Back in the early 1990’s, The X-Files took the small screen by storm by pioneering the “Monster-of-the-Week” format, offering viewers entertaining episodes that blended Stephen King-style horror with classic detective fiction. The stories were tense and compelling, and the on-screen chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson was consistently killer. For all the things the show got right, however, firearm handling wasn’t one of them.
Detectives Mulder and Scully regularly charge into poorly-lit corner offices with sidearms drawn and fingers on the trigger. Half the time they’re also holding tactical lights in dangerous or otherwise ineffective positions. They muzzle everything in sight, and yet they can never seem to hit their targets. Most viewers could forgive these inaccuracies because, well, it’s television – but for those of us who were familiar with firearm fundamentals, they inspired a lot of sighs and rolled eyes.
Fortunately, not all TV shows and movies are so prone to these departures from reality.
Director Michael Mann, for example, is famously committed to realistic gun handling in his movies. Movies like Heat and Collateral feature protagonists who know how to avoid muzzling their feet, index their fingers on the receiver and even count their rounds in a gunfight. These movies might still be firmly rooted in the action thriller genre, they always feature a welcome element of realism when it comes to guns. By the time an actor with a gun-wielding part steps on the set of a Michael Mann movie, they’ve received the training they need to know how to handle their prop weapons properly.
Recently, another Hollywood star has also gained notoriety for their commitment to maintaining good firearm form. Last month, veteran action movie star Keanu Reeves was featured in a video that went viral depicting him doing some intense drills on the shooting range in preparation for “John Wick: Chapter Two”. Reeves moves quickly through the course, switching seamlessly from a rifle to a semiautomatic pistol to a shotgun. Throughout the drill he’s able to maintain an impressive degree of accuracy. If you weren’t already excited for the follow-up to Reeves’ 2014 neo-noir hit, watching his skillful display of shooting skill should do the trick.
Another celebrity who has earned some firearm form brownie points over the course of his career is Tom Cruise. His performance with a gun in Collateral, for example, is one thing that makes the shootouts in that movie so intense and – dare I say – believable. To prepare for the role, Cruise trained extensively with former members of the British SAS in firearms and close quarters combat techniques. The result of all this hard work is a handful of the best firefight scenes in cinematic history.
For moviegoers who aren’t especially gun literate, unlimited ammo clips and careless muzzle sweeps might not be especially cringe-worthy. For those of us who have spent time around guns, however, these moments are on par with watching a character try to drive a car with their feet – unrealistic, nonsensical, and needlessly dangerous. By investing in just a little firearms training for their actors, directors and producers can add a lot of realism to their films.