The Reluctant Hero
February 22, 2007 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for movies in which the hero is given a second chance, which he or she doesn't want.

The only example I can think of right now is The History of Violence.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does Remo Williams qualify? He wasn't a willing Remo.
posted by chairface at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2007


If bringing back from the dead counts, Buffy season 6.
posted by cillit bang at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2007


I don't think you can use The History of Violence as an example. Good guy Tom got his second chance moving out to the west and after expelling his demons got a second chance with his family. Unless you mean Bad Guy Joey who got a second chance to be a killer but turned that down. (I would argue that Joey isn't a hero.)

Maybe you could be a bit more clear about what kind of second chance he or she doesn't want.
posted by meta x zen at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2007


Alien 3?

Ripley is given the choice to live, but chooses to die in order to kill the alien inside her.
posted by utsutsu at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2007


The Rookie- Dennis Quaid's character is reluctant to give pitching another try.
Um... any movie where a cop comes out of/delays retirement to help solve a case- a movie like Seven would fit that bill.

This is a pretty common plot scenario. Action movies deal with reluctant heros all the time.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 2:33 PM on February 22, 2007


I'm a bit unclear about what you're asking for here. In Barry Lyndon, there's a point at which a character is given a "second chance" because the person he was dueling with intentionally shot his pistol into the ground. The first person (who was not a "hero," per se) still elected to go ahead with the duel, even though he was given a chance to call it over.

Is this the kind of thing you're looking for?
posted by arco at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2007


Yes, History of Violence wasn't the best example.

I'm looking for a movie where the hero messes up something, let's say a relationship. He or she is given or gets a second chance to make the relationship work but either the hero or the other person has changed so the hero doesn't want the second chance. But the hero cannot evade or ignore the second chance, and they live happily ever after.

It doesn't have to be a relationship but that sums it up.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:36 PM on February 22, 2007


The Rookie is a good example, but I'm also like movies that might be a bit darker.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2007


Constantine? is all about a second chance that he never really wanted. Or at least that' show I remember the movie. The comic could be a bit different
posted by magikker at 2:39 PM on February 22, 2007


Oh, and Aren't the Saw movies sort of about a second chance that people would rather not have but are forced in to?
posted by magikker at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2007


The Lion King? Nala is delighted to find that Simba isn't dead, but Simba is reluctant to return home to Pride Rock.
posted by scission at 2:43 PM on February 22, 2007


You mean something like Devil Wears Prada?
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2007


Cars, maybe? When he was given a chance to win the big race, but backed out at the finish line? Maybe not as "dark" as you want, but I can't think of any "dark" films where "they live happily ever after."
posted by arco at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2007


The near godawful, Lady in the Water?
posted by edgeways at 2:46 PM on February 22, 2007


Donnie Darko!
I mean, if getting crushed under a jet engine counts as happily ever after.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2007


Groundhog Day?
posted by peeedro at 2:52 PM on February 22, 2007


How about Waterloo Bridge? (warning: spoiler)
posted by spec80 at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2007


Perhaps Luc Besson's La Femme Nikita? In an odd sort of "hero" way?
posted by FlamingBore at 2:57 PM on February 22, 2007


I'd say the absolute best example of this is the movie Goodfellas.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

At the end of the film the narrator, after recounting his exciting life in the mob, is revealed to have been given a "second chance" in a witness protection program. The camera pans across a soulless suburban subdivision, alights on the narrator opening his front door in his bathrobe and picking up the morning paper, and he utters the immortal lines:

"And that's the hardest part. Today everything is different; there's no action... have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food - right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook."


*** END SPOILER ***
posted by googly at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2007


More on the Luc Besson tip, Bruce Willis' ex-military character in The Fifth Element is fairly reluctant to accept a mission to save the world.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 3:00 PM on February 22, 2007


Ah sorry, I didn't see the post where you wanted the happily ever after.

Ok then I'm submitting Mr. Wonderful.
posted by spec80 at 3:00 PM on February 22, 2007


Sorry, I should have wrapped sarcasm tags around "happily ever after."
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 3:03 PM on February 22, 2007


What about Spiderman and Spiderman 2? You know, how he wanted Kirsten Dunst, then at the end of the movie is all like, "whomever I love always gets hurt" after being Spiderman, and then in Spiderman 2 wrestles with the psychological burden, and then at the end they live happily ever after.
posted by unexpected at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2007


Die Hard 3
posted by Kudos at 3:14 PM on February 22, 2007


The Shawshank Redemption, where it applies to both Brooks (except without the "happily ever after" part) and Red (with).

Possibly The Patriot? Been awhile since I saw that one, so I'm not sure.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:21 PM on February 22, 2007


You are asking movies, but last week's episode of Lost was a perfect example. Desmond's flashback/time travel/whatever allowed him to have another chance at redeeming his past mistakes with Penny, but decides that pushing the magic button is what he really wants.
posted by rabbitsnake at 3:27 PM on February 22, 2007


Team America.
posted by puritycontrol at 3:44 PM on February 22, 2007


I suppose in a roundabout sense, Joe vs The Volcano could fit your description, though it's a bit of a stretch.
posted by adamrice at 3:48 PM on February 22, 2007


Dang, my fragmented memory is throwing up vague recollections of dozens of movies of this type with these sorts of scenarios:

--a specialist has to be recruited from retirement but he/she doesn't want to go back into the field because of a tragedy he or she caused/couldn't prevent on the last mission

--"one last heist"--aka the big score, but our (anti-)hero thinks it's too dangerous

--a bunch of n00bs need the hero for a big operation, but he's three sheets to the wind and they have to detoxify him from his self-pitying perpetual drunken stupor

--a famous martial artist has become a monk and no longer needs to prove that his kung fu is the best

But I can't name a single actual movie fitting those scenarios.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 4:01 PM on February 22, 2007


men in black 2

And could we get some feedback on which of these are in the right direction or not. I like guessing these but I feel like I am guessing in the dark
posted by magikker at 4:04 PM on February 22, 2007


--a bunch of n00bs need the hero for a big operation, but he's three sheets to the wind and they have to detoxify him from his self-pitying perpetual drunken stupor
Oddly enough that's Beerfest.
posted by magikker at 4:06 PM on February 22, 2007


Hero. Dustin Hoffman. Duh.
posted by sneakin at 4:21 PM on February 22, 2007


Maybe not quite what you're looking for, but in the current season of 24, Jack is rather reluctant to be fighting terrorism again and just wants out.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:31 PM on February 22, 2007


It's a Wonderful Life- Well now that I think of it, maybe not. Was the "second chance" the opportunity to see how life would have been without him, or was it the aftermath of that vision?
posted by Gungho at 4:33 PM on February 22, 2007


--a bunch of n00bs need the hero for a big operation, but he's three sheets to the wind and they have to detoxify him from his self-pitying perpetual drunken stupor

Oddly enough that's Beerfest.


Heh. I was thinking Blazing Saddles.
posted by LionIndex at 4:46 PM on February 22, 2007


While my mind is on Mel Brooks movies, isn't this also the plotline of Young Frankenstein?
posted by LionIndex at 4:48 PM on February 22, 2007


On the witness protection theme, My Blue Heaven with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:04 PM on February 22, 2007


Kill Bill?
posted by magikker at 5:19 PM on February 22, 2007


The Green Mile.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2007


Cast Away?
posted by Rubber Soul at 5:43 PM on February 22, 2007


Fearless.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 5:45 PM on February 22, 2007


This is a pretty common theme in movies where the main character is a criminal of some sort, like a safecracker or thief. They want to retire, but there's that one big score out there for them that somebody convinces them to pursue. I think "The Score" with Robert DeNiro and Ed Norton fits this.
posted by vito90 at 5:48 PM on February 22, 2007


"Batman Begins" comes to mind as a contemporary example. Bruce Wayne seems to give up several times during the film, only to be drawn back - first by R'as al-Ghoul, then by Alfred, and then (arguably) by Rachael Dawes.

Sort of like mini-second chances.
posted by gaiamark at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2007


Miller's Crossing. Leo O'Bannion (played by Albert Finney) forgives Tom Reagan (Gabriel Bryne) for double-crossing him.*
"Jesus, Tom! I'd give anything if you'd work for me again! I know I've made some bonehead plays! I know I can be pig-headed but, damnit, so can you! I need your help, and things can be like they were, I know it! I just know it! As for you and Verna--well I understand, you're both young, and--well, damnit, Tom, I forgive you!"

"I didn't ask for that and I don't want it."
*Well, he was actually acting in Leo's interest all along...or was he?
posted by kirkaracha at 6:43 PM on February 22, 2007


The Godfather: Part III: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

Goodfellas and My Blue Heaven make an excellent double feature. My Blue Heaven picks up right where Goodfellas leaves off.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:49 PM on February 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Last Temptation of Christ? Not really a second chance, but a second choice.
posted by forrest at 6:54 PM on February 22, 2007


Les Miserables
posted by strawberryviagra at 7:24 PM on February 22, 2007


Rocky 5, if you count that as a movie with a hero. Also, Rocky 2 he contemplates getting in the ring again with Apollo.
posted by thetenthstory at 7:25 PM on February 22, 2007


At the risk of a meta-answer, this is a key component of anything that fits the Joseph Campbell archetype of the Hero's Journey. Which, being an archetype, crops up incessantly.

Two significant components of the HJ are the hero's early reluctance to take up the cause and/or accept that s/he is Special and a later opportunity to 'ascend' but a choice to return to life.

The Matrix series, which follows the HJ slavishly, demonstrates this reluctant picking up of the torch multiple times. Neo refuses to believe he is The One, and is given the opportunity to step up to the plate and rescue Morphius despite that belief. He shortly thereafter dies but returns to life, fully in control of his powers. In the third movie he is consigned to a purgatory (the subway stop) and subsequently returns to life.
posted by phearlez at 7:27 PM on February 22, 2007


Here's a better synopsis (Les Miserables):

Based on Victor Hugo's somber and sprawling novel, Les Miserables brings to the stage the tale of Jean Valjean, a man who is determined to survive and to do good in the face of vengeful persecution. Freed from prison after serving hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread, Valjean initially reverts to his old ways, stealing from a Bishop who has tried to help him. But when the Bishop protects him from the law, Valjean decides to reform his ways, eventually becoming a successful factory owner.
posted by strawberryviagra at 7:29 PM on February 22, 2007


Midnight Creeper's post brought a couple of stories to mind:

1) The Usual Suspects, although the hero is being pulled back into crime. What a Godfather 3 rip-off!
2) An episode of South Park in which Butters is called upon to help win a dancing competition but he swore never to dance again, as his dancing had killed in the past. I guess Team America borrowed this idea...
posted by puritycontrol at 10:40 PM on February 22, 2007


High Noon? Casablanca?

And, almost any romantic comedy.
posted by iviken at 6:15 AM on February 23, 2007


The most poignant example I can think of is Michael Tolkin's The Rapture.
posted by zebra3 at 7:55 AM on February 23, 2007


The Fisher King?
posted by slightlybewildered at 8:48 PM on February 24, 2007


I know I'm wicked late to the party, but I have a song that might fit your criteria, and since hearing it made me think of this question a month later I thought I should toss it in there:

The Way Things Are - by Fiona Apple
posted by nelleish at 6:36 AM on March 21, 2007


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