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5 Badass Action Movie Dads Who’ll Do Anything For Their Family

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The stereotypical movie father’s job is to solve problems and offer advice. But actions speak louder than words, which means they get to do both with guns and high explosives. The only way action movie heroes could be more fatherly is if they helped you put up some shelves. Which they would do by throwing them at a terrorist kidnapper’s helicopter and then firing a rocket launcher at precisely the right angle.

But what wisdom can our most action-packed pops offer the rest of us this Father’s Day? And in what situations would they shine? Check out some of the best advice from action movie dads.

5. John McClane, Die Hard

Die Hard‘s John McClane is the ultimate action hero father. In that he’s awesomely cool for a couple of hours, but if you actually had to deal with him every day he’d drive you insane. Which is in fact his entire family history between all his movies. He’s become the poster man for tough father figures despite achieving about six hours of competent fathering over 37 years.

He’s the ultimate example of the father consumed by his work, and not even the cool evil financial work which would let his family ignore him in a mansion. “Kicking terrorist ass on a beat cop’s salary” isn’t heroic — it’s how the government saves millions of dollars on properly trained SWAT teams. But still, he starred in Die Hard. And that means he must be doing something right. And as he said in A Good Day to Die Hard:

John McClane: The shit we do for our kids. Yippie-kai-yay, motherfucker.

And that’s it right there. He might be the biggest screw-up on the force, he might have been separated, divorced, and disowned for most of his adult life, but no matter how badly he’s been treated he’ll still do everything for his children. Because that’s what fathers do.

He even appeared in A Good Day to Die Hard just to save his son. Forget risking his life. Action heroes do that every day. John McClane ruined his own action franchise for one of his kids, in a doomed attempt to turn Jai Courtney into a believable action star. That’s true self-sacrifice.


4. Bryan Mills, Taken

The name “Bryan Mills” is the most redundant writing in history as it assumes a world where people don’t just say “Liam Neeson.” In fact, since it depends on underestimating the action powers of Liam Neeson, the name should count itself lucky Liam didn’t somehow rip it off himself and electrocute it.

Retired CIA agent Mills makes John McClane look like father of the year, because John at least spent some of his movies still married to his wife. Bryan Mills isn’t a great father or husband in the same way the Death Star wasn’t a great weather satellite: it didn’t actually do that, and then managed to get most of what it was meant to look after destroyed anyway. After rescuing his daughter in the first movie he manages to get his family multiply kidnapped and partly killed.

Listen, we could pretend the quote from this movie would be anything else, but that would be a waste of everyone’s time. So you’re at the door, about to head to the prom with Bryan’s daughter, and this happens:

Bryan Mills: But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

He has a particular set of skills, and his family uses them like a cordless drill: they only bring him out when they need something completely screwed, and for the rest of the time they leave him alone. He’s the ultimate end point of being called to open some stubborn jars. It’s just his jars have machine guns. Other fathers get to help their kids move house, or put up shelves. John just annihilates murderers, and gets exactly the same amount of praise. And probably one of those recent crummy Bob Dylan albums on CD for Father’s Day.


3. Harry Tasker, True Lies

Harry Tasker is the top action-father on the list so far because he hasn’t lost his family. Yet. But he’s clearly on the way. There’s just something about defusing nuclear warheads for a living which makes it hard to leave work early for a birthday party. It’s the most awful pressure he can put his family under, because he has the best possible reason for acting like his job as a computer salesman for Tektel systems is a matter of life-and-death. But he can’t tell them that that’s actually the case.

Harry Tasker’s lesson is the simplest possible one: tell the truth. And as always in action movies, the simplest task can sometimes seem like it’s become the most difficult job in the world. But any action movie will tell you that the longer you complicate things with cover stories the more likely everything is to explode in your face. Secret agents get away with slick routines because they can drop everything and run for it inside 90 minutes. Most modern marriages last a bit longer than that. But Harry and Helen Tasker’s marriage only strengthens under stress.

Harry Tasker: Ask me a question I would normally lie to.

Helen Tasker: Are we gonna die?

Harry: Yep!

Helen: I’d say it’s working.

Harry: They’re gonna shoot us in the head or they gonna torture us to death or they gonna leave us here when the bomb blows up…

Helen: Harry!

He tells her they’re going to die in awful ways, and it’s still the start of their relationship’s recovery because he’s finally telling the truth. Making Harry the first man ever to go out and get blasted with chemicals with a bunch of guys and have it help his marriage.


2. Big Chris, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Big Chris spends his movie looking out for his son, Little Chris, and while he might not be the most original father in the world he’s still excellent at it. This combination of work and family life might be a little unconventional, especially when your work is debt collection for a man named “Hatchet Harry,” but the results are undeniable.

He’s found a way to spend time with his child, make sure he exercises, teach him valuable work skills — gathering all the money means Little Chris is probably better at math than most adults — and even insist on moral standards such as never swearing and never working for free. Which puts Little Chris ahead of most people on the Internet already.

Big Chris: All right, son: roll them guns up, count the money, and put your seat belt on.

That’s just good parenting: two parts of good safety advice to one part mathematics practice. Of course there are going to be some challenges when you combine your crèche with gangland intimidation. For one thing, the language gets a little salty.

Things come to a head when psychotic thief Dog takes Little Chris hostage, and that head is Dog’s head being slammed in a car door until it stops working. Which is when Big Chris’s daily insistence on basic safety tips like always wearing your seat belt pays off. True, seat belts usually save you from accidents, not from deliberately crashing your own car to stun a knife-wielding robber, but the fact is that Big Chris was still a better father while beating another man to death than every asshole you see letting their kids clamber around the back seat.


1. John Matrix, Commando

Yes, Schwarzenegger is on here twice, but any action hero list that doesn’t have at least two Schwarzneggers is badly miscalibrated. John Matrix is the ur-action hero, the alpha Schwarzenegger, the simplest possible action star whose single dimension is an endless strip of one-liners, and he’s also the greatest father in action movie history.

Think about it. Why is his daughter Jenny kidnapped? Because he’d retired from special forces work, and actively refused to return for one last job. He already had the action hero lifestyle, and he quit it to spend the rest of his life being a family man instead. Other allegedly heroic fathers quit their dangerous jobs at the end of the movie. He’d already done it before the movie even started, but was simply so good at action the villains actively came to force him to kill their asses. It’s the action analogy of a man giving up the guy life for family life, and his ex-buddies who turn out to be assholes futilely try to pressure him back into the old days.

Not to mention the guy is a font of fatherly advice. He knows the importance of a good breakfast…

John Matrix: I eat Green Berets for breakfast…and right now I’m very hungry!

Getting proper rest…

John Matrix: Do me a favor. Don’t disturb my friend. He’s dead tired.

He’s always available to offer a science lesson…

John Matrix: Loyalty is very touching. But it is not the most important thing in your life right now! But what IS important is gravity!

And, finally, when his daughter is threatened, he’s quick to respond…

Sully: Here, have some beers in Val Verde, Matrix. It’ll give everyone a little more time with your daughter.
Henriques: Heh.
Matrix: You’re a funny guy Sully, I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, whether they’re toting machine guns or golf clubs.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.