The greatest thing about living in a free country is that, in terms or employment, you don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way if you don’t want to. If you’re the type who prefers cosy routines, reassuring comfort zones and familiar chairs then you can get a get a nice job in an office or something, safe in the knowledge that the most peril you’ll encounter is the threat of a nasty papercut or – at worst – a petty feud brought on by someone who doesn’t understand that the use of someone else’s mug is tantamount to a declaration of war.
Those who like a bit of danger on the other hand – those people good at running, jumping, swearing aggressively, that sort of thing – are free to busy themselves with occupations that allow them to do these things freely. Army, rugby player, bodyguard, policeman/woman, criminal, etc. It’s a system that works.
In the movies, though, it’s different. Having watched 30 Minutes Or Less, however, I can confirm that Jesse Eisenberg plays a slacker pizza delivery boy who – despite the fact he’s clearly made his choice of an easy, danger-free life – finds himself kidnapped, has a bomb strapped to his chest and is forced to rob a bank.
Similar cases of some jobs being less safe than they may appear are common in cinema, and here’s a few other cinematic professions that seem to give people a lot more than they signed on for.
If you’re after an easy life, you might want to give these a miss:Novelist
Surely the most effective way to limit the dangers to which you’ll be exposed on a day-to-day basis is to pick an occupation which involves you staying at home, alone, for large periods of time, possibly in your pants. Unfortunately for Paul Sheldon (James Caan) in Misery, this admirably logical tack wasn’t entirely successful. While driving, Sheldon’s caught in a blizzard and veers off the road, only to find himself ‘rescued’ by Kathy Bates’ number one fan Annie Wilkes.
Wilkes goes on to force Sheldon to write a book for her, resurrecting her favourite character from his novels, before eventually taking a sledgehammer to his ankles to ensure he can’t escape. Ouchy.
For writers, it seems, the threat of outer psychopathy is equalled only by that of inner psychopathy – something demonstrated perfectly by Jack Nicholson’s “All work and no play…” mantra and wannabe-familicidal tomfoolery in The Shining.
It should be noted, however, that both of these writers did only come a cropper because they made the mistake of leaving the house. There’s a lesson here.
Anyone familiar with Channel 4’s Time Team will be only too aware that archaeology generally involves little more than extended periods of mud-standing, bone-brushing and beard-growage. It’s an occupation to explore if you’re a fan of woollen clothing and only having to associate with people who are unlikely to threaten you, on account of them being, for the most part, very dead indeed.
Yet Indiana Jones – a professor of archaeology – manages to get himself into mortal bother on an alarmingly regular basis. Sure, he believes that, to be a good archaeologist, one has to ‘get out of the library’, yet most would probably opt for a nice museum over a pit of snakes or the gaping maw of a bottomless abyss.
Whether Jones ever thought archaeology was a sedate, dusty old profession isn’t clear (and The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles suggests that he was a troublecausing little shit from an early age), yet he does show that those with an aversion to life-or-death situations may want to look elsewhere.
Rail Control Operator
Being a train driver is one thing, what with all the levers, decisions, responsibility and such, but you wouldn’t think there’s be too much danger involved in sitting in an air-conditioned control room with a radio, doing little more than blathering to the drivers at the other end.
In Tony Scott’s The Taking Of Pelham 123, a remake of the (superior) 1974 original, Walter Garber’s (Denzel Washington) notions of a quiet day of the office are dashed by the establishment of an on-air rapport with John Travolta’s preposterous criminal ‘Ryder’, who decides to hold the titular train’s passengers hostage until the City coughs up a cool $10m.
Washington is then forced to deliver the ransom money to Ryder himself, before besting Travolta in a fairly unimpressive climax that, nevertheless, is probably of a higher level of danger than is stipulated in Garber’s job description. A matter for the union, wethinks.
It’s difficult to envisage a scenario whereby any harm could come to a humble flora-fiddler, yet this apparent occupational benevolence merely disguises dangers more insidious and horrific than anyone could imagine. Little Shop Of Horrors’ Seymour Krelborn is the unassuming florist who finds this out the hard way. He innocently discovers and nurtures a new type of plant, only to discover that the plant in question is, in fact, an alien (or, in Audrey II’s words, a ‘mean green mutha from outer space!’) with a taste for human blood.
In Seymour’s defence, anyone who saw that in their tea leaves would probably think it was a typo; yet, several gruesome deaths were involved, and we all learned the valuable lesson that plants, just as much as animals, are wankers. Knowing what we know now, it’s quite possible that David Bellamy is, in fact, the bravest, most bad-ass adrenaline-junkie who’s ever lived. Although, alternatively, perhaps he still isn’t.
The best way of ensuring one’s job security is to be irreplaceable, and since the advent of the ubiquity of computers it’s generally been those individuals savvy in these emerging technologies that have thrived. A cushy office. Lots of cash. Almost no chance whatsoever of being eaten by a dinosaur or perishing in a huge explosion. It’s a snug, smug existence.
But Jurassic Park and GoldenEye showed us that the problem with being irreplaceable is hubris. This is, after all, what led to the downfall of Dennis Nedry and Boris Grishenko. So, if you humbly use your techno-wizardry for altruistic purposes you’ll probably be fine, reclining in the splendour of expensive office chairs, surrounded by Coke cans and empty crisp packets. Cross the line into arrogance, however, and what was once a brilliantly risk-free line of work becomes a death sentence of inevitable comeuppance.
Most cabbies remain safely ensconced in the cosy glass cocoon of the Hackney cab, their only emergence the thrusting, through a tiny hatch, of a gnarled and ungainly paw, into which we put more of our money than feels appropriate for the levels of service and racism received.
There’s no way they’d continue to charge what they do if they thought there was the slightest chance anyone would be able to inflict harm upon them, and beyond the odd drunkard howling chunks in the back and legging it without paying, physical peril seems unlikely. After all, any nonsense outside and your rolling den becomes a blunt and formidable weapon.
In Collateral, Michael Mann’s frosty 2004 thriller, Jamie Foxx’s cabbie operates under similar illusions of safety, until he picks up Tom Cruise’s hitman Vincent and is forced to become complicit in a series of murders, taking out a number of key witnesses in a high-profile trial. But in Vincent’s defence, he did tip.
Museum Security Guard
This cowardly writer once actually worked as a security guard, and so can confirm that the vast majority of one’s time on the job is spent either sleeping, reading, eating, or trying to decide which of these three things it would be most pleasant to do next. Nothing of note ever happens; effective security systems are in place, doors are securely locked, and your presence is merely for insurance purposes.
It’s a boring, yet very safe, way to spend your time. All security guards know this, which is what makes the events that befall Ben Stiller in the Night At The Museum films all the more galling. After all, what could be worse than having your 3am snooze interrupted by a T-Rex? Having it interrupted by Ricky Gervais and Robin Williams, that’s what.
Surely the cushiest, most risk-averse job of all is that of the actor; if you’re worth that much money, it’s other people’s actual job to make sure you don’t come to harm. You can dangle from tall buildings or train as a boxer if you like, but, when asked if you’d like to do these things, you can also tell the person asking you to go away before having them fired and, possibly, killed.
Galaxy Quest’s sci-fi luminaries make a pleasant living on the convention circuit, blissfully unaware that broadcasts of their show have been picked up by a race of extraterrestrial dolts who believe these broadcasts to be factual records.
The Galaxy Quest cast are then enlisted, under duress, to fight in an interstellar war. Once again, there is no way they could have seen that coming, and one must sympathise. While swooning at Sigourney Weaver, obviously.Priest
Being ‘of the cloth’, in theory, should be as safe as houses: dole out some vague platitudes to a murmuring and affirmative congregation; offer a bit of advice and forgiveness when needed; generally be nice to as many people as possible. Cinema has proven, however, that if you take up a position in the Church there’s a 63.2 per cent chance that you’ll be dealing with either the Devil or one of his minions of unspeakable bastardry by the end of your second day. And statistics do not lie.
Look at the evidence: The Exorcist, The Rite, The Last Exorcism, End Of Days, Stigmata, the list goes on, and yet vicars – in this country, at least – remain synonymous with village fetes, floppy arms and weak cups of tea. If you value your soul as well as your life, avoid the priesthood at any cost.
Of course, even having a job at all is optional, and for those who opt for the ‘stay at home and smoke marijuana’ lifestyle, it’s sad to report that even this has its pitfalls.
In The Big Lebowski, the Dude is merely minding his own business until a case of mistaken identity leads a trio of inept German gangsters to his door, one of which shares a terrifying resemblance to Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Worse: they threaten to cut off the Dude’s Johnson and throw wriggly beasts into his bath. Similarly, in Friday, Ice Cube has been out of work for a matter of hours before he’s dodging homicidal drug dealers and monolithic neighbourhood bullies.
When even the workshy aren’t safe, you know society is truly on its arse.
30 Minutes Or Less is out on DVD and Blu-ray on the 23rd January.