@JACK “…but before CGI, not just anybody could be an action. Action stars were not necessarily believable, but their action held a sort of authenticity”.
I agree. Growing up in the ‘70s-80’s, you pretty much could tell action movies apart from each other by the personalities of the leads. Eastwood, Lee, Bronson, Sonny Chiba, Connery, Fred Williamson, Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Jackie Chan, Stallone, Samo Hung, Van Damme…
A couple more points before I sign off:
>What do you guys think of Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves? I’m surprised that I like both as action leads—especially the latter—given what I said about the way goofy doesn’t work with an action lead. But, improbably, he works for me—or at least doesn’t ruin a film. (Actually, I liked him in Speed and The Matrix.) As for Cruise, I think I like his energy and intensity, and I probably like him action roles more than any other type.
>Some consider Die Hard as one of the best action films of all time. Since that time, is there really no film that has challenged it? And if not, I’d be interested in hearing about some good actions films since that time. 13 Assassins was one I saw last year that I really liked, and I would recommend it (at least if you share my same tastes). I mentioned Ninja Scroll to HoL, and I would recommend that one to action fans. We didn’t mention Leon: the Professional, and that’s another good one. The remake of The Italian Job and The Incredibles were also two other favorites in recent years.
Cruise is fine.
Actually, imo I think the popularity of action franchises like Mission Impossible, Resident Evil, Terminator, Fast and Furious series, Batman, The Transporter etc… serves as a proof that audiences appreciate the leads and consider them good for those roles, regardless of film quality.
a good action film has smart action that coincides with the story and is done with passion, a love story that revolves around sex, and some fart humor. that’s it.
“If you had one film of his to recommend, which would it be?”
Uhhh, Masters of the Universe. duuhhh
“Some consider Die Hard as one of the best action films of all time. Since that time, is there really no film that has challenged it? And if not, I’d be interested in hearing about some good actions films since that time.”
I don’t know that it challenges it but as I’ve said before, I thought Haywire was damn impressive.
But since I know this will make Jazz mad, I’ll throw in Colombiana and Hanna. :)
Looking back at the years since Die Hard, the film that comes closest to dethroning it for me is The Bourne Ultimatum. I love the Bourne series (probably the best trilogy since Indy) and the third one is hands down the best.
“Some consider Die Hard as one of the best action films of all time. Since that time, is there really no film that has challenged it?”
I guess Matt’s answer is no?
Oh, you’re a feisty one today, huh?
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on that (if you haven’t already in the thread). There are some nice moments, and I think Soderbergh used Carano fairly effectively, but I just thought it was OK.
Well, yeah, if you’re saying those films are the best action films of all time. Colombiana was OK. I thought Hanna was interesting, but I didn’t love it as much as others (although that’s more personal preference, perhaps).
FWIW, I thought the third was OK. The second wasn’t very good, and I thought the first was the most interesting.
You like John Woo? I think I might have seen only one of his Hong Kong films, and I think it was too over-the-top for me. I would have to readjust my expectations I think and watch him again.
I’m not sure if I watched all of Point Break, but I remember not caring for it in college.
I should re-watch both parts of Kill Bill back to back, but I wouldn’t put it above DH.
What’s are the films of the last two clips?
Keanu and Cruise—not fans (though I do like some of their films despite them). Reeves is a horrible actor and goofily reminds me of this in almost every role. Cruise rubs me the wrong way for various reasons.
Point Break is pretty stupid, but it’s fun stupid.
I think we talked at length about Haywire, didn’t we?
I’m not much of a fan of Tom Cruise as an action star but I do have a lot of admiration for the first Mission: Impossible. And this last one had a couple of really impressive set pieces.
Reeves is a horrible actor and goofily reminds me of this in almost every role.
Right, which is why I’m surprised that I actually like him in action films.
I can’t relate to the fun part.
I can’t remember if we did or not, but I know there’s a thread on the film. (I’ll check.)
As for MI films, I liked the scenes involving climbing—but I don’t like much else.
So, Jazz, I’ve seen you reference issues of over-the-topness and implausibility a few times in this thread now, so you need to add something to your definition that addresses that.
The bottom two are Ryu Seung-wan’s City of Violence and Johnnie To’s Breaking News. I should also have included To’s Fulltime Killer. And there are a few Takeshi Kitano movies that would be in the running for me too.
Well, I’d say that’s a rule that applies to almost any film, though. Additionally, as I mentioned, I think this is very subjective matter—although maybe there is a “reasonable perspective” (in an intersubjective sense), but that would be really difficult to define, and I’m not enthusiastic about doing so.
The bottom two are Ryu Seung-wan’s City of Violence and Johnnie To’s Breaking News. I should also have included To’s Fulltime Killer.
I want to see these. Is there an approach that would you recommend when watching these films? I mean, can I approach them as a conventional Hollywood action film?
Btw, I’m wondering if my own preferences for action films got in the way of watching John Woo’s films. (I’m wondering if the action is more figurative and expressive.)
Which Kitano film are you thinking of? I thought his Zatoichi remake was enjoyable enough.
“Is there an approach that would you recommend when watching these films?”
To’s films should be pretty comprehensible. Fulltime Killer in particular is very consciously influenced by action films of the 80s and 90s and is peppered with references to both HK and Hollywood films. Ryoo’s film is a bit more expressionistic stylistically, but it injects a good deal of life into a fairly conventional story.
I’m wondering if the action is more figurative and expressive
Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think it works brilliantly as cinema, but there’s an ethos to Woo’s films that isn’t easily translated.
I do like Zatoichi. Also Boiling Point, Sonatine, Violent Cop, and Hana-bi
FWIW, I don’t really consider Sonatine or Hana-bi action films—as there isn’t that much action and the “aboutness” doesn’t center around and in the action.
To’s films should be pretty comprehensible. Fulltime Killer in particular is very consciously influenced by action films of the 80s and 90s and is peppered with references to both HK and Hollywood films.
This makes me a little reluctant, as I actually don’t like a lot of the action films from the 80s. (Actually, most action films in general.) Of the films you recently mentioned, which one would you recommend over the others? (And if you choose FK, I’ll try to see that.)
“This makes me a little reluctant, as I actually don’t like a lot of the action films from the 80s. (Actually, most action films in general.)”
You can be one curious, but confused cat.
If you really don’t like most action films in general, then I suspect perhaps you already have some established bias against most of them.
If you really don’t like most action films in general, then I suspect perhaps you already have some established bias against most of them.
What are you thinking about when you say “bias?” I love well-executed action sequences—whether we’re talking large or small scale battles—with any type of weapon or not.; I love tricky predicaments and satisfyingly clever solutions to those predicaments; I love chess game strategy and battle tactics; I love a good action oriented story, and I even don’t mind formulaic plots; I love many classic character archetypes. (Or is there something else you had in mind?)
The thing is, does a film do these things well—or, maybe more accurately, am I personally satisfied with the way a film handles and executes these things? Unfortunately, this is rarely the case—and I can’t tell you how much I wish this wasn’t the case! So, you could say I really don’t like action films because I don’t like 90% of them (Well, that might be a bit high.), but when it’s done to my liking, it’s one of my favorite type of movie to watch. Does this mean I like the action genre or not? I’m not sure what the right answer is, but I generally say that I love the genre.
I’m with Nightshift, ya lost me here. You like Die Hard, you like Raiders of the Lost Ark . . .?
“there isn’t that much action and the “aboutness” doesn’t center around and in the action.”
Yeah, see, you and me are not seeing the same thing watching Kitano. I’ll grant you that his films tend to be laconic and more langorously pitched than much of the contemporary and later action films, with bursts rather than sustain, but the loud-quiet-loud dynamic is as purposeful (to a different end) as the loud-quiet-loud dynamic in a Pixies song is. And you wouldn’t tell me that the Pixies are not rock, right? I remember the elevator scene in Drive getting a lot of praise. What it made me think of was this:
. . . which is taking the conventional movie shootout and cramming it into an elevator along with two bystanders.
More traditional action sequence from Violent Cop:
See some To. He’s not really a masterpiece/White Elephant-type director, so the particular film is not so important. Either I mentioned is a pretty good place to start, or a number of his other films are streaming on Netflix (you have access to that, right?)
Oh, and see City of Violence if you get the chance. It’s not a perfect film by any stretch, but it has some really ingenious elaborations of the conventions of the genre.
I do like those films. Maybe this analogy will help. Raiders and DH are like the best quality steak, while I consider most action films the equivalent to a steak at Sizzler’s (or if you don’t know that place, how about Denny’s). I guess you could say I’m an action film snob.
I remember the elevator scene in Drive getting a lot of praise. What it made me think of was this:
Good observation. But I don’t think of Drive as a conventional action film—mabye a hybrid or arthouse action film. Kitano’s would be in the same category for me. (Don’t kill me, but I’m not familiar with the Pixies, but I’m guessing they’re sort of alternative/underground/art pop-rock.
For what it’s worth, the general consensus is that Die Hard is the best or one of the best Hollywood action films of all time. However I would argue that Aliens and even T2 is better.
Yeah, see, you and me are not seeing the same thing watching Kitano.
Yes, but I also think we might be defining action films differently as well as having different expectations. For me, an action film centers around the action. The drama of the story and character plays out in and through the action. A good action film, imo, takes a likable, compelling character and story and integrates it with clever and satisfying action set pieces. Imo, the problem with 90% of most action films is with the story and character and/or weaving these into the action. I get the sense that the filmmakers neglect these elements and focus on the set-pieces—and not necessarily the cleverness of the situations and solutions, but more in terms of the excitement and explosiveness (sometimes literally).
Now, I’m not saying the “formula” I’m laying out is essential in an intersubjective sense; rather, I’m saying that is my personal preference, and it’s how I generally approach action films. I’m especially not analyzing the filmmaking and comparing it to other action films—because I really want to just enjoy the film on based on the formula I describe. In other words, I don’t often want to evaluate way an action film on an intersubjective level.
But I’m thinking I should use that approach or at least not let my normal approach overwhelm my experience—when I watch the films you recommended, or when I re-watch older ones. (I think I’m going to do that.)
Thanks for the recommendations. I do have netflix streaming, and I noticed a bunch of To’s films. Can you recommend one? Also, the local library has City of Violence, so I’ll request that.
However I would argue that Aliens and even T2 is better.
Oh, Aliens is another I really liked. I also liked The Abyss, but that’s probably more of a suspense-adventure film. I liked the “liquid Terminator” in T2, but I didn’t care for the film overall. (I can’t remember the specific reasons.)
Do you have any recommendations of films since the 90s, besides the ones already mentioned? I’d love to check out a film I’ve never seen or heard of.
City of Life and Death. It’s a war film, not an action film. But you probably haven’t seen it. And you should. It’s probably one of the best war films of all time.
It’s on netflix streaming and I’ve considered seeing this because of your recommendation. (I’m going to write my impressions on another thread that will pop up, let me know what you think.)
“I get the sense that the filmmakers neglect these elements and focus on the set-piece”
Right, but this is a hazard of “[centering] around the action”, isn’t it? In fact, it’s almost the definition of centering around the action. This is why I don’t find genre taxonomies (particuarly overly strident ones) especially helpful. They obscure as much as they reveal.
You would argue that. However, you would be wrong, Santino.
For you, of those films that look like they’re available streaming in the U.S., I’d choose either Election (Triad Election is sort of a variation of the same theme) or Exiled. Both of those are less action-y and more character driven drama-type films. If you want something over the top in an HK kung fu type way, watch Heroic Trio. Mad Detective is brilliant but that’s a terrible place to start.
For me the quality of any entertainment genre is all about the film’s ability to invest me in the outcome. A character is in a troubling situation in which he and his girlfriend may be killed. Do I care? The answer to that question determines the quality of pulp.
Well, “centering around the action” isn’t an adequate phrase, but I’m having trouble finding one. The action is where the drama of the characters and story plays out. For me, the action is the part I want to see—but if it’s not invested with a good story and character, then the action is pretty boring and meaningless—even if the choreography, stunts, cgi, camera movements are excellent. (Can you recommend any expressive action films where the expressions of themes or ideas matter more than the story and characters?
You feel that strongly about Aliens? I think it might challenge DH—although I think it has just as much a suspense/horror as an action film, I think. I’d probably give DH and Raiders the edge, but I don’t think the claim is so far-fetched.
Oh, I’ve seen Heroic Trio. It was OK, from what I remember. I haven’t seen Election or Exiled, but I’ll consider seeing it soon.
The answer to that question determines the quality of pulp.
That’s a big factor. But there’s also the suspension of disbelief and satisfying resolutions to conflicts/problems—which, I guess, relates to caring or not.
For me, Aliens is much more interesting to watch than Die Hard in part because it puts a twist on the action “hero” (that is to say, it makes it a heroine). The twist with Indy is that he’s a reluctant hero (or more pointedly, a flawed hero) but even still, I think Ripley is one of the more compelling characters in the genre. And the film as a whole is just so damn effective as an action thrill ride. Add in the allusions to Vietnam and the mother aspect (with Ripley losing her daughter, her relationship with Newt, and of course “the Queen”) and you got yourself an action film that far surpasses most generics.
Of course I love Indiana Jones but I like to categorize that more as adventure (or action adventure) so I don’t have to choose between Indy and Aliens. hehe
“You feel that strongly about Aliens?”
No, not really.