Nobody puts baby in a gunfight—but maybe they should?
I’m calling it now: For Hollywood, 2017 is the Year of the Baby. The Boss Baby—an animated family comedy that’s also kind of a remake of Glengarry Glenn Ross?—has been the top movie in America for two straight weeks. Next month sees the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which will give audiences the chance to spend a whole movie with the breakout star from the first Guardians of the Galaxy: Baby Groot. Alien: Covenantwill reintroduce the chest-burster, a baby alien that, uh, bursts out of chests. And then there’s Baby Driver. Sure, that’s not actually about a baby—but when babies are this hot, why not pretend your movie stars one?
The Fate of the Furious Is a Messy Joyride
This weekend, The Boss Baby will undoubtedly be knocked off the top of the box office by The Fate of the Furious, which is the sequel to the sixth highest-grossing movie in history. I can guess what you’re thinking. “Year of the Baby? More like Year of Bald, Gruff Musclemen Speeding Around in Cars. They would never put a baby in a Fast & Furious movie.”
Surprise! You are wrong. (Minor, delightful spoilers for The Fate of the Furious to follow.) In the best scene of the whole movie—and for reasons I won’t reveal here—Jason Statham spends the climax of the eighth Fast & Furious fighting his way through an airplane, dispatching at least a dozen hostile soldiers—all while toting an adorable, giggly baby in a carrier cradle.
This probably sounds ridiculous on paper—but when you really stop and think about it, a baby is actually the ideal action movie prop. A baby is utterly helpless, so the mere presence of a baby in the middle of a firefight immediately raises the stakes. But a baby is also utterly oblivious, which allows for moments of comic relief as the baby makes goo-goos and ga-gas while bullets fly over its bald little head. The baby even gives us more reason to be impressed by the action star! He’s more likable, because he’s protecting a baby, and more badass, because he’s doing it all one-handed.
When you think about it, a baby is actually the ideal action movie prop. The mere presence of a baby in the middle of a firefight immediately raises the stakes.
The Fate of the Furious uses this conceit to brilliant effect for Statham’s Deckard Shaw—who, lest we forget, literally killed off the most likable character in the entire franchise just a couple of movies ago. How can you redeem such an irredeemable villain? By having him tenderly a protect a baby. Shaw doesn’t just save the baby’s life; he shields the baby from infant PTSD by giving him an Alvin and the Chipmunks-playing iPod to block out the gunfire, and coos lovingly at him between rounds of bullets. The end result? In a single scene, a cuddly baby transforms Deckard Shaw into a cuddly hero.
Jason Statham isn’t the only badass Brit to pair up with a baby in an action flick. 2006’s Children of Men casts Clive Owen as the protector of a baby whose mere existence belies two decades of human infertility. Pretty high stakes! And Clive Owen must have enjoyed being an action-star babysitter in Children of Men, because he did it again one year later in Shoot ‘Em Up, which opens with Owen delivering a baby in the middle of a shootout. He spends the rest of the movie toting the baby around while he shoots dudes and chomps on carrots.
Shoot ‘Em Up is pretty good! But it’s not even the pinnacle of the baby action movie. John Woo’s Hard Boiled—which might actually be the best action movie of the ’90s—sets its entire climactic action sequence in a hospital. As tough-as-nails cop Tequila (Chow Yun-fat) guns down gangsters, he stops to rescue a stranded newborn from the maternity ward—even thinking to put cotton balls in the baby’s ears to protect it from the noise of the gunfire. Later, as Tequila attempts to escape the exploding hospital, the baby returns the favor—and saves the day—by peeing down his leg when his pants catch on fire. Forget Riggs and Murtagh. This is the kind of a teamwork a good action duo needs.
There’s a lot more to the movie, but Hard Boiled’s marketing team clearly understood that Hard Boiled is ultimately the story of the beautiful bond that develops between Tequila and a very cute baby. So the movie’s official poster pushes Chow Yun-fat’s costars Tony Leung and Teresa Mo to the side in favor of putting the baby front and center:
Whether you’ve seen Hard Boiled or not—that poster definitely makes you want to watch it as soon as possible, right?
So here’s my advice, screenwriters. Writing an action movie, and trying to figure out how to make it even better? Stick a dang baby in it. It has never not worked.
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