Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

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Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Zohar » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:48 am UTC

A lot of times in movies (specifically romantic comedies but not only those), someone would say something emotional (talk about their favorite toy as a kid, for example) and it's obvious this will come up later in the movie (after the big fight between the couple the other person would bring the first that toy, or something).

This is sometimes annoying because it gets predictable. I think the problem is the audience assumes that everything the characters say to each other happens on screen, and the writers work on that assumption. Something can't "come out" from nowhere, because then we might get confused and go "WTF, where did that come from?"

Is anyone else bothered by this? Can anyone think of good examples of movies (or TV shows I suppose) where this issue was dealt with elegantly?

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Re: Corny setups in movies

Postby Amarantha » Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:16 am UTC

Sounds like a form of Chekhov's Gun. I think it's only a problem if it's handled clumsily. Popular movies tend to rely on cliche, which the general public is comfortable with because they know what to expect (like eating at McDonald's). So things do get fairly predictable when you've seen enough mainstream films to find the patterns.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:52 pm UTC

Action Movies will often do this. If at some point someone either with a pre-existing emotional attachment or a budding emotional attachment to the Hero (Usually The Girl or The Kid) gives the Hero something incredibly stupid or gets a gift from the Hero (The Girl gives him a hideous money clip. The kid gives him his mini UltraMegaDinoTerrorBot. He gives The Kid a set of lockpicks to play with. He buys The Girl an ugly shirt.) and you can bet money that the Hero will use it to defeat the Big Bad.

And it's annoying. Case in point sorta - Evil Dead, and the ugly necklace. I think the original idea was for Ash to use the magnifying glass and the morning sun to burn the book, but that got scrapped somehow, so now it's a grappling hook. Dubya Tee Eff, mate?
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Mother Superior » Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:22 pm UTC

Best Checkov's gun ever:

Slither, as the small town cops get all armed up in the beginning of the movie:

"Hey boss, should we bring the grenade we confiscated?"
"Nah, leave it."
*forty minutes later*
"Shit, thank god I got this here grenade!"
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby ArgonV » Tue Jun 30, 2009 8:31 pm UTC

How about Hot Fuzz? The scene where they confiscate that whole barn of weapons from the old Welsh guy. Including a certain sea mine... :lol:

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Grop » Wed Jul 01, 2009 9:53 am UTC

Yes, in so many movies casual conversation is bound to mention key things that will matter later.

A good counter-example would be Pulp Fiction, in which several conversations and emotional moments are truly irrelevant to the story.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Mo0man » Wed Jul 01, 2009 12:20 pm UTC

Mother Superior wrote:Best Checkov's gun ever:

Slither, as the small town cops get all armed up in the beginning of the movie:

"Hey boss, should we bring the grenade we confiscated?"
"Nah, leave it."
*forty minutes later*
"Shit, thank god I got this here grenade!"

On the other hand... it was amazing
Spoiler:
when they completely failed in using the grenade. My favorite part of any movie ever. Just the look on. Whatever his name is. Mal's face
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby mosc » Wed Jul 01, 2009 7:52 pm UTC

Eh, the best is all these law and order clones where detective work comes in. If they tell you about some incredibly stupid detail when investigating a crime scene, you can bet your live savings it'll be the detail that turns the case in about 40 minutes.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby LTK » Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:30 pm UTC

mosc wrote:Eh, the best is all these law and order clones where detective work comes in. If they tell you about some incredibly stupid detail when investigating a crime scene, you can bet your live savings it'll be the detail that turns the case in about 40 minutes.


Plenty of those crime investigation series have a whole armory of Chekov's guns, so to speak. Try Monk, and if you see a somewhat insignificant character for whom a lot of information is provided, they'll most probably be the key element to the case.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Yuri2356 » Sat Jul 04, 2009 7:01 pm UTC

Grop wrote:Yes, in so many movies casual conversation is bound to mention key things that will matter later.

A good counter-example would be Pulp Fiction, in which several conversations and emotional moments are truly irrelevant to the story.

This is something you'll find in just about all of Quentin's work. He's quite fond of having his characters talk at length, telling us things we'll never need to know.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby smw543 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:57 am UTC

I just watched Burn After Reading again, and I thought they did it in a rather clever way:
Spoiler:
Harry (George Clooney) mentions that he carries a gun, and how [paraphrase]after 20 years, you don't even think twice, it's just muscle memory.[/paraphrase] Then, when he is surprised by finding Brad Pitt in the closet, it makes sense that he immediately shoots him in the head, but then panics before the body even hits the ground.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby podbaydoor » Sun Jul 05, 2009 4:58 pm UTC

ArgonV wrote:How about Hot Fuzz? The scene where they confiscate that whole barn of weapons from the old Welsh guy. Including a certain sea mine... :¡This cheese is burning me!:

Okay, but the uses to which the weapons were put made it unadulterated awesome.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Dream » Sun Jul 05, 2009 6:04 pm UTC

Clearly the greatest ever is the bunny in Con Air.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Brother Maynard » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:12 pm UTC

Slumdog Millionaire. The third Musketeer.

GAH.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby ArgonV » Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:41 am UTC

podbaydoor wrote:Okay, but the uses to which the weapons were put made it unadulterated awesome.


Agreed. Come to think of it, the swan might also be one hell of a Chekhov's Gun :P

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby podbaydoor » Mon Jul 06, 2009 6:44 pm UTC

That whole movie was pretty much brilliant. The notebook was a pretty obvious Chekhov's Gun, though.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby 6453893 » Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:17 am UTC

smw543 wrote:TV Tropes


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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Princess Marzipan » Tue Jul 07, 2009 3:12 am UTC

Oh man. Wayne's World.

For a security guard, he had an awful lot of information, don't you think?

later...
Aren't we lucky we were there to get all that information? It seemed extraneous at the time.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby SirMustapha » Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:55 pm UTC

mosc wrote:Eh, the best is all these law and order clones where detective work comes in. If they tell you about some incredibly stupid detail when investigating a crime scene, you can bet your live savings it'll be the detail that turns the case in about 40 minutes.


I always found the Special Victims Unit spin-off is a quite extreme case of the opposite. Most of the episodes will have at least one moment like this:

"Okay, we know this, this and that."
"Yeah, but we still have no evidence to link those three things together."
*comes from out of NOWHERE, with a little brown envelope* "Here, guys, you'll want to take a look at this."
*fade to black*
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Blast » Tue Jul 07, 2009 4:41 pm UTC

Any character shown carrying a thick metal object, or an object of religious significance (cross, book, etc.), underneath their shirt or jacket will at some point be shot in the chest, only to miraculously survive when the object stops the bullet.

As a counter-example, I'm reading Hyperion, and the protagonists share their stories because there *might* be something in them that helps them survive the big bad.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby 6453893 » Wed Jul 08, 2009 3:39 am UTC

I can't remember which sitcom it was (I want to say Family Guy), but they played off the Bible In Pocket cliche. The guy is jewish, and the bullet goes right through his pocket torah because it's only half as thick (old testament). Innaccurate but great.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby mikhail » Tue Jul 21, 2009 4:08 pm UTC

There's a wonderful reference to "Checkhov's Chicken" in the commentary track for the Firefly episode "The Train Job".

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby steewi » Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:21 am UTC

6453893 wrote:I can't remember which sitcom it was (I want to say Family Guy), but they played off the Bible In Pocket cliche. The guy is jewish, and the bullet goes right through his pocket torah because it's only half as thick (old testament). Innaccurate but great.

See also Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (the movie, not the Torchwood episode).

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Blokey » Wed Jul 22, 2009 2:27 am UTC

Ha, there's an episode of Only Fools & Horses, where Grandad is telling one of his stories, and gives Rodney a tobacco tin (or something similar), saying it belonged to his uncle or what-have-you. And that it was in his front pocket over his heart during World War I. And that a bullet hit it.
Rodney: "What, so this saved his life? Wow."
Grandad: "Oh no, the bullet ricocheted off and went straight up his nose."
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby smw543 » Wed Jul 22, 2009 3:40 am UTC

Blokey wrote:Ha, there's an episode of Only Fools & Horses, where Grandad is telling one of his stories, and gives Rodney a tobacco tin (or something similar), saying it belonged to his uncle or what-have-you. And that it was in his front pocket over his heart during World War I. And that a bullet hit it.
Rodney: "What, so this saved his life? Wow."
Grandad: "Oh no, the bullet ricocheted off and went straight up his nose."

He was shot, by a German sniper, clean through the temple...now, if grandfather had held his cigarette case *here*...
Spoiler:
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby spupy » Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC

Could this be considered a Chekhov's Gunman (a human Chekhov's Gun)? From the movie Se7en:

Spoiler:
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby folkhero » Sun Jul 26, 2009 7:09 am UTC

I was watching "the Firm" with Tom Cruise for the first time and I notice a cop complaining that a cotton truck parks illegally in the same place every day. I was a little suspicious there, but when the same thing happened a second time I paused the TiVo and asked my Mom (with whom I was watching the movie) if she knew what a Chekhov's gun was. After explaining it to her, we started the movie back up and soon Tom is jumping from the third story onto the cotton truck to escape security. My mom was impressed by my genre savvy.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby JayDee » Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:58 am UTC

Zohar wrote:A lot of times in movies someone would say something emotional and it's obvious this will come up later in the movie.
There's an episode of MacGyver that does this kind of oddly - I wouldn't be surprised if they wrote the emotional back story bit without giving much thought to what they'd do with it, but they felt had to make something of.

MacGyver gets held hostage at a roadside diner, and one of the other hostages is a former chopper pilot who hasn't been able to fly a 'copter ever since he got shot down in 'Nam. When it comes to the expected scene where he overcomes the fear and runs out to the helicopter, he only takes off and flies over to brain the baddie with the rail before landing again. After his agonised 'I'll never fly again!' speech, the payoff is a minute or so in the air where he uses a helicopter as a blunt weapon.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Mother Superior » Fri Aug 14, 2009 10:38 am UTC

Go to Checkov's guns on fifth. But be careful, any gun he shows you is liable to go off at some point while you're in the store.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Psycho Goose » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:40 am UTC

Wow. Sig'd.

LOL Literally.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby ArgonV » Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:22 pm UTC

Eureka springs to mind. An episode usually follows this format:

- A throwaway comment about something is made in the beginning of the episode
- Something weird happens
- There's a new invention that seems to cause all the trouble
- The new invention wasn't the problem
- Hey look, it has to do with the thing we made a throwaway comment about
- They come up with some crazy, pseudo-scientific solution

I still like the show though.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Ubik » Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:34 pm UTC

I saw Giant last Sunday. I won't call it a bad movie, but it didn't use Chekhov's gun, it used Chekhov's minigun. A lot of easily predictable things happened.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Psycho Goose » Wed Aug 19, 2009 7:46 am UTC

I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail recently, and the whole "unladen swallow" thing is one of the funniest examples of this I've ever seen. I mean, c'mon -- they had to know it was unbearably cheesy (in a good way).
Mother Superior wrote:Go to Checkov's guns on fifth. But be careful, any gun he shows you is liable to go off at some point while you're in the store.

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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Angua » Wed Aug 19, 2009 12:23 pm UTC

Psycho Goose wrote:I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail recently, and the whole "unladen swallow" thing is one of the funniest examples of this I've ever seen. I mean, c'mon -- they had to know it was unbearably cheesy (in a good way).
I don't know what you're talking about, Monty Python is never unbearably cheesy.
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Re: Corny Chekhov's Gun uses

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:47 pm UTC

I realize this isn't a movie anyone would mistake for good anyway, but Paul Blart: Mall Cop really bugged me with the way every item he picked up or anything ended up saving his life. That and the stupidity of the entire cast of characters. So much so that I still remember this complaint five months later or whatever.
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