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Lethal Irritation: Rage against the meaningless two-word movie title August 10, 2008

Posted by Cal in : Articles, Humour , trackback

There’s a blight in the world of action movies and for once it’s got nothing to do with the stars, the directors, the product placements, the stunts, the scripts, the choreography, etc.

I’m talking about the proliferation of the meaningless two-word film titles.  It’s hardly a new phenomenon, but because the practice has been going on so long and there are only a finite number of appropriate “tough words” to choose from, it’s getting ever more difficult to sort them out in my brain.  And for a genre often accused of being generic, the last thing we need is generic film titles too.  Not learning from spoof titles like Naked Gun, Loaded Weapon and more recently Hot Fuzz, film executives are still trundling out the two-word monstrosities and there seems to be no end in sight.

According to Amazon.co.uk, there are only five copies left in stock.  BUY BUY BUY!What’s more, the practice has now become more commonplace in Hong Kong when they decide upon on English title for their film.  I know for a fact I’m going to be on some internet forum at some point in the future and there’ll be a discussion on Fatal Contact and I’m going to say, “yeah, good film, one of Ringo Lam’s best” and someone will gently point out that that film was Full Contact while making a vulgar hand gesture into their monitor.  And I can hardly wait for the Fatal Contact discussion: “hopeless film,” I’ll probably say, “CGI blood and Sammo was completely wasted,” while someone corrects me that the film I’m talking about is Fatal Move.  See what I mean?  All I need is someone to come up with a film called Full Move and I’ll be completely screwed.  I had enough trouble in a recent post getting Island of Fire (about a prison) mixed up with Prison on Fire (also about a prison, I’ll admit) and that’s got three words.


'SPL' becomes 'Kill Zone' - shit on it.As we’ve seen with SPL: Sha Po Lang (good title when you hear the explanation at the start of the film) being turned into Kill Zone for its US release, someone somewhere obviously thinks the two-word title sells, especially if it’s got absolutely bugger all to do with the film in question.  I think it might be something to do with the trailers we’ve been force fed for so long.  Imagine the Voice of God coming up with this for my upcoming masterpiece Fatal Termination:

“Bruce Chow is Jim Wu [action shot of actor with gun], a cop who plays by his own rules.  He’ll do whatever it takes to bring to justice the government agency that left his nephew severely colour-blind [shot of sickly young kid in a wheelchair].  By any means he can [explosion].  A deadly secret [shot of actor in stealth mode].  A beautiful girl [starlet tosses her hair in front of another explosion].  A rookie partner from Greenland [Wu shouting at the Superintendent: “I don’t have time to train no wet-behind-the-ears Eskimo!”].  The roughest justice imaginable [more action shots and a few more explosions just to establish we’re not into Merchant Ivory territory].  From the deadly shores of Hong Kong [night shot of city: traditional oriental music plays over the top] to the frozen wastes of the north…to the sprawl of New York [Inuit sidekick: “man, it’s colder here than back home!”]. [Music swells and then silence] Fatal Termination [credits flash impossibly fast on screen.  Then blackness].”

Everything about this package screams qualityIt can’t just be me that’s getting irritated and confused by these two-word shenanigans, but just to make sure, I’ve collected a bunch of the best (i.e. worst) together with some old favourites.  The twist is, I’ve added a few creations of my own – mainly by just mixing the other titles up a bit.  Some are obscure Hong Kong movies, some are well known, while some are your typical straight-to-video Seagal/Van Damme efforts.  Can you tell which are the real titles and which are the bogus ones?

Flash Point

Extreme Challenge

Dragon Target

Full Contact

Renegade Force

Lethal Weapon

Fatal Move

Final Alert

Attack Force

Kill Shot

Fatal Contact

Maximum Weapon

Lethal Termination

Ballistic Kiss

Fatal Decision

Sudden Death

Terminal Velocity

Final Death

Black Eagle

Flash Shot

Dragon Heat

Hard Target

Attack Point

Sudden Target

Renegade Justice

First Risk

Full Alert

Dragon Weapon

Kill Zone

Final Decision

Body Weapon

Hot War

Excessive Force

Renegade Vacation

Terminal Invasion

Sudden Impact

Extreme Decision

Maximum Risk

Fatal Vacation

Excessive Heat

Final Justice

First Shot

Executive Decision

First Strike

Full Move

Moving Targets

As far as I know, there are twenty-eight genuine titles in amongst that lot.  Happy hunting.

The films rights to Fatal Termination are still available.


1. paulwjm - August 10, 2008

Even better, you could come up with one of those auto-generators where the computer will work out an appropriate title for budding action movie makers! This will eliminate the need for either thought or articulacy (not that either was apparently already in great supply given the cases you mention above)…

(P.S. by the way, where can I rent Attack Force?)

2. Cal - August 10, 2008

I’m sure they DO use computers to come up with this crap now, but in the olden days I think they used a dartboard and just threw darts at a board marked with words like “lethal” and “fatal” and whatever.

Yeah, Attack Force sounds pretty cool, but did you read the tagline of “Urban Jungle”? It says “When revenge is personal, justice can be brutal”. Original and catchy…!

3. paulwjm - August 11, 2008

“When revenge is personal, justice can be brutal”…

Yeah I know the feeling: On several occasions I’ve kicked student ass in a pretty hard manner when I found out they’d nicked a paragraph from an essay I’d worked particularly long hours on. They steal my eloquent words they face my karate wrath (getting any good ideas for a movie here, Van Damme?)…

4. Cal - August 12, 2008

Actually, I think movie tag-lines will be next in my “rage” series. You know, stuff like: “He isn’t one of the best - he IS the best!” and: “There is no escape”…

I think there’s a lot of material there. I’ll start collecting now!

5. paulwjm - August 13, 2008

Bloody hell, they even used ‘There is no escape’ on the original 28 Weeks Later poster campaign - I was ashamed, I mean, talk about lack of imagination.

Sounds like the beginnings of a good article there.

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