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Qlassic Quotes: Roddy Piper’s Announcement of Intent in They Live (1988)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on September 4, 2007

“You…you’re OK. This one…real fucking ugly.”

Friends had been raving to me about They Live for years (well, a year anyway) before I finally decided to rent it a few weeks ago. Going in, I had gleaned the following pieces of information about the movie from their repeated conversations on the subject:

  1. John Carpenter wasn’t a fan of 80s consumer culture
  2. The movie stars “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who was a wrestler maybe?
  3. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper is running low on Big Red.

They didn’t even tell me that the movie starred all-time top ten That Guy Keith David, or that his epic six-minute fight with Piper inspired the famous “Cripple Fight” between Timmy and Jimmy in the South Park episode of the same name. But it sounded pretty good anyway. The movie on the whole is flawed as hell–wildly uneven, taking too long to get going and then finishing suddenly (and kind of weirdly), and with one of the most useless female leads/love interests/villains in action history. Still, it’s a movie of seriously quality moments, and the now-legendary line is of course one of them.

In addition to being one of the most famous action one-liners, however, it’s also one of the strangest and most uncalled for. Most great action quotables are delivered in reaction to something specific–a stylistic kill, a successful seduction, at least some quality bantering. Piper’s quote, on the other hand, is appropos of absolutely nothing. He’s done some mild altercating with aliens, but in general, things have stayed pretty low-key. Then he just strolls into the bank of people and peoplealiens minding their own business, shotgun in tow, and delivers the line:

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

From there, the movie goes into action movie warpdrive, with Piper blowing away alien folk indiscriminately and tossing off one-liners like there’s no tomorrow (“Mama don’t like tattletales!“) The line would have a similarly galvanizing effect a half-decade later when a pissed-off Nicky Katt would echo it to a patronizing Adam Goldberg in Dazed & Confused (“I only came here do two things, man. Kick some ass and drink some beer. Looks like we’re almost out of beer”), prompting a fight scene significantly less sprawling and evenly-matched, but almost as awesome as They Live‘s.

If only the line had been a bit more purposeful, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper could have been the next Schwarzenegger. Instead, the first John Cena. Unfortunate.

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3 Responses to “Qlassic Quotes: Roddy Piper’s Announcement of Intent in They Live (1988)”

  1. Garret said

    One of the greatest goddamned movies ever. Love it when some old Asian lady comes into the convenience store and he’s like, “YOU’RE OKAY!” or whatever. Timeless cinema.

  2. defender669 said

    i suggest you try watching more Carpenter films. They all start off a bit slow, but blow you clean to next Christmas when they get going.

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