Odd Jobs in Movies: From Bike Messengers to Pet Detectives

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Last week's 'Premium Rush' takes us deep into the world of professional bicycle messengers, a potentially exciting job most of us probably don't know anything about. Many professions go cinematically unexamined by filmmakers too focused on cops and lawyers. Luckily, every once in a while, a good odd job film will come out and show us some less conventional ways to bring home the bacon. Here are some favorites.

  • 1

    Bike Messenger

    'Quicksilver'

    Premium Rush isn't the first film to look into the fast-paced world of bicycle messengers. The Kevin Bacon vehicle, Quicksilver, also examined the job way back in the 1980s. While both films illustrate the profession's inherent dangers – namely stray cars and cold blooded killers – Quicksilver uses the freedom and speed of bicycle messaging as contrast to the stuffy, affluent world of 1980s stock market trading. It also features scenes of bicycle break dancing. Kevin Bacon allegedly called this the lowest point of his career, so it must be pretty remarkable.

  • 2

    Bartender

    'Cocktail'

    Being a bartender is a lot harder than you think. It's not just about pouring drinks. It also requires immaculate bottle flipping skills, the training for which can be quite expensive. Luckily, Cirque du Soleil has recently opened an internship program specifically designed for yuppie wannabe 1980s bartenders (not really).

    Like Quicksilver, Cocktail's seedy, late night world serves as a spirited contrast to the soul crushing Wall Street rat race found deeply desirable in the 1980s. Bartenders weren't rich, but they sure looked cool. And the one here even got to have sex with Elizabeth Shue.

  • 3

    Chef

    'Under Siege'

    It's easy to look at a chef and assume you know everything about what they do. But, according to Under Siege, cooking can lead to some pretty rough stuff.

    Chefs need ninja level cutting skills to ensure quick veggie dicing and meat butchery. Knife throwing is also a must, since there's nothing to eat if you can't hunt and kill. And finally, every chef needs to know how to turn a microwave into a timed explosive. So I wouldn't call Gordon Ramsey a “Massive Foreheaded Ponce” within hearing distance if I were you.

  • 4

    Truck Driver

    'Over the Top'

    It's difficult to be a anti-social rebel into your middle ages. According to Over the Top, truck driving offers one option for pulling it off. Truck drivers need not bow to society's norms, nor do they have to put up with needless office chit-chat and business meetings. It's just you, your freight, and whatever destiny the open road assigns you.

    The downside is pay. Apparently, driving alone just won't pay the bills, and you'll have to participate in various weird tournaments along the way to even things out, especially if you have a spoiled rotten son in tow.

  • 5

    Bail Bondsman

    'Jackie Brown'

    It seems like being a bail bondsman would be pretty exciting, probably because we often get them confused with bounty hunters. Jackie Brown paints a more realistic picture with its joy deprived, over the hill Max Cherry.

    Max spends most of his days in his strip mall office drinking stale coffee and emotionlessly dealing with loudmouth drug dealers and worried mothers. If that sounds bad, days where he sees action sound even worse, with Cherry waiting motionless for hours in dark and dank, pee smelling houses on the off chance his guy happens to return. If you were thinking of going into the bail bond business when you grow up, make sure you check out Jackie Brown first. The film will also give you second thoughts about becoming a flight attendant.

  • 6

    Sound Technician

    'Blow-Out'

    You don't really need a film to tell you that editing film sound effects in the 1970s would be pretty cool. But Brian De Palma supplied one anyway with Blow Out.

    The job appears to have several wonderful facets. One, you get to hang out in smoky screening rooms arguing over miniscule sound details with directors. Two, you get to fiddle around with old school film cutting equipment. Three, you get to wander the world with massive headphones and a boom mike. Four, you sometimes solve murders with a call-girl sidekick. What's not to love?

  • 7

    Pet Detectives

    'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective'

    The pet detective industry is so odd it may not even exist, which means it's an open field just waiting for the right ambitious young upstart to seize his or her fortune. It probably doesn't even require licensing yet.

    Based on what we see in the film, however, pet detection does not provide a luxurious life. Obviously, an innate love of animals helps, but even a busy workload probably won't yield much dough. And as with all detectives, you'll likely get sucked into a labyrinthine plot every so often. You'll live through it but just barely.

  • 8

    Paramedic

    'Bringing Out the Dead'

    Anyone who wants to be a paramedic after seeing this film probably warrants closer examination. Based on what we see here, this job's endless series of tragedies either attracts psychopaths or creates them. Only religious zealotry can stand up to the stressful demands these ambulance drivers face on a daily basis, especially since some of their days are actually three days long.

  • 9

    Security Guard

    'Armed and Dangerous'

    We have a galaxy of films about cops and private detectives, but very few to tell us what life is like for security guards. Armed and Dangerous helps clear the fog.

    Apparently, security guards get their training in about one day and spend most of their time sitting around warehouses doing nothing. Unless, that is, your boss is involved in some crazy union scandal that you can investigate. In which case, you spend most of your time sitting around stinky landfills doing nothing. You also don't get paid much. But if you're really lucky, you get to make out with young Meg Ryan.

  • 10

    Actual Odd Jobs

    'Tremors'

    The above jobs all count as odd simply by virtue of their lack of cinematic representation. But for Valentine and Earl of Tremors, “Odd Jobs” is truly the only proper name for what they do. Whether changing out a septic tank or erecting a barbwire fence, these two handymen dabble in just about every awful employment opportunity there is.

    It's a good life if you love the outdoors and working while intoxicated. The money's no good, however, and you likely wouldn't survive an IRS audit. Also, Graboids.

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