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One of my favorite movie tropes.

There was a brief moment in The Sender, which I reviewed for the Holy Grail last week, that stood out to me.  It's a totally inconsequential and common device used all the time in movies (especially in suspenseful scenes) that deserves no particular attention, but I can't help it.


The scene goes like this: protagonist sees or talks to somebody of note.  Protagonist turns away, then turns back.  The person is gone.  Protagonist starts searching for them.  They run down a hall / sidewalk / strip mall / whatever, looking in every direction they can.  And at some point they will ask somebody - usually a cop or security guard - "Have you seen a [nebulous description] come by?"  And the cop / guard will say no, and the protagonist will keep looking.  And this is all meant to be very shocking because it's like the other person has completely vanished.

But every time it happens, it always makes me think: it's a good thing I'm not a guard or a cop, because I'd be even worse than useless in that kinda situation.

Like, the protagonist could be looking for an eight foot tall clown wearing a razorblade vest and I would somehow still not notice them walk by.  I'd be too busy talking with somebody next to me or reading a magazine or just kinda spacing out.  That clown would walk right in front of me and I wouldn't even bat an eye.

Or even worse: I'd see them, but my gut reaction to the question would still be "No."  And then, only after the protagonist had already left and was off continuing their search, I'd think for two more seconds and say, "Oh, wait a minute, you meant that eight foot clown with a razor vest?  Yeah, I saw that guy.  Wait, where'd you go?"

I guess what I'm saying is: I'm not a very observant person sometimes.

Then again, I think I'd fit right in as a cop in Movie Land.  Nobody in the background can see what's happening in the foreground.

And on top of that, the cliche isn't even necessary since you already know the protagonist can't find the person they're looking for, so having them ask somebody else is just filler.  I guess directors add that to the movie so it looks like the protagonist is doing their due diligence and putting effort into their search.

...and now all this makes me think there must be a whole conversation you don't hear in movies that don't feature the random useless cop.  Like maybe The Angry Boss is talking to the protagonist later:

"What do you mean you couldn't find him?  Did you look?"

"Yeah!  I looked everywhere!"

"Did you ask Officer Bill if he saw anybody?"

"Well... no, I didn't, but...."

"You idiot!  That's why we have Bill in the first place!  He stands there so he can keep an eye on who's coming and going!"

"But he doesn't!  Remember last week when that psycho with the meat cleaver got in?"

"...oh, yeah.  [Dials intercom.]  Sue, can you tell Bill to come into my office?"

[Bill comes in.] "You wanted to see me, boss?"

"Bill, you're fired."

"Yeah, that makes sense."

Oh, man, I want to create an Officer Bill franchise so badly now.  I think I'll call it Shitty Cop.

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