C'mon, Hollywood: Where is our next great American action film?
It seems like action movies from the U.S. these days just arent all that great, you know? Aside from comic book adaptations, giant robots and Jason Statham vehicles, its pretty slim pickings for an action junkie looking to get his rocks off cinematically speaking. The last great action movie I can think of at the top of my head is easily THE RAID: REDEMPTION and you can imagine the sheer and utter joy I felt when it was announced that they were remaking it. Its both confusing and unfortunate theyre already planning this, especially considering that its sequel, THE RAID: BERANDAL hasnt even been officially released in the States yet and is only the second part of a planned trilogy. So, in the mean time, what can American action filmmakers do to bring us something worthwhile?
To me, its the lack of variety that seems to be one of the biggest issues. Unfortunately, the multiplexes are getting stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey by superhero movies. Now, I like comic book flicks just as much as the next dude, but I prefer my action a little more gritty and hard-hitting. The folks over at Marvel understand their primarily young demographic, so theres only so far theyre willing to push the envelope. Theres also a very distinct formula to superhero origin stories, so while were getting to see all these different characters do their thing, were basically watching a story we already know told over and over again.
Another important thing action films seem to forget is that more action isnt necessarily better. Id much rather have three or four well placed action sequences that implement the surroundings, characters and events that came before it. This allows those in charge to develop and grow a character that we actually give a shit about, which will make the action much more engaging. Theres also something to be said about the characters vulnerability. If we see them slaughtering baddies by the dozen, avoid bullets, survive beatings an orphan couldnt bear, it takes away from the realism. Most of the fun comes from witnessing a character in over their heads and overcoming the obstacles. That creates action worth watching and investing our time in.
The way the action is presented is also critical. Some action films tend to rely on jittery camerawork and shots that dont last longer than a second to convey a sense of urgency and realism. While I get that the style works when done correctly (THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM), the audience needs to, at the very least, comprehend whats going on. When done incorrectly, it just comes off as a big, confusing mess (QUANTUM OF SOLACE). The intensity should come from whats happening on screen and the way that its being presented, not just the latter. Look at the action scenes in CHILDREN OF MEN. Every single shot looks like it took a huge amount of care to pull it off convincingly. That not only adds to the intensity and grittiness of it, it makes it a f*cking classic.
Some of the best action films are made great because of very simple things, such as implementing different ideas and not just using big guns and explosions to make people excited. Flicks like THE MATRIX and KILL BILL VOL. 1 embrace Eastern methods of fighting, such as kung-fu and sword play and its great to watch because its not what American audiences are used to. Parkour, which originated in France, was used to kick off CASINO ROYALE in a grand way. Yeah, the sport itself has gained in popularity since then (shit, they even remade DISTRICT B13 with the late Paul Walker in something called BRICK MANSIONS), but at the time, I hadnt seen anything like that. They probably could have used a typical foot chase and gotten away with it, but they tried something different and even to this day, that scene still knocks me on my ass.
Setting a film in a different time period also adds some variety. BRAVEHEART and GLADIATOR remind me how awful it would be to live back in those days, but it certainly makes for good action. Hell, even setting a movie in the 1930s gave us the classic RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The direction, set pieces and Harrison Fords suave charisma helped it out a lot, but the setting surely gave it that extra kick. Theres also the notion of working with a different genre applying a heaping helping of action. Both ALIENS and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY are categorized as science fiction, but having these fantastic elements (time travel, aliens) gives a good excuse for crazy awesome action sequences. Im not saying a science fiction film with a robot that does parkour in 1920s Russia would make a sure-fire action classic, but itd make for a much more interesting watch than another ex-CIA agent looking for his daughter in contemporary L.A.
So, Cmon, Hollywood! Give us an action film worth remembering! In a world where its hard to differentiate one action movie from the next, we deserve something intense, different and new. If you really want to make something generic, Im sure Liam Neeson will be there to help out. Yeah, I said it...
Now, if youll excuse me, Im going to keep watching this clip until I get a chance to see the sequel.
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|Extra Tidbit:||What do you guys think action films could benefit from by adding or taking away? Should we have more physically capable lead actors? Less CGI and more stunt doubles? Am I crazy and American action films now are totally badass?|