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Early in the film, Dave Holden, a Blade Runner, administers the Voight-Kampff test to the replicant Leon. Leon shoots Holden before the test is finished. I have questions:

  1. How did Leon get a gun into the room with him?
  2. It's absolutely clear that Leon pulls the trigger under the table, but things on top of the table get blown up by the bullet Leon shoots. What?
  3. The shot from Leon's gun is so powerful, it literally blows Holden through the wall behind him. How is that possible?

Number one is just a hand-wave. Number two seems like a pretty big editing error. Number three I just don't understand.

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    imfdb.org/wiki/Blade_Runner Jun 3, 2022 at 0:08
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    In the original script it was a laser pistol. "But big Leon is faster. His laser burns a hole the size of a nickel through Holden's stomach. Unlike a bullet, a laser causes no impact. It goes through Holden's shoulder and comes out his back, clean as a whistle. Like a rag doll he falls back into the seat. Big slow Leon is already walking away, but he stops, turns, and with a little smile of satisfaction fires through the back of the seat." - dailyscript.com/scripts/blade-runner_shooting.html
    – Valorum
    Jun 3, 2022 at 7:05
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    All of these questions seem broadly answerable within the same quote space
    – Valorum
    Jun 3, 2022 at 8:53
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    Leon's gun being powerful and blowing a hole through the wall is standard scifi trope. I'm not sure what the question even is, "is scifi realistic?". Well, no, it's not realistic -- it's played for effect/emotion. Next question? (also notice: lightsabers in Star Wars make absolutely no sense; do we worry about that?)
    – Andres F.
    Sep 19, 2023 at 14:52

2 Answers 2

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  • How did Leon get a gun into the room with him?

It is pretty much assumed that he smuggled it in. There is no backstory to the security setup to refer to, and there is no script for that. Additionally the pistol is small, the kind of thing a big guy, as Leon is, could secrete upon his person without being too obvious. Though he does walk kinda funny (enlarged gait) when he arrives at Holdens office...

  • It's absolutely clear that Leon pulls the trigger under the table, but things on top of the table get blown up by the bullet Leon shoots. What?

Two things to note:

  • The height of the table they are sat at.

From the seated position that Leon is in, the effect is from him shooting not horizontally but slightly upwards, so he shoots through the table and up into Holdens chest.

enter image description here

  • note that both are hunched over slightly, that is because both have drawn their weapons, under the table, but Leon is first to fire his.

  • They added a 'laser' effect that shows it shot up through the table, past the monitor in the middle of the table towards Holden, and clearly above the table top. Therefore its path is through the items that you see jumping about.

enter image description here

pretty horrible, but its there

enter image description here

  • The shot from Leon's gun is so powerful, it literally blows Holden through the wall behind him. How is that possible?

Its not made clear what the wall is made up of, but you can see in the establishing shot that these are nothing but partitions, not solid walls, so why shouldn't they be able to be punched through? If it was drywall for example, thats pretty easy to knock through.

enter image description here

But also, why shouldn't the gun be powerful? This is Hollywood after all, and this is the 'future' as well. Note how they modified the gun to fire two barrels at once for greater effect. They wanted this small pistol to have a big impact and a big effect (with added sound effects too). None of this is supposed to be realistic or set in todays world.

The book had everyone shooting laserpistols, laser needles or some such, which would generally have less of an effect on film. Audiences still expect to have bangs and lots of noise, even in the 'future'.

  • Number one is just a hand-wave. Number two seems like a pretty big editing error. Number three I just don't understand.

I agree the first is a handwave, but the next two are what vfx, sfx, and sound guys, etc, do for a living. They get told to enhance stuff, make it bigger, have more effect. So thats what you see - Ridley wanting a big bang from a small pistol.

BR storyboard frame, showing they wanted the gun to shoot from under the table and through items on the table, into Holden.

enter image description here

(Artist: Mentor Huebner)

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    Just to add, Scott originally had a black hole gun in mind, but it was scrapped as it didn't look so impressive, but they left the visual effect in the shot, which is likely to be the weird laser bolt circled in the answer. media.bladezone.com/contents/film/technology/blackhole.php Aug 27, 2023 at 5:04
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    Interesting about the bolt! Is this in the Director's Cut? To be clear, I've watched this movie dozens of time (my all-time scifi favorite) and I never even noticed the laser bolt!
    – Andres F.
    Sep 19, 2023 at 14:50
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    @Clockwork with it not being too noticeable in the original, I wonder f they tweaked it to make more of it. It's only a few frames anyway, and most people easily miss it. Sep 19, 2023 at 17:01
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    @Clockwork tangential, but bear with me: the Final Cut makes many odd "image" decisions, which reminds me of a post I saw in Reddit re: Batman TAS DVD vs 4K version: the DVD is arguably superior because the image is less sharp! So in movie-making terms, "sharper" or "higher res" is not better; those are tech specs, but do not a good movie make. Sometimes blurrier/harder to see is better because it serves the "art" better. In the case of Blade Runner, I find the greenish Matrix-like tint of the Final Cut worse than the earthier/bluish tint of the DC. And this bolt thing would be another one
    – Andres F.
    Sep 19, 2023 at 18:27
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    @AndresF. You mean like how people like to play SNES games on CRT? I found the Final cut to be okay, although I definitely see what you mean with some other stuffs I watched. The last thing I read about the subject was how they purposely used a handheld camera to film the entire 28 Days Later movie.
    – Clockwork
    Sep 19, 2023 at 18:38
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I think Leon is being interviewed at Tyrell, maybe the security was not very good. Same sort of blaster that Deckard used, much more powerful than a normal pistol and perhaps rocket propelled so that its thrust as it passes under the table is disruptive and at close range can in fact send someone though a wall. Maybe such guns are necessary for killing replicants and therefore would be the sort of weapon a replicant would use in their battles off-world with other replicants and would naturally be the weapons they brought with them to Earth.

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