Kevin: If you are a fan of action movies, you have to suspend your disbelief at times regarding what your favorite heroes are capable of, whether it’s surviving multiple gunshots, taking numerous blows to the head without any neurological damage, or finding Michelle Rodriguez attractive. But one ability I have never been able to buy into is the ease at which your average action star can smash their hand through thick glass without any visible pain or injury.
Maybe I am biased since I once did just that many years ago during a drunken frat party, which resulted in multiple stitches and temporary numbness in my fingers due to nerve damage. So yeah, I can attest from experience that doing something like that is both difficult and dangerous, but you wouldn’t know that based on a typical ‘80s action movie, which makes breaking a car windshield with your fist look as easy and painless as cracking a walnut. Perhaps this trend began with “The Terminator,” which at least makes this scenario somewhat plausible by having it done not just by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but a super strong cyborg Arnold to boot (3:30 mark):
However, their distinct lack of robotness didn’t stop future action stars from trying this maneuver themselves, including Carl Weathers as “Action Jackson,” who is so annoyed at being shot at while clinging to the roof of a cab that he puts his hand through the windshield and causes it to completely shatter (1:43 mark, foreign dub):
Apparently Steven Seagal was so impressed he pulled a similar trick in “Above the Law,” this time causing the passenger-side window to shatter with just one blow from his mighty fist, again while clinging to the roof of a car (2:20 mark):
Now like many action tropes from back then, the “hand through the car window” move largely took a breather as we got closer to the new millennium, although it did pop up occasionally in films like “2 Fast 2 Furious,” which tries to make the idea that Tyrese could punch out a driver’s-side window much more plausible by having him wrap his fist with his shirt first (1:00 mark):
Even Tom Cruise tried to get in on the action a few decades too late in “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back,” this time using a small salt shaker and the force of his pure Cruise-itude to shatter the window of a car belonging to some low-level thugs (:24 mark):
Now whether they used a salt shaker, a shirt, or just their bare fists, none of these heroes ever suffered any negative repercussions from this. No bleeding, no broken bones, not even a shot later of them rubbing their fist and saying, “Man, that kind of hurt, maybe I should put some ice on this.” At least that is until Vince Vaughn in “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” which may not be up for any Oscars this weekend, but at least deserves some praise for finally giving us a somewhat accurate depiction of what destroying a window with your bare hands would entail.
Actually as CJ and I said in our review of the film last year, there is quite a bit to recommend “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” including a very committed performance by Vaughn as a former con who falls into drug running to provide a better life for his wife and unborn child. Like director S. Craig Zahler’s previous “Bone Tomahawk,” the film is a slow burn that eventually leads to some of the most horrific violence in a mainstream film in ages, with Vaughn demonstrating a conflict-resolution strategy that mainly involves stomping people’s faces in with his shoe.
Before that though he starts the film by focusing his rage on his wife’s car after he discovers she’s been having an affair, but based on what we see him do to the unfortunate inhabitants of the titular cell block 99 by the end, the car should consider itself lucky here. Either way, the following clip shows us something we have never seen before, the hero of the movie having to actually exert some effort into breaking a car window, and winding up with a fistful of glass and blood for his troubles:
I’d say don’t try that at home, but since few of us are as huge as Vince Vaughn I don’t think that’s an issue. Either way, Vaughn has provided a valuable service in showing us that this kind of thing should only be done by trained professionals, or failing that, a shirtless Tyrese.