Gun Fu: Last Man Standing

Finn: I guess you’ll just have to kill me.

John Smith: It’ll hurt if I do.

Last Man Standing (1996)

Last Man Standing (1996) directed by Walter Hill is one of my favourite films, combining as it does many awesome ingredients: set in 1931 during the Prohibition, a former mob enforcer on the run from Chicago winds up in a Texas burg under the thumbs of two feuding bootlegger gangs and starts playing the two groups against each other – cue lots of mayhem. We get a period setting with top actors including Bruce Willis as “John Smith,” but also Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, and Christopher Walken, cool vintage props including gats, suits, and haircuts, and an ace score by slide guitarist Ry Cooder. The familiar story about a loner playing two parties of bad guys against each other to his own advantage is credited prominently to Ryūzū Kikushima and Akira Kurosawa’s Yōjinbō (1961), which is ironic considering that their screenplay was based heavily on Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929), a novel about a Prohibition-era agency detective who plays several gangs against each other …

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Martial Arts: The Maltese Falcon

Why did you strike me after I was disarmed?

– Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1930)

The Maltese Falcon (1930) is one of the best of Dashiell Hammett’s novels. It follows private eye Sam Spade in San Francisco as he unravels the mystery of the Maltese Falcon, a jewel-encrusted gold statuette of immeasurable worth. As is typical in a Hammett story, he has to play off several parties against one other to emerge unharmed, if not victorious.

The novel has been made into a motion picture several times, the best rendition being of course the third one by John Huston. His Film Noir classic The Maltese Falcon (1941) boasts, among others, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Peter Lorre as Joel Cairo, one of the shady characters who are after the Falcon.

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