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Imagine your typical multi-POV story, with an urban setting and within the action genre, boasting a lot of not-so-upstanding citizens for characters. These characters are spread about, some with plotlines that are obviously related, and others not. Their motivations and stakes are often made clear, and a lot of the tension is built around the conflicts between the POV characters, and not between them and some non-POV character(s). In addition, one of the POVs is usually a kind of shared one, covering a possé.

And then, the intertwined plotlines all coalesce at the climax of the story, in a violent and chaotic way, that is often humorous and ironic. Usually, there's a fair share of misunderstandings involved.

I feel like I know of a lot of examples, but unless I remember them, I'll just have to list two (my best example and my most recent one):

  1. This is the best example I know of; it is my personal epitome of this sub-genre/trope: Locked, Stocked and Two Smoking Barrels
  2. This is a pretty bad example, and it may instead just possess a small semblance of this sub-genre/trope, but here it goes: The Gentlemen. It has the multi-POV structure, it has the possé and it has the violent ending that offs a lot of the characters. In my opinion though, it may not kill off enough characters to be seen as a proper example of this sub-genre, nor

Now, some may argue that this is a trope found within the action genre, and not a sub-genre of action. I'm leaning more towards the latter. This kind of story isn't just made by having a finale of the nature I explained above. No, to pull this off properly, one must also lay the seeds all throughout the story and have lots of POVs; this format has narrative-wide effects and is thus best characterized as a sub-genre, in my opinion. I am not sure about this, however.

So, on that note, what is this sub-genre/trope called?

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  • Actually, this sounds a lot like Smokin' Aces, and the sequel. I would have just called it action/adventure. When I do a search, they list multiple genres for these, with action first, then thriller, comedy, dark comedy, drama, and crime. Not sure if they list these differently in books vs movies.
    – DWKraus
    Jan 13 at 0:51
  • [1/2] @DWKraus Mhm yeah, I was thinking it probably existed in multiple genres, and thought about mentioning adventure as a possible genre. But I think it is most prevalent in action, so I just went with that. I haven't seen Smokin' Aces, so I can't say if I agree with you, but I did read a plot summary. From that, it seemed more like a multi-POV story with a bunch of people all chasing a McGuffin (taking Ace's life), and that this leads them all to kind of predictably kill each other.
    – A. Kvåle
    Jan 13 at 12:42
  • [2/2] Chaotic perhaps in how it plays out, but still kind of linear. They all have the same goal and the gist of it plays out as you'd expect. In the kind of sub-genre/trope that I'm trying to point to, it's not predictable. They do not all share a goal. It's chaotic not just in how it plays out, but also why it plays out. There's a ton of coincidences and misunderstandings involved. From what I gathered from a plot summary that's obviously too insufficient to make any conclusions on, it seems that Smokin' Aces misses the mark a little. I'll have to watch it though. @DWKraus
    – A. Kvåle
    Jan 13 at 12:43
  • 1
    This doesn't sound like a subgenre at all. It's just the inevitable climax of every ensemble action plot, ie: Gunfight at the OK Corral… I can't think of any action genre plots that don't do this, can you? What is the 'standard' ending of an Action Genre with an ensemble cast that is NOT a big melee at the end?
    – wetcircuit
    Jan 17 at 13:13

1 Answer 1

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If the device being referred to is not a

then it falls in

The heroic bloodshed trope

Characters spin, roll, and dive across the room while blasting away during shootouts, often with two guns at once (see page on tvtropes).

The cavalry trope

The cavalry trope includes a group of individuals appearing at the climax to change the otherwise adverse tide. This can benefit the MC or their antagonist.

The subversion occurs when the cavalry is annihilated.


What about the multi-POV?

The multi-POV story part on the other hand is just a description of a narrative technique where by construction the narrative alternates among the POVs. The satisfying climax in which all subplots connect in a final showdown is just one of the many ways of resolving such a story arc and it is not genre specific.


Why is it a trope and not a subgenre of the action genre?

Let's start from the examples in the OP. They belong to the crime genre more than to the action genre. However, the climatic convergence of a multi-POV shootout is not specific enough to the genre to qualify for their own subgenre of crime.

In fact, such items can be found elsewhere, just to cite two obvious examples from other genres:

  1. fantasy: the Lord of the Rings has multiple POVs, all converging to the battle of Minas Tirith, which is a slaughterfest, 'violent and chaotic'.

  2. science fiction: nearly half of Star Wars episodes have multiple POVs all converging in a final battle of sort in which the cavalry of either side suffers significant losses.

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  • [1/3] I always thought that crime fiction (that wasn't concerned with mystery and investigation) was just a sub-genre of action. It seems that's not the case, so I will change it. As for the rest: no, it is not just a subversion of the cavalry trope, in fact, it doesn't need to involve the cavalry trope at all. This fact is actually made clear in your answer; you point out that the concept I'm describing has two items. Let's assume the cavalry trope is necessary element to what I'm describing. Then, this would be the CONJUCTION of a multi-POV story and the cavalry trope.
    – A. Kvåle
    Jan 18 at 10:58
  • [2/3] Basically, I'm asking what x + y is, and your answer is, "it's y". Now, the very assumption that what I'm talking about necessitates the cavalry trope is incorrect. A cavalry involves intent, whereas in what I'm describing, the people that are practically the cavalry, do not always intend to be. Accidental and coincidental conflict is a big element of this. Also, the cavalry is not necessarily annihilated. Most of the characters get killed, but usually some survive. If the cavalry happen to survive, that's not a violation of this narrative's rules.
    – A. Kvåle
    Jan 18 at 11:02
  • [3/3] Also, you don't seem to quite know what a cavalry even is. They don't need to be a possé; a cavalry can be an army. As for the ending of your post. I might agree that this doesnt fit the bill of a sub-genre. If it is a sub-genre, I believe it may be one of the crime genre, or maybe the comedy crime genre. I'll have to look into potential examples of this where it may occur in other genres. If not a sub-genre, I think it atleast can be called a narrative mold somewhat commonly employed.
    – A. Kvåle
    Jan 18 at 11:07
  • FYI: cavalry trope
    – NofP
    Jan 18 at 18:41
  • @A.Kvåle I found another trope that matches, and it is perhaps to your liking. see my edits.
    – NofP
    Jan 18 at 18:59

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