat experience. Enter Tom Berenger in The Substitute (based on the song by The Who) who uses his experience in Vietnam to relate to his students, for whom every day is a battlefield… or he just kicks their asses, Berenger-style.
3. Police (as seen in Lethal Weapon)
The specter of the Vietnam war haunts the characters of the first Lethal Weapon movie– it’s like The Deer Hunter but with more saxophone music and partial nudity. Both Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) and his new partner Riggs (Mel Gibson) fought in Vietnam, but Riggs was part of a super-secret Special Forces Unit called “Shadow Company” (you know it’s super-secret because it has the word “shadow” in its name) making him the titular Lethal Weapon. Riggs uses the skills he learned in the army to: fight barechested on the front lawn of a residential street, endure torture, bust Christmas-Tree vendors/drug dealers. Unfortuantly, not everyone in Shadow Company used their power for good. Which brings us to…
2. Crime (as seen in Lethal Weapon, The Rock)
Unfortunately many veterans struggle to find meaningful careers upon returning home from the front. Some are tempted by the wealth of opportunities in the burgeoning crime/evil sector. In Lethal Weapon, all he former members of Shadow Company that aren’t Martin Riggs have turned evil, including Gary Busey’s Mr. Joshua. Busey’s character serves as a dark reflection for Riggs, the moral-comprimised, less-handsome path not taken.
Depending on your former rank and experience you might land yourself a “henchmen” gig, but if you have the stars like Gen. Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris) in The Rock, you can jump right into your retirement dreams and finally take that “Capture Alcatraz/destroy San Francisco” vacation you’ve been going on and on about for years.
1. President (as seen in Air Force One, Independence Day)