Book Review: AIN’T GOT TIME TO BLEED Diagnoses Your Action Heroes

How resilient is Rambo, really?

Sometimes, in this line of work, you get sent review offers that just happen to hit you at the right angle. Ain’t Got Time To Bleed: Medical Reports On Hollywood’s Greatest Action Heroes is one of them: a humour book that, well, does what it says on the cover, and little else. There’s no illusion of great depth there. It is what it is. My action-movie fandom got the better of me - clearly, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing.

Of the book’s twenty-nine featured characters, most selections are obvious - James Bond, Indiana Jones, Tony Stark, and so on. Others are more niche, like Face/Off's Sean Archer or Road House's Dalton or Demolition Man's John Spartan. Schwarzenegger is represented three times; Stallone twice; poor Bruce Willy only once. Just a handful of female characters make the cut, though that can be chalked up to poor representation in cinema to begin with (and there's an entire essay in how female heroes are depicted sustaining injuries versus how male heroes are). And as the book is solely limited to action movies, some of your favourites (from horror and sci-fi, especially) will likely be AWOL.

Thankfully, Ain’t Got Time To Bleed takes as read the existence of genre elements like cryostasis, cybernetic limbs, lightsabre blades, and so on. There’s no “this made-up technology would instantly kill this person!” here. Instead, the book solely deals with injuries to the human body, where the bodies in question are susceptible to them. Each character has their injuries enumerated in thorough detail, and seeing it all laid out like that is amusing in itself - even if the accompanying illustrations aren’t quite as funny as they’re made out to be. No detail goes unnoticed, not even the digestive issues posed by John McClane’s ancient Twinkie; some characters get cursory psychological evaluations, too.

I’m no medical professional, but these incident summaries do at least seem thoroughly researched, even somewhat illuminating. For pedants, they're great, as you’ll learn exactly what kinds of maladies typical action movie business like explosions and punchups result in - degrees of burns, lacerations, haemorrhage, and so on. Each character gets a prognosis, too. Many could survive their ordeals - some would even fully recover - but nearly all would require immediate and comprehensive medical care to do so. The rest would be brain-damaged or paralysed, or yes, dead by dawn. (Oh, yeah - get ready for a bunch of corny jokes peppering the text. Just like action movies themselves.)

Look, there isn’t much to Ain’t Got Time To Bleed. It’s a novelty book - one you’d find on the “humour” shelves, if your local bookstore hadn’t closed down years ago. But this is the holiday season, dammit. Books like this are ideal for genre film enthusiasts - the kind of people who likely already own the movies referenced inside them, but would still get a chuckle out of flipping through an amusingly-written catalogue of their heroes’ injuries. Hell, it was novel enough for me to review it, and I got what I wanted out of it: a diverting reminder that action movie heroes are more awesome than regular human beings.

Alternatively, gift this book to the doctor or physiotherapist in your life - their waiting-room library will thank you for it.