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What Makes Audiences Receptive to Movie Violence?

Expendables 4 (2023)
Expendables 4: Taking care of business.

Expendables 4, like the rest of the Expendables series, is an action film that glorifies over-the-top violence.

The rampages and destruction are almost cartoonish, but there is a lot of it - with few medical professionals on hand.

Bloodshed has always been a part of American filmmaking, even in pioneering films like The Great Train Robbery (1903). Yet realistic portrayals of the effects of violence are rare.

The Western Journal of Medicine conducted a study of movie violence in 1994, and it is a fascinating read.

Titled "Violence and its Injury Consequences in American Movies", the study concluded what audiences have known for decades: Movies tend to downplay the effect of violent acts.

"Almost 90% of violent actions showed no consequences to the recipient's body," it says, "although more than 80% of the violent actions were executed with lethal or moderate force."

We movie-goers know the average person wouldn't survive many of the attacks we see on screen. So why watch violent movies at all?

In 2013, Science News published a study that said people were more receptive to violence if they felt there was meaning behind it.

"Some types of violent portrayals seem to attract audiences because they promise to satisfy truth-seeking motivations," says the study, "by offering meaningful insights into some aspect of the human condition."

In the case of Expendables 4, the mercenaries are civilization's last hope of preventing World War III.

It's a theme we've seen before. But filmmakers are likely gambling audiences want to see the resolution of a global conflict due to our increasingly unstable world.

Expendables 4 opens at Stettler's Jewel Theatre on October 13th and runs until October 19th. Check for showtimes before arriving at the theatre.

See you at the movies!


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