The early 2000s saw Washington continued to take on a number of law enforcement and military roles when it came to action movies, until he started stepping out of that box with The Taking of Pelham 123, but he also took his most action-centric roles in his career with his turn as the vengeance-obsessed ex-CIA operative John Creasy in Man on Fire.
John Q (2002)
John Q isn’t a very fun movie to watch. It’s a good movie, don’t get me wrong—but it is just freakin’ sad. And it will get you all angry about the state of healthcare in the U.S., but it’s worth a watch if you’ve never seen it.
It tells the story of John Quincy (Washington) whose son is diagnosed with an enlarged heart. Quincy finds out his son doesn’t qualify for a life-saving transplant because his HMO won’t cover it. After exhausting every other avenue he can think of to save his son, Quincy gets a handgun and takes hostages in the hospital, including the surgeon who can perform the transplant. From there its a pretty solid “standoff movie with a message” in the tradition of Dog Day Afternoon.
The armorers didn’t get too creative here, and rightly so. The handgun in question is a 9mm Beretta 92FS, a gun that has been seen in hundreds of movies and TV shows. We see Chicago police officers armed with 92FS pistols as well as Glock 17s.
Out of Time (2003)
This twisty thriller seems a bit out of place in Washington’s filmography, amidst Oscar-caliber movies and heavier films. It’s kind of trashy in a dirty cop movie sort of way and is pretty awesome on a first watch, but once the twist is revealed, the movie loses a lot of its overall impact.
Matthias “Matt” Lee Whitlock is the police chief of the fictional small town in the Florida Keys called Banyan Key. His life is complicated—he’s going through a divorce (his wife is a homicide detective in his department). He’s also seeing a local resident, Anne, who was an old flame from high school, who is married to an ex pro quarterback who abuses her.
Anne finds out she has cancer, and the movie tumbles down a rabbit hole of insurance fraud, murder, and a $1,000,000 prize.
As police chief, Whitlock carries a 9mm SIG-Sauer P228 pistol, which is a pretty standard choice for a police officer in the early 2000s, but apparently it isn’t issued department wide.
His wife, Det. Alex Diaz-Whitlock (Eva Mendes), carries a Smith & Wesson 6906, but, being such a small town, it’s totally plausible that several firearms are approved for duty carry there.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
In 1962, Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and Angela Landsbury starred in a tense political thriller that involved American soldiers who were brainwashed when they were secretly taken prisoner during the Korean War, one of whom was programmed to be a nearly automatous assassin.
Washington starred in the solid remake in 2004, playing the Sinatra role of Ben Marco, with Liev Schreiber as the uptight Raymond Shaw. The Gulf War stands in for the Korean War and instead of straight up brainwashing, there’s experimental nanotech involved and an evil corporation.
Perhaps the biggest difference is that instead of being the controlling wife of a senator, Shaw’s mother is simply Virginia Senator Elanor Prentiss Shaw (Meryl Streep).
During the war, both Bennet Marco and Shaw are seen firing an M60 machine gun mounted on a Humvee during the ambush in the desert while wearing night-vision goggles.
The M60 is a belt-fed light machine gun chambered in .308 Win / 7.62 NATO that came into service in the 1950s. It was given the nickname “The Pig” for various reasons during the Vietnam War and was known as a finicky machine gun that tending to break down in glorious ways later in their service life.
We also see Marco firing at something awkwardly when he spots a target through his NVG’s once leaving the vehicle. He is armed with an M16A2 rifle that looks to have iron sights only.
In the warped flashbacks of the unit’s conditioning, we see Marco with a Smith & Wesson Model 10 revolver and bloody bandages on his head from his freshly implanted control mechanisms. He uses it to kill one of his teammates when commanded to do so.
During the end of the movie, when Marco is gearing up for his final missions, we see him ready a subcompact Glock 26 pistol, though we never actually see him use it.
For his attempted assassination, Marco is seen assembling and loading a Remington 700PSS bolt action rifle fitted with a scope, bipod, and suppressor. If it is indeed this rifle, it’s likely chambered in the powerful .300 Win Mag.
Man On Fire (2004)
Like Liam Neeson before him, Washington has taken a deep dive into the action/thriller genre as he’s gotten older, and it started with this excellent yet somewhat formulaic flick about a washed up, alcoholic ex-CIA agent and military contractor who makes a living working as a bodyguard in Central America, when he can get a job.
He begins to become attached to the young girl in the family he begins protecting, when she is kidnapped from under her nose. He decides that if he is going to do anything with the rest of his life, he’s going to save that girl and punish the men who took her.
The movie is actually a remake of a 1987 Italian-French action thriller of the same name, which is also a great movie, if you don’t mind subtitles of course.
At the beginning of the movie, John Creasy (Washington) is in a bad place. He carries a longslide Glock 34 in 9mm as his daily sidearm, which we see him carrying in a Kydex OWB holster on his strong side and with a double magazine pouch on the other side of his belt.
While having flashbacks, drinking whiskey, and listening to “Blue Bayou” he actually attempts committing suicide with the gun, actually pulling the trigger, but nothing happens. When he examines the gun, he sees that the primer on the round has been dimpled, but for some reason, it didn’t go off.
He calls his old friend Rayburn (Christopher Walken) and tells him about the dimpled primer. Rayburn replies, “Well, you know what they say. A bullet always tells the truth.”
The Glock 34 Creasy carries is interesting because it has a 2nd Gen frame (no finger grooves, accessory rail, or thumb rest) early in the film, but a 3rd Gen frame later on during the kidnapping scene, which would be standard from the factory. The G34 slide will work perfectly well on a Gen2 frame, but the gun doesn’t come from Glock that way.
Later, while going on his rampage, Creasy carries a smaller Glock 17 9mm pistol. He uses it on his first revenge victim and when he assaults the motorcade and kidnaps the corrupt police captain.
Later, he gives the G17 to Mr. Ramos, along with the dimpled bullet he carries with him, after he finds out the truth about the kidnapping.
When Creasy is checking out the guns for sale from a local trafficker, he examines a Browning Hi-Power 9mm pistol, but doesn’t take it. During Pita’s kidnapping, one of the kidnappers uses a Browning Hi-Power.
During the weapons purchase scene, we also see a Colt Commander 1911 pistol. Creasy apparently buys it as we see him hold the gun to Aurelio Sanchez’ head after the assault on his home.
Later, Creasy uses a Colt Mark IV Series 70 Gold Cup National Match pistols to kill a corrupt policeman, who admitting to being part of the Mexico City Police Department’s criminal secret society called “La Hermandad,” after a bit of persuasion involving a pocket knife.
Creasy then executes him with the pistol, saying, “On to the next life for you, my friend. I guarantee you, you won’t be lonely.”
During the nightclub scene, we see Creasy briefly carrying a SIG-Sauer P226 pistol. Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini) also uses a P226 to shoot Sanchez at the end of the movie.
Creasy’s primary weapon during the nightclub scene is a simple sawed-off, 12 gauge, side-by-side shotgun with a double trigger. The gun is a full sized shotgun when he buys it, so he presumably cuts it down off camera.
He also uses the shotgun in the film’s final act to blow off most of Aurelio Sanchez’ hand in a particularly gruesome scene before exchanging him for Pita in the desert.
Creasy has to use something with a bit more kick when he takes on a motorcade. He fires a Chinese Type 69 RPG is used to blow up an SUV, bringing the motorcade to a halt.
Deja Vu (2006)
After a ferry is bombed in New Orleans, an A.T.F. agent joins a unique investigation using experimental surveillance technology to find the bomber, but soon finds himself becoming obsessed with one of the victims. This one wasn’t very popular, but it was interesting and had a cool setting. It was actually filmed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
ATF Agent Doug Carlin (Washington) steals a Glock 17 from the holster of a hospital security guard. When facing off against a bad guy (Jim Caviezel) armed with two MP5SK submachine guns, Carlin locks the slide back on his pistol, ejects the mag, but drops a single round into the chamber.
He comes out from cover, holding his gun as if its empty. The ruse works and Carlin is able to get a headshot in…after the bad guy is pinned by a truck of course.
This is also an incredible display of never-ending magazines on the MP5SKs, even by movie standards.
Carlin carries a Smith & Wesson Model 642 Airweight in .38 Special as a backup gun in an ankle holster. We see him draw it when he finds Oerstadt’s bait shop.
While this isn’t a great movie, there is a lot of action and some good gun battles, so it’s worth a late night watch.
American Gangster (2007)
Back when their careers were both blossoming, Washington and Russell Crowe starred opposite each other in Virtuosity. The duo reversed their roles for the much lauded American Gangster, the biographical crime drama telling the story of Frank Lucas, a low-level gangster in Harlem who rose to power in the late 1960s after creating a way to smuggle pure heroin from Southeastern Asia into the U.S. during the Vietnam War.
Ridley Scott was in the director’s chair—he also directed the Oscar-winning Gladiator, starring Crowe, who plays Richie Roberts this time around, a New Jersey detective who was instrumental in taking Lucas down.
Early in the film, Lucas uses what looks like a Colt Combat Commander to execute a gang rival who is then set on fire, establishing the ruthlessness of the criminal underworld of Harlem at the time.
If you watch the scene in slow motion, you can see the pistol experiences a stovepipe jam after Washington fires the shot—a common occurrence with low-powered blank ammunition that often doesn’t have the oompf to cycle a handgun slide.
In one of the more dramatic displays of violence in the movie, and any of Washington’s movies actually, involves what looks like a regular Browning Hi-Power pistol, but is actually a Hi-Power clone called a FEG MOD PJK-9HP made in Hungary. The gun Lucas uses is chrome plated with wood grips and has obviously been converted to fire blanks.
After Lucas’ revered boss dies, he has to do something to assert control among other gangsters, some of whom, like Tango (Idris Elba) saw Lucas as a glorified assistant to the boss. When Tango confidentially confronts him on a crowded sidewalk, he allows Lucas to put the gun to his forehead. To his, and everyone else’s surprise, Lucas casually pulls the trigger, killing him on the spot. He then lays the gun on the dead man’s chest.
According to imfdb.org, during production, the gun was set up as a “solid plug” version, meaning the barrel was completely blocked off so it can be fired close to a person’s skin, which was necessary for the scene.
When Lucas travels to Vietnam during the war to meet with the Nationalist heroin producers face to face, he dresses like an American GI in olive green fatigues with a boonie cap and carries a CAR-15 carbine. It’s doubtful this is an actual CAR-15, and probably another AR variant modified to look like one.
While the CAR-15 refers to a specific line of firearms produced by Colt, every carbine length M16 variant before the introduction of the M4 is commonly referred to as a CAR-15. The Colt Commando, a very short carbine, is also sometimes referred to as a CAR-15.
Lucas and Dominic Cattano (Armand Assante) use Over/Under break action shotguns when trap shooting during tehir meeting at Cattano’s estate. They could be Remington Premier shotguns in 12 or 20 gauge, but it’s hard to tell.
Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
The original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) could be called the first action / comedy, with Walter Mathau playing the city transportation chief and Robert Shaw (Jaws) playing the leader of the hostage takers. Mathau lent some funny moments to an otherwise serious and violent heist movie.
Also, the bad guys had color code names, a detail Quentin Tarantino borrowed for Reservoir Dogs, though he used different colors.
The Washington version, The Taking of Pelham 123 was played completely serious with John Travolta playing the leader of the hostage takers, who calls himself Ryder. Whereas Mathau’s Zachary Garber was a curmudgeonly New York City Transit Authority police lieutenant, and naturally confronted the bad guys at the end—Washington’s Garber is working as a train dispatcher at the Rail Control Center, who formerly had a higher managerial position before being accused of embezzling Transit Authority funds.
So it was a little more difficult to get his character into the action, and you could argue the third act suffers for it.
The screenwriters accomplish this by having Garber and Ryder form a weird relationship over the radio, which leads to Ryder requiring Garber bring him the ransom money, as he won’t trust anyone else. The police arrange for Garber to be armed during the encounter, placing a stainless Walther PPK/S pistol into one of the money bags. Later, it mysteriously turns into a Kahr K9 in a continuity error.
There is another goof in the scene where the NYPD officer is showing Garber how to use the gun—he indicates that the safety is on when it’s actually off, and vice versa.
When Garber confronts Ryder at the film’s climax, he reaches into the bag to grab the Walther and magically pulls out a stainless Kahr K9, quite a different looking pistol. He is shown flipping the safety off—something you can’t do with a K9. The shot actually shows Washington hitting the slide stop.