You Speak Valyrian?
April 27, 2013 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Last week's Game of Thrones was fantastic and reminded me that one of my favorite kinds of scenes in film and television is a scene I like to call the You Have Chosen the Absolute Wrong Person to Fuck With scene. The basic setup is that a character feels entirely positive they have another character under their thumb only to have a moment of panic and terror as they realize precisely the opposite to be true. Can you name terrific examples of this?

A classic example in film would be the "If he asks us to stay, we'll go," scene from Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. A tv example I greatly enjoyed was in the final season of Lost in one of the parallel universe scenes, when Keamy is trying to put the squeeze on Sayid for Sayid's brother's debt.

What are some more terrific examples of this trope in film and television?
posted by DirtyOldTown to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Black Widow's opening scene and her interview with Loki in The Avengers are absolutely prime examples of this. (That twist is... basically her superpower.)

Also, see: the entirety of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:22 PM on April 27, 2013 [8 favorites]

The ending of The Usual Suspects comes to mind.
posted by cabingirl at 5:25 PM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd explore TVTropes. For example Oh, Crap sounds like it's in the ballpark.
posted by shivohum at 5:30 PM on April 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh man, I also love this trope. House of Cards does this basically every episode; there's a great example at the end of Ch.6. It happens a lot with George Smiley, too.
posted by you're a kitty! at 5:44 PM on April 27, 2013

A true guilty pleasure of mine, Pitch Black, has an alien attack Vin Diesel's character Riddick. Riddick does some fast business with a knife and calmly states "Didn't know who it was fucking with."

Not a genre you asked for, but in the videogame Xenogears, three mechs you control as the player are fighting an obscenely powerful mech. You get saved at the last minute when your pirate friend drops a warship on him. As the heroes yuck it up, the ship suddenly starts rising. The pilot of the powerful mech says "That's cheating. Take it back."

In Kill Bill, the Bride has one of these encounters with Buck.

24 is basically built around the wrong people fucking with Jack Bauer.

The Prestige does this very nicely in the reveal at the end, albeit people don't get physically destroyed -- they get plotted into destruction.

This trope shows up commonly in stuff I watch, so I may be back with more.
posted by bfranklin at 5:45 PM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I instantly thought of Return of the Jedi, where Luke allows Jabba to take him prisoner. He even warns Jabba several times that he is a full Jedi and it would be better for Jabba to let him go peacefully.

Tangent: I love GoT but that was a complete "no sale" to me on how that trader could be dumb enough to sell EVERY LAST ONE of his army of soldiers who are 100% loyal to their owner, leaving his city utterly defenseless. I get that he underestimated her as a female foreigner, but no, still no sale. Even if she hadn't done it, anyone else could have wandered in and sacked the city.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:51 PM on April 27, 2013

"Clever girl."
posted by furiousthought at 5:54 PM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

You have seen The Princess Bride already, I trust?
posted by estlin at 5:56 PM on April 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

Definitely the scene toward the end of Unforgiven in the saloon. The setup: Clint Eastwood walks into a saloon full of people who are actively discussing hunting him down and killing him. He gives a speech that I won't even attempt to paraphrase, because I wouldn't do it justice, but it clearly indicates to everyone in that room that even though he is alone against a posse of armed frontierspeople anyone who gets in his way is going to die. Chills.
posted by Krazor at 5:58 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the "never bring a sword to a gunfight" moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark fits most of this description, except for the person who initially believed themselves to have the advantage having a moment of terror.
posted by LionIndex at 6:04 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The scene in The Book of Eli when Denzel Washington slams the cat owner's head on the bar.

Crocodile Dundee - That's not a knife (warning: kind of cheesy)

Every Bruce Lee scene not involving Chuck Norris or Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

The Bourne Identity - Park scene.

Watchmen - The prison cafeteria scene when some con starts fucking with Rorschach.
posted by Bokmakierie at 6:04 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The death of Sean Connery's character in The Untouchables is a pretty epic example of this trope.
posted by wabbittwax at 6:16 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Django Unchained is filled with moments like this. I can think of at least three scenes where this happens.

The Karate Kid scene where Mr. Miyagi first reveals his abilities.

The first Terminator movie where Arnold shows up from the future naked and the street gang thinks that they'll give him a hard time.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:24 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Joker; pencil.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:28 PM on April 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Equilibrium's first gun kata scene is basically an example of this trope.

In the novel Snow Crash, the protagonist is half black and carries a katana. A japanese man takes offense to him having a katana and challenges him to a duel in the metaverse. There's a great description of how the man, a few seconds later, is staring blankly at the high score list wondering what happened as he's ejected from the metaverse. Guess who was the high score?

While campy as hell, the beginning of Army of Darkness fits this trope. After defeating a monster, the local lord raises his sword to challenge Ash, which prompts the infamous "This is my BOOMSTICK!"

The Dragonball anime series has a ton of this where random baddies get hit by massive energy attacks and are untouched. And then proceed to destroy the heroes.

The Crow lives on this trope, viz. the scene with fun boy.

For a real life example, I give you the exploits of Brian Chontosh of the marine corp:

While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.

They certainly fucked with the wrong marine.
posted by bfranklin at 6:32 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The movie Law Abiding Citizen has this as pretty much its entire premise.
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:34 PM on April 27, 2013

• Ooh, the Gina Davis vehicle "Long Kiss Goodnight" is all about this. (WARNING: wonderful, mildly cheesy.) She has amnesia so it's a surprise even to herself.

• Hmm, a similar feeling is given by the wonderful Linda Fiorentino vehicle "The Last Seduction," but is not a perfect example.

• Basically every other episode of "Alias."

PS I love "Riddick." :)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:40 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, also there's a great scene in Dollhouse where the helpless girlfriend turns out to be a sleeper assassin. So, basically all of Joss Whedon's work, is what I'm saying.

This is also a great recent news article along those lines.
posted by restless_nomad at 6:42 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Lucky Number Slevin is this.
posted by logicpunk at 6:46 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Serenity- The Operative's reaction when he sees the Reaver fleet pass through the magnetic storm.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:56 PM on April 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

The cafe scene in A History of Violence fits.
posted by experiencing a significant gravitas shortfall at 7:03 PM on April 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

A lot of Burn Notice has this. From both the good and bad side.
posted by buttercup at 7:07 PM on April 27, 2013

Please see the Prophet.
posted by beccaj at 7:40 PM on April 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

A Prophet, but definitely see it.
posted by clockwork at 7:48 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are so many but I'll stick with the first one that popped into my head.

In Angel (the spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) one of the series-long adversaries was Wolfram and Hart, a interdimensional cabal of Demons commonally called "the senior partners". They had a liason named Marcus Hamilton to deal with Angel, the vampire with a soul.

In the series finale, Marcus was kicking Angel's ass easily. He was beating Angel like a ragdoll. Angel didn't understand this because Marcus didn't show such power previously. Shortly before Angel would have been killed, Marcus couldn't resist bragging/boasting.

Marcus went on about how the the strength of the Senior Partners, the demons, the Wolf, Ram, and Hart flowed through his veins and as such he was unbeatable.

Angel face went from defeat to a smirk. He said something to the effect of "As I am a vampire, which word do you think you shouldn't have said". Angel then fed on him and that was that.
posted by 2manyusernames at 7:51 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Good Wife has a surprising number of these scenes. Archie Panjabi is frequently the person you should not have fucked with, but there was a brilliant bit in a recent episode where Chris Noth was the person in question.

Farscape uses this trope to hilarious effect in the episode "Crackers Don't Matter." ("Humans are...SUPERIOR!") However, that is not an episode that stands on its own very well. Sure not the only episode where that happens, though.

The TV show Stargate Atlantis had a two parter: "The Storm / The Eye" that has this trope in a big way. Basically "Die Hard on an Ocean Station." Two of the best episodes of the series and can be viewed independently of the series.

Speaking of Stargate, there were a lot of episodes of SG-1 that had this trope. The two parter Reckoning had some scenes with Daniel Jackson and Replicarter that embodied this.

"Freeway" starring Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland is built around this trope. It is essentially a modern, gritty Red Riding Hood.

This also appears repeatedly in the movie Formula 51 (51st State in the UK); Samuel L. Jackson is The Guy You Should Not Have Messed With in the scene with the skinheads (and it's HILARIOUS, one of my favorite scenes of all time). And, well, in lots of other scenes. Robert Carlysle and Emily Mortimer also have scenes of this and the first scene is also an example of it, though not in the most happy way imaginable. One of my favorite underrated action movies of all time.

Warren Ellis's novel "Crooked Little Vein"'s climactic scene is a great example of this trope.

And hey, you could argue Shakespeare did it first in Macbeth (as under_petticoat_rule just pointed out to me).
posted by rednikki at 8:05 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Jackie Earle Haley as Guerrero in the Fox series Human Target. (I adored season 1, but then they retooled it all to hell in season 2). His first scene is exactly what you're talking about.
posted by oh yeah! at 8:23 PM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

"You fool! No man can kill me!"

"I am no man."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:24 PM on April 27, 2013 [13 favorites]

The You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With trope seems more on point than just Oh Crap.

I love Pitch Black. I found myself quoting it to a co-worker the other day: "You know that scene where Riddick says "…MOVE!!!" 'Cause that's what I'm thinking right now." She laughed.
posted by Lexica at 8:48 PM on April 27, 2013

Pretty much every episode of Leverage, ESPECIALLY the premiere and any episode with Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard, you may recognize him from every other tv show).
posted by magnetsphere at 8:54 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Despair thy charm,
And let the angel whom thou still hast served
Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother’s womb
Untimely ripped.

Also, on Doctor Who the Doctor does this constantly.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:05 PM on April 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Harry Potter's final battle with Voldemort, in which he plays dead before a dramatic reveal.

A lot of Spartacus scenes, but especially the moment when Crixus and Spartacus first work together and rebel against their masters.

This also happens in Supernatural a lot. There was a recent episode that started with two teenagers making out in a car and the monster of the week attacks them, but then it's revealed that the teenagers are hunters who had laid a trap when they break out swords and kill the monster.
posted by Nickel at 10:25 PM on April 27, 2013

The movie Hard Candy is a perfect example of this. Ellen Page rocks!
posted by peppermind at 10:33 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

At the beginning of one episode of Jekyll, we are treated to a montage of Mr. Carver, a skilled, disciplined, deadly mercenary being brought on board to be the conspiracy's ultimate weapon if they lose control of the title character.

From his initial hire through months of intel and physical training, we see that he's been studying and planning his expected confrontation of Jekyll. He's been present but hidden throughout the major events of the miniseries. He's the belt-buckle derringer, the ace in the hole, the card up the collective sleeve of the conspiracy. Mr. Carver is a gun with safety off, ready to kill when his trigger is pulled.

During a rooftop confrontation, one of the baddies lets Carver off the leash, and we the viewers know that even a wild, clever sociopath like Jekyll can't talk or fight his way out of being subdued and neutralized by the proven badass Mr. Carver.

Jekyll looks straight into the baddie's eyes, not even acknowledging Carver, as he effortlessly throws the mercenary off the roof of the conspiracy HQ.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:28 PM on April 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's a great scene along these lines in Watership Down, when the huge General Woundwort realizes he has met his match in Bigwig (Thlayli).

Thlayli had made his way up the run and was crouching immediately below. Blood had matted the great thatch of fur on his head, and one ear, half severed, hung down beside his face. His breathing was slow and heavy.

"You'll find it much harder to push me back from here, General," he said.

With a sort of weary, dull surprise, Woundwort realized that he was afraid. He did not want to attack Thlayli again. He knew, with flinching certainty, that he was not up to it. And who was? he thought. Who could do it? No, they would have to get in by some other way and everyone would know why.

"Thlayli," he said, "we've unblocked a run out here. I can bring in enough rabbits to pull down this wall in four places. Why don't you come out?"

Thlayli's reply, when it came, was low and gasping, but perfectly clear.

"My Chief Rabbit has told me to defend this run and until he says otherwise I shall stay here."

"His Chief Rabbit?" said Vervain, staring.

It had never occurred to Woundwort or any of his officers that Thlayli was not the Chief Rabbit of his warren. Yet what he said carried immediate conviction. He was speaking the truth. And if he was not the Chief Rabbit, then somewhere close by there must be another, stronger rabbit who was. A stronger rabbit than Thlayli. Where was he? What was he doing at this moment?

posted by Alaska Jack at 1:04 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!
posted by mannequito at 1:32 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

The end of The Professional. Most of The Professional, really.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:11 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Michael Clayton - a link to the climax of the spoiler scene, with George Clooney and Tilda Swinton.
posted by queseyo at 6:18 AM on April 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

For a real life example, I give you the exploits of Brian Chontosh of the marine corp:
They certainly fucked with the wrong marine.

This is not really a good example since the Iraqi soldiers did not choose to fuck with Lt Chontosh, rather they were defending their homeland against a superior force who were illegally entering invading their country.
posted by biffa at 6:48 AM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Speaking of ding, ding, ding, the scene where Walt and Tuco Salamanca face off over the money early on in the series of Breaking Bad, and Walt has a trick up his sleeve.

Tangent: I love GoT but that was a complete "no sale" to me on how that trader could be dumb enough to sell EVERY LAST ONE of his army of soldiers who are 100% loyal to their owner, leaving his city utterly defenseless. I get that he underestimated her as a female foreigner, but no, still no sale. Even if she hadn't done it, anyone else could have wandered in and sacked the city.

That was a dumb move, but I think it shows how desperately everyone remembers how dragons could decide the fate of nations before they supposedly went extinct.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

the You Have Chosen the Absolute Wrong Person to Fuck With scene

Just to note that as Machete teaches us, the right name for this is "You Just Fucked With The Wrong Mexican."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:27 AM on April 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Run is a weird and weirdly satisfying little 1991 action movie which is almost nothing but an extended connected sequence of a kind of Taoist variation on this trope, in which a young law student putting himself through school as an auto mechanic breaks down in a small Connecticut town at night while delivering a Porsche to a wealthy customer, gets mistaken by a cabbie for a high roller, wins a poker game with a sore loser thug who accidently kills himself trying to take it out on the kid-- but turns out to be the son of a local mob boss who has the whole town wired, especially the police force-- and the balance of the movie is the series of utter disasters that befall the boss' henchmen and the cops as they try to kill the hero over and over and over again to collect a $50,000 bounty.

In one memorable scene, two dirty cops are trying to run him down in an elevated parking garage, he dodges aside and they break through a barrier to teeter with their front wheels out in space above a sixty foot drop to the street. When he comes up behind the car to put his weight on the rear bumper to keep it from going over, they scream at him to get away from the car, he jerks back, and without his weight, over it goes.

The whole thing develops a Dantesque flavor (enhanced by the dim yet subliminally glowing off-colors of the cinematography) as it careens from one decayed venue of the urban/suburban underworld to another, culminating in a final confrontation at an abandoned-looking dog track in the early hours of the morning.

At the end, an ancillary character surveys a part of the vast wreckage and announces "they messed with the wrong guy."
posted by jamjam at 12:09 PM on April 28, 2013

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been mentioned, but the specific scene this reminded me of is in episode 17 of Season 3 ("Enemies"). Faith and the Mayor have teamed up to remove Angel's soul, turning him evil; in the climactic scene, Faith and the now-evil Angel have captured Buffy. After Faith gloats about her victory--revealing key details of the Mayor's plot in the process--Buffy says "I never knew you had so much rage in you." Faith replies, "What can I say? I'm the world's best actor." Angel, standing behind her, says "Second best," revealing that he had faked his conversion to set her up.
posted by Aquinas at 4:38 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dolly Pardon in 9 to 5: Rooster to a hen with one shot.

True Romance brutal fight scene between Patricia Arquette and James Gandofini

The end of Deathproof (SPOILER for those who haven't seen it).
posted by dog food sugar at 4:50 PM on April 28, 2013

More Buffy-ness:
My immediate first thought in response to the question was the end of "The Zeppo", in which, confronted with an actual ticking time-bomb, the bad guy asks Xander whether he is afraid of death, and Xander replies, "I like the quiet."
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:35 PM on April 28, 2013

Dark Knight Rises had a great example of this between Bane and an arrogant businessman. "Do you feel in charge?"
posted by Rhaomi at 7:55 PM on April 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

This was a (or maybe the) recurring conceit of John Constantine in Hellblazer.
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:00 PM on April 28, 2013

Secondhand Lions. Hub McCann (Robert Duvall) vs. a greaser.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:00 PM on April 29, 2013

"Don't play games with me. You just killed someone I liked - that is not a safe place to stand. I'm the Doctor and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up."
posted by po822000 at 2:05 PM on April 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

po822000: ""Don't play games with me. You just killed someone I liked - that is not a safe place to stand. I'm the Doctor and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look me up. ""

See also: The Doctor telling off the Atraxi.
posted by brundlefly at 4:49 PM on April 30, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd say the central character in Justified (Raylon Givens) fits this to a tee. Through the course of the show, on numerous occasions, has told antagonists not to draw their gun on him, or it will end in their deaths. He hasn't really (as far as I can tell) been proven wrong on that account. Even people with a supposed drop on him end up very, very dead. It's a recurring thing, and one of the better aspects of the show is his steadily growing weariness at the absurdity of the situation.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:55 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

@brundlefly: That is also great. ""
posted by po822000 at 12:59 PM on May 1, 2013

Another way to find that "Oh sh*t you dropped the bomb on me!" reaction could be to google "best manipulative characters" to find works with great puppetmaster characters, like Iago and Keyser Söze.

GoT is full of them, obviously, and TvTropes has a going list of them as does this discussion group on Amazon UK, listing films like The Manchurian Candidate and Oldboy and Glengarry Glen Ross.

Maybe a good area to explore are works with ensemble casts where everybody wants something rare and precious, real or figurative, like HBO's Rome or The Wire, where the manipulation is more insidious and less outrightly badass, but still an emotional sucker punch. Come to think of it, I think this is basically HBO's bread and butter...
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2013

Reading the Ferris Bueller thread reminded me of a fantastically choreographed example: Principal Rooney's phone call. The set-up: Ferris is faking a death in his girlfriend (Sloane Peterson's) family to get her out of school for the day. Rooney suspects it's a trick, and starts fucking with the bereaved "Mr. Peterson," thinking he's finally got Ferris under his thumb... but it turns out Ferris's pal Cameron is the one making the fake phone call, and when Ferris calls on Line 2 the look of absolute terror on Rooney's face is exquisite. The panicked bumbling around afterwards is just gravy.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:41 PM on July 2, 2013

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