Courage (1984)

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Visions of the end of the world have existed since time immemorial, from the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation through 14th-century Ethiopia’s Kebra Negast and the 16th-century writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, up to the beliefs of contemporary cults like California’s Heaven's Gate. Nearly every variation seems to invent its own term for the event: apocalypse, doomsday, Armageddon, Ragnarök. In the 1984 film Courage, M. Emmet Walsh, playing a honey-voiced militaristic survivalist, adds a new term to this overstuffed lexicon: the Crunch. “When the Crunch comes, and it will come… you just look around the world today,” Walsh says by way of self-justification. “Any moderately intelligent human being can certainly discern that the Crunch is coming.” As three long-distance runners who don't see the Crunch coming, Ronny Cox, Art Hindle, and Tim Maier find their weekend-long desert run interrupted when they inadvertently stumble upon Walsh’s group during a training exercise. “Self-reliance, that's what it's going to come to. Just a matter of time. Self-reliance,” Walsh explains to them. But when Maier questions Walsh’s cruel treatment of a fellow soldier, the runners discover that Walsh’s version of self-reliance is less Emersonian than Kaczynskian, and the trio is soon forced to flee Walsh’s menacing biker minions. After a long stretch of fleeing, they flee some more, until Cox (who also co-wrote the script) and Walsh face off for a rowdy bout of middle-aged-character-actor-on-middle-aged-character-actor action, a vision of the struggle between good and evil left out of apocalyptic texts both ancient and contemporary.