Bar fights in movies are always fun to watch for the same reason boxing matches in movies are always fun to watch—movies make them way more entertaining than they are in real life. In front of a camera, bar fights exist on a different plane – one filled with exquisitely-choreographed kicks and punches that skips past any real consequences and makes it seem like bar fighting is something you might want to try.
Here are five common movie bar fight myths we’ll try to dispel out of the kindness of our pacified hearts.
Myth 1: Everybody has everybody else’s back
Worst Offender(s): Necessary Roughness, Back to School, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Replacements…pretty much every movie with a bar fight in it.
In movies, a disagreement between two parties accumulates into a room-clearing brawl fast. Faster than K-fed forgets to put on a condom fast. Typically, insults are shared between two people, or in Necessary Roughness’ case, the star quarterback of the good guys and the star linebacker of the bad guys. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens next—star QB throws a punch, linebacker retaliates, and pretty soon both teams – who for some reason all hang out at the same honkey-tonk—are squaring off like the Greasers versus the Socials.
Reality: Fight Club said it best—most people do anything to actually avoid a fight. The anxiety of spontaneous fisticuffs is often more powerful of a deterrent than any kind of loyalty to friends. If a punch is actually thrown, most people’s first instinct—an instinct that has been molded and nurtured to believe that violence is a really shitty problem-solver—is to break it up.
And if they don’t want to risk spilling something or getting cold-cocked with an errant punch by breaking it up, they’re much more likely to watch it unfold and resolve itself than interfere. This is because not being involved means not having the spotlight squarely on your forehead when you embarrass yourself by demonstrating to everybody around you that you have no friggin’ idea how to respond to somebody with poor impulse control and reasoning skills who wants to kick ass because he’s all out of bubble gum.
Myth 2: Foreign objects are fair game, and preferred in a bar fight
Worst Offender(s): Michael, Road House, Romeo Must Die
When the camera is rolling, sometimes fists aren’t enough. To accentuate the mayhem, movies sometimes garnish their bar fights with tables, chairs, pool cues and broken beer bottles. And it always comes off as non-malicious as two groups of playground kids flinging snowballs and dirt clods at each other. Hey, it’s not like they’re fighting with maces or blow-torches, right? What’s a couple of bruises taking a chair shot across the back, or momentary loss of consciousness using your head to split open a beer bottle?
Reality: Typically, anybody that’s either not shitfaced past the point of comprehension or just totally insane leaves the potential weapons where they lie, even as the disagreement passes beyond the point of diplomacy. Why? Because they don’t want to go to jail. We’re not talking about drunk-tank jail, but real prison time.
We live in an overly-litigious society. Anybody can sue anybody for almost anything. It’s bad enough if somebody’s jaw gets fractured, or just KTFO from a punch (which you would be surprised at how easy that is to do for someone who actually knows how to throw a punch), but inflicting bodily harm with something that could be considered a weapon? Get ready to open your wallet and pray for a settlement. And that’s not even counting what this means for the owner. Which brings us to…
Myth 3: Bartenders/owners ignore broken mirrors/tables/flying chairs/beer bottles
Worst offender: Boondock Saints
As long as one group is comprised of regular patrons and the other group is a bunch of outsider assholes, owners and bartenders will let boys be boys. Gotta stay loyal to your customer base, right?
Reality: Obvious one here, but it would make absolutely no sense— in any case—for the owner of a bar to encourage a fight in his joint. Most states have these things called “dram shop” laws that establish the liability of bars and taverns arising out of selling booze to intoxicated people who subsequently cause any kind of injury or possibly death to another party. The law was introduced mostly to curb drunk driving, but it can be applied in bar fights, too. Basically, they permit you to sue the shit out of the bar if you get your salad tossed in a fight by a guy who was drunker than you.
Myth 4: Bouncers are untouchable, badass mofos
Worst Offender: Roadhouse (Caveat: This movie still kicks ass)
In movies, it’s a must that bars and other high-brow drinking establishments be flanked by a swat team of Swayzes and Ray Winstones who know how to break your arm in seven different ways. They aren’t afraid to kick it up a notch and make an example out of you by kicking your ass if you push them.
Reality: Bouncer’s don’t want to fight any more than you do. Most of them don’t look like they could play in the NFL because their responsibilities really do extend to basically just grabbing you and tossing your ass out the door like an unfunny version of Uncle Phil tossing Jazz from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air before anything or anybody gets broken.
After that, they’ll just turn their back on you and go back to work. Odds are they aren’t scared of you, but remember how we said we live in an overly-litigious society? Yeah, just because they wear the black shirt and carry the clipboard doesn’t mean they’re immune from the law.
WWE superstar Dave Batista was a bouncer before he was a wrestler. He turned to bodybuilding and wrestling only after he got fired, stood trial and was put on probation for a year for letting his deltoids take over his brain and badly injuring two people outside the establishment he worked for.
Myth 5: The man who knows martial arts wins every time
Worst Offender: Romeo Must Die, Out For Justice (Seagal, motherfuckers)
In movies, jiu jitsu or any form of martial arts is the ultimate trump card. You know, other than a gun. If you hear the pan flute in a movie, you just know whoever isn’t Asian, or hasn’t undergone a training regimen sponsored by a mystical Asian dude, is going to get his arse kicked.
Reality: The kind of premeditated planning it takes to execute specialized martial arts techniques on a guy pissing you off is pretty much instantly trumped by instinct, an instinct that screams JUST GRAB THIS GUY’S BALLSACK WHEN HE’S NOT LOOKING!!! Extemporaneous fights are more about survival than anything. There’s no time in a real fight to make the combat aesthetically pleasing with judo chops and roundhouse kicks. Not to mention it’s a bar fight with freaking sense-deadening liquor involved.
Which is not to say that Jet Li wouldn’t rip your heart out if you ever made the mistake of testing his patience with a small Asian penis joke, but the difference between him and anybody that’s ever taken a few self-defense classes at the dojo around the block and thought themselves worthy of a Hattori Hanzo sword is about 10,000 hours of intensive professional training.