Scarface (1983) – “Say hello to my little friend!”
Written by Oliver Stone, directed by Brian De Palma and starring none other than Al Pacino in one of his most iconic, scenery-chewing roles to date, this now legendary reimagining of the 30s gangster classic caps off with yet another blood and bullet-ridden last stand for its eponymous lead. Pacino’s Tony Montana attempts to fight off an invading gang whilst hauled up in his Miami mansion, with nothing but a trusty M-16 for back-up. It ends the way you’d expect, but Montana certainly doesn’t go down without a fight, in what is easily one of the finest final showdowns in cinematic history.
Kick Ass (2010) – Strobe
Matthew Vaughn’s no amateur when it comes to huge, sprawling action scenes, and whilst Kingsman’s now infamous church massacre might technically top anything Kick Ass can offer, it’s not quite a shootout. Hit Girl’s last ditch attempt to save her mortally wounded father, Big Daddy, however, has just enough gunfire to be eligible. And between some Matrix-inspired coolness, a seriously bombastic John Murphy score, and a tremendously lit strobe sequence, Vaughn proves that comic-book adaptations aren’t all visually drab and bloodless affairs. If anything, quite the opposite.
John Wick (2014) – Red Circle Club
Despite being a mere three years-old, David Leitch and Chad Stahelski’s John Wick came completely out of nowhere to set a totally new precedence for the 21st-century shootout. Using long, sweeping takes and throwing in cuts only when absolutely necessary, the pair really raised the bar for how audiences appreciate gunfights, and the Red Circle Club sequence is the very epitome of that in action. Leitch and Stahelski plant the camera firmly on Keanu Reeves’ Wick as he launches from room to room, mowing down assailants in the most elite and methodical manner possible. It truly is like watching an expert at work, devoutly bloody, but sensationally cool.
Heat (1995) – Bank Robbery Shootout
And finally, very much the creme de la creme of the contemporary movie shootout, Michael Mann’s agonisingly complex, ten minute firefight that pitted two of Hollywood’s most exceptional actors, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, head-to-head at long last. Spinning very quickly out of a hasty getaway gone wrong, Mann sends Pacino and his squad storming after De Niro through the packed streets of downtown Los Angeles, in and out of cars and buildings as the policemen in question start dropping like flies. Mann edits the whole thing so carefully, and the cast’s insanely detailed weapons training really pays off, offering up a shootout that’s not only hugely engrossing and thrilling throughout, but massively believable too. In terms of gunfights, between the scale, the pure level of detail and the overall intensity here, nothing gets even close to matching Heat for quality.
What are your favourite movie shootouts? Let us know in the comments below…
Ben Robins / @BMLRobins