Wow, you people are really keen to blow someone away, aren't you? Apparently a lot of you have been thinking about this for years, composing flinty, menacing dialogue for your fantasy shootout sequences. You frighten me deeply. But you also crack me up. From the many hundreds of entries in the fake action-movie one-liner contest, here are a few favorites—and because contests have to have winners, a first prize selected from the short list below. I've identified entrants as they identified themselves in their e-mails, whether by first name, last name, or Fray handle.
Perhaps in tribute to Live Free or Die Hard, which imagines a terror attack waged via the Internet, several readers incorporated new media into their catchphrases. From Demolicious: "Consider this negative eBay feedback." Michael Martin provides a variation on the theme with "Myspace friend add … denied!"
Calaphin captures the latent jingoism of the genre with "Welcome to America, douche bag." And Chris Larson taps into a related action trope—the comeuppance of the pretentious European bad guy—with "You shouldn't have said shed-yul, asshole."
Some submissions sounded a bit more like they could belong in a real movie script. You could almost hear John McClane capping off a hair-raising car chase with Greg Murphy's deadpan: "It's OK, it's a rental." Then there was Bob Mellin's legitimately scary "Blink, and you'll die in the dark"—though those sound more like the words of a sadistic serial killer than an upstanding action hero. Christy Quirk, writing from Istanbul, Turkey, plucks a perfectly credible catchphrase from the mouth of our commander in chief: "I'm the decider."
In the puzzling-yet-strangely-compelling category, Brian Charles Mackinson coins a threat that sounds like a poorly translated subtitle from a grade-Z martial-arts movie: "My karate will disintegrate your genitals." C.F. Harkins imagines a hero's last words to his nemesis as these: "I'm canceling your elocutionist's appointment." Matthew Durand's protagonist is slightly more straightforward: "Your ass is about to get its own ass handed to it." And Steven Hutchins goes meta (and just plain weird) with "Dénouement-ized, man-kisser!"
Joe Martin of Roseburg, Ore., cuts to the chase with "Less talk, more dying," and Mike Spradlin Jr. takes the prize for pithiness with the sprightly "Toodles!" (I particularly like imagining that one in the voice of Steven Seagal.)
Many responses hewed to the classic one-liner formula: familiar phrase-plus-insult (or ironically employed term of endearment). This is the one-two combo presaged by Dirty Harry's "Do ya feel lucky, punk?" and immortalized by Die Hard's "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker." Nate Rulf of Philadelphia contributed the elegant "Et tu, babycakes." Slate's Timothy Noah, who pondered the rhetoric of the one-liner in the Fray, deserves a mention for his "Veni, vidi, vici, sugarplum," but his entry remains out of competition due to conflict of interest. There were countless amusing variants on this theme, but for the most unlikely combo of highfalutin reference and random put-down, first prize goes to John Wolf for "Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, pissant."
John, if you'll send me your mailing address, I'll send you your prize: A signed copy of Eric Lichtenfeld's book Action Speaks Louder: Violence, Spectacle, and the American Action Movie. And rest assured I'll be looking for the flimsiest excuse to hold another reader contest. Until then, auf Wiedersehen, cocksuckers.