Clint Eastwood, Last of the True “Tough Guys”

I know what you’re thinking. “What? Thekuntawman is now a movie critic?


Not exactly. Still in the business of martial arts, but I do like watching a good movie. And movies where people die are my kind of movies. Whether they die because of a fight scene, a ghost, or Dirty Harry’s 44 Magnum, I do not have the ability to watch movies where the audience cries. Nor do I enjoy silly movies with men dressing up like women. Just not my thing.

On the other hand, I think a lot of lessons for martial artists can be learned through some of these good action films. Although there aren’t many really good films today… the same way I can’t stand martial arts in a dress, I hate to see mediocre film-making dressed up in CGI and flash. I like a good movie with well thought-out scripts, an interesting plot that makes sense, and complete characters that have consistency. When I say “complete”, I am referring to a character in a film who does everything that is consistent with who he is supposed to be–and the film completely shows who and what he is. When a character in a film is complete–and everything he says is consistent with who he is in the film–you will be able to learn all about this character and what makes him tick, blah blah blah.

So, in modern film, the Tough Guy is dead.

And don’t hand me no crap about The Rock, Vin Diesel, Brad Pitt, etc. What they have today are pretty boys with muscles, and that ain’t no tough guy. The closest we have today to a tough guy would be a Chuck Norris (but he can’t act! and ass-kicking isn’t the point) or Hugh Jackman (takes too many non-tough guy roles). But Clint Eastwood? True tough guy. What makes him so great is that Eastwood created a character and this character shows up in all of his films. From Dirty Harry to Private Kelley to whatever that guy’s name was in “Gran Torino”. Man. Even at 80s years old, he looked like he could kick someone’s ass.

Wait, didn’t thekuntawman just say “ass kicking” had nothing to do with it?

Yes, I did. See, ass kicking is a by product of the tough guy. He doesn’t have to know how to kick someone’s ass; he just needs to be able to do it. It’s not technique. It’s ability. The tough guy? He keeps fighting until the bad guy says “uncle” and forks over his milk money. The pretty boy with muscles (or martial arts skills) won’t get the milk money because he’s tough–he gets it because he knows how to apply an arm bar or spin hook kick or something. The tough guy may not win all the fights. He just looks like he will. The pretty boy with muscles? Well, even beer-drinking, weed-smoking, mall-lingering, saggy pants wearing thugs look at him and think, “I can take him.”

And what happens when pretty boys with muscles encounter a bigger, stronger opponent? He takes BJJ. Or gets the script writer to bring in a Muay Thai teacher (like Jean Claudia Van Dame did in “Kickboxer”) so he can learn the secret technique to win the fight. And tough guys? They don’t give a darn what you know or how big you are; they fight you anyway, and find a way to bring home the turkey bacon.

Okay, maybe the script writers had something to do with it.

But the tough guy had something that pretty-boy-with-muscles doesn’t have, and that’s courage. He sees that the odds are against him, and he does it anyway. While pretty-boys-with-muscles reach into their bag o’tricks to pull out the secret weapon, or they luck up with the bad guy losing out because of his bad character, or something like that. The Tough Guy brings only what he has to the table–himself and his toughness–and finds a way to force a win.

The pretty boy finds a reason to take off his shirt at least 4 times in a movie. The tough guy just looks tough in his T-shirt–the one with the gravy stain on it. Pretty boy attends Pilates classes and body sculpts and has a six-pack. Tough guy doesn’t give a darn that he doesn’t have a whole lotta definition, but he’s gonna rock what the creator gave him anyway. Pretty boy gets 3 or 4 girls over the course of the movie. Tough guy pushes pretty women out of the way to find the bad guy. Then he returns at the end of the movie to get the girl. Pretty boys have to come up with corny one-liners to sound tough when in front of the bad buys. Tough guy also has one-liners, but they are memorable:  “I know what you’re thinking, punk. Did he fire 6 shots? Or was it only 5? Well to be totally honest with you, punk, in all this excitement I kinda lost count myself. But this is a 44 Magnum. It’ll blow your head clean off. You gotta ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky today? Well, do you, punk?”

Yeah, 98-pound weakling comedians will repeat “I’ll be back” and “I want to learn Muay Thai!” But no one–NO ONE–can use Dirty Harry’s line but him.

My point of all this is that the tough guys of yesterday–Clint Eastwood, Rocky, Charles Bronson, John Wayne–were not perfect men. They were beatable. They had a little stomach fat. They had receding hairlines. And they didn’t know a buncha martial arts styles. But they were strong physically and psychologically. Their feelings didn’t get hurt because someone thought they could whip you. They didn’t jump on the karate bandwagon when it got popular so they could wave with the wind. They didn’t spend hours in the gym trying to come up with bodies to qualify them for a spead in Playgirl magazine. They didn’t even damage their souls by playing characters that fornicated with a ton of women to prove their “manhood”. They were just themselves:  tough men who had morals, who did the right thing, who weren’t afraid to step forward even when they were the underdog. Well, a true tough guy never really IS the underdog, is he? Even when he is outgunned, out muscled, out karate styled… we always have faith that his toughness will pull him through. He has faith in himself, so he isn’t chasing new skills and weapons to keep up with the times. I mean, can you imagine Dirty Harry doing Krav Maga because LEOs around the world do it? Hell, no. He’s Dirty Harry, dammit. Even in his advanced age, like in “Gran Torino”, Dirty Harry prevails. Thanks to his courage and toughness.

You martial artists are mostly pretty boys with muscles. Wait, lot’s of you aren’t all that damned cute. But you try too hard to keep up with the times and do what the guy next door is doing, instead of just exceling at what you already do, and doing that better than what the enemy is at his craft. Be indomitable because YOU are indomitable–not because you learned a little of this and a little of that. Don’t worry that you’re tummy is getting a little rounder and you’re starting to look 50… my friend, you ARE 50. Be tough anyway. Hell, Clint Eastwood kept his toughness at 80. Why can’t you?

Thanks for visiting my blog. And for your entertainment, here’s a clip for you… I swear, they just don’t make movies like they use to!


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

2 thoughts on “Clint Eastwood, Last of the True “Tough Guys””

  1. Very cool post. Gotta love Clint..

    Enforcer: “Do you know where San Quentin is? but, you do @ss hole!”.

    Mangum Force. A man’s got to know his limitations.

  2. Great post.
    I love Clint Eastwood and the character’s he was playing. Their roughness, toughness. What he represents and portraits is the image of my ideal man with all the qualities I cannot find in any man anymore in these days.

    There are only very few tough guys are left in these days, and I see them in ( US Delta Forces or British SAS)
    Today men are named ‘Mary’ and wear manicure with bright pink T-Shirts and instead of guns they carry a handbags with tampon lipstick inside. F****g crazy world we are living in today.

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