Greatest Gunfight (While Holding a Baby) [Think Tank]

Potemkin Redux. And Redux. And Redux.

Today, we enter the Think Tank to do battle with guns while holding a baby. Read the entries and vote for your favorite at the end.

Sheely, Battleship Potemkin and The Untouchables

The greatest gunfight (while holding a baby) is actually one in which no one is holding the baby:

Although the famous Odessa Steps scene in Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin is considered a cinematic milestone largely because of Eisenstein’s groundbreaking use of montage techniques, it also deserves special mention for being the first baby-centric-gunfight in the history of film. Of course, to call the (possibly fictional) confrontation between the Tsar’s Cossak troops and the crowd that had gathered for a demonstration on the Odessa steps a “gunfight” is also a misnomer. Rather, the central point of Eisenstein’s depiction of the event is that the soldiers provoked the riot by using deadly force to disperse a peaceful demonstration. As the baby carriage hurtles down the stairs, it is impossible to doubt that this is a regime is willing to pull guns when the citizens challenge its legitimacy at all — because that’s the Odessa way.

If this scene looks eerily familiar, but you aren’t a connoisseur of Soviet propaganda films (or have never taken an intro film studies class), that is probably because a stroller rolling down the stairs is central to another famous filmic gunfight…

Given that I already broke the rules by choosing a gunfight in which no one is holding a baby, why push my luck by picking not one but two scenes? Because Brian De Palma’s famous train station gunfight in The Untouchables is no mere homage; it features a nearly identical situation, but produces the exact opposite meaning. Whereas the role of the baby in Potemkin was to draw attention the unhinged brutality of the Russian government, the presence of the stroller in the shootout in The Untouchables tells us that although Capone’s thugs will willingly endanger a child, the government agents have the restraint necessary to both immobilize the criminals while still ensuring the safety of the child.

Taken together, these two scenes demonstrate the janus-faced nature of the coercive capacity of the state, and the power of this comparison rests on the common element in the two scenes-the helpless baby in a stroller. What these gunfights reveal is that we are all just innocents sliding inexorably to our doom, waiting for Andy Garcia and Kevin Costner to save us at the last possible moment.

8 Comments on “Greatest Gunfight (While Holding a Baby) [Think Tank]”

  1. Jonathan #

    Willow is just….inspired! If only fenzel could have shoehorned Madmartigan, the single greatest swordsman ever, into his post…


  2. Darin #

    German Hard Boiled, that’s got to be best breakfast ever!

    I went with Children of Men. It’s got tank shells going through walls with a baby involved. Tank shells beat deconstructionist faux reality TV shows by about 146mm (155mm tank minus the 9mm Beretta she’s using).


  3. perich OTI Staff #

    It’s a little ridiculous how few of these gunfights actually involve shooters holding babies.


  4. adaam93 #

    Children of Men. Because A) the baby is relevant to the story, B) the battle is one of the most intense I’ve ever seen in cinema, and C) long-takes are uber-cool.


  5. fenzel #

    Wow, I’ve seen _The Contenders_! Years ago, late at night on HBO.

    That is one low-budget movie with some low rent production values, but you can tell it was a labor of love.

    And sorry Jonathan, while I was typing my post Madmartigan was busy outside fighting the giant troll/dragon monster.


  6. dave #

    Hardboiled ahs a pretty intense gunfight while holding a baby, and it takes place inside of a hospital.


  7. Gab #

    If only there had been a baby involved in _Unforgiven_, since that is, indeed, my favorite western.

    Alack, alas, ’tis not the case. I went with _Children of Men_, too.


  8. babybiceps #

    Immediately thought of Lek (Leak) a Dutch crime movie from 2000. Devoted father and drug dealer Jack shoots his way out of an ambush strapped with his 8-month old kid in a frontal carrier bag.

    Actor got the highest Dutch acting performance award for the role.


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