Karl Rehn put on a humdinger of a presentation on historical handgun techniques at TacCon last year, highlighting not only the techniques, but how culture itself affects how guns are perceived in society.
From the dime store novels of the wild west to detective fiction to TV shows, movies and video games, how society perceives violence and how we talk about it. Karl did a great job laying out how we’ve changed our discussion about how good guys and bad guys behave with a gun in hands, and in my opinion, the most influential moments in recent years on how society perceives the use of guns happened in 1986, with the debut of Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” on NBC and the release of John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow” in Hong Kong.
Michael Mann insists on accuracy in the bang-bang in his productions. He sent James Caan out to Gunsite for his role in Mann’s first movie, “Thief,” and USPSA GM Jim Zubiena had roles in both “Manhunter” as an FBI weapons tech and “Miami Vice” as an assassin.
That attention to detail paid off, and Michael Mann has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s top directors.
John Woo had a career in Hong Kong before he filmed “A Better Tomorrow,” but both he and Chow Yun Fat, the star of the movie, were considered to be on the downside of their careers at the time. Woo took the camera techniques and fluid motion associated with Hong Kong “Chop Socky” movies, applied them to gunplay,and voila, a whole new cinematic language was born, one that was quickly picked up by American filmmakers (with varying levels of success) in movies like “Last Man Standing,” “Equilibrium” and The Matrix Trilogy.
Both of those streams have now converged in the John Wick movies, where you have the rigorous training to get the details right combined with the slick action shots of gun fu.
What will the future bring? What’ll be the next big thing in how guns are used in movies? Dunno. If I have to guess (and I do), I’d say that the thousands and thousands of highly trained young men who have fought overseas are going to have some sort of influence in how guns are seen in society, and that, along with the ever-increasing numbers of citizens who choose to carry concealed, will eventually bubble to the surface in some way down the road.
And I’ll bring popcorn when it does. I do loves me a good shoot-em-up.