In a certain corner of my brain lurks a 13-year-old boy ravenous for non-stop action, T&A and great, big explosions. A shambling, blathering impression of a well-rounded human being; he is not much unlike the 13-year-old boy that keeps his messy room in the dark corners of many people’s minds (be they male or female). He hungers and lusts for the thrills and excitement that uncork the sweet trickle of dopamine that makes our lives that bit more bearable and promising.
At a time when more movies are being produced than ever before and in a utopia of instant gratification, facilitated by the internet, it seems that there should never, ever be a night of the year when this wild lad inside us could not be sated. Action movies, thrillers, sci-fi spectaculars and splatter-fests have never been in greater abundance. However the inner 13-year-old is, after all, just one voice in the ever-widening community within one’s brain keen to make sure that they can find a movie that will, more-or-less, leave everybody happy at the end of the night. With more mature, discerning, subtler tastes competing with the Boom Bang Impulse the list of satisfying thrill-rides narrows considerably. But still, there is more than a century of world-wide cinema history to draw from. Provided that any given viewer’s brain also has a small room available for someone that could read the subtitles for the boy downstairs and explain to him that a black and white film isn’t necessarily bound to be rubbish, there should still be a cup of thrilling, exciting action cinema overflowing with boom, bang, zing, shhing and budda, budda, kerchow!
Ahh, but how deceptive this wealth of resources and information is that we have at our fingertips. The true power of the internet, at times, seems to be more its capacity to demonstrate limitations than to go beyond them. Seeking-out thrilling sword-and-sorcery films online reveals just how many cheap, dull, unoriginal renditions there are of the hoary-old Heroe’s Journey story arc. Similarly, were the average Western cinephile to scan Wikipedia page on James Bond, in search of a fun gem they might have missed, they’d most likely find that they’ve already seen every Bond film worth watching and perhaps missed only one or two that seem remotely attractive, despite the lukewarm reviews quoted for them.
Jason Statham can only star in so many movies every year and of those only a minority will be satisfying as movies. I don’t ask that The Stath’s films give me more than big bangs and rippling muscles (though some can’t even make those things work), I merely ask that the rest of the film avoid offending those living above the basement floor of my brain with general rubbishness and ineptitude. One hopes that the upcoming EXPENDABLES 2 (featuring Arnold Schwarznegger actually doing something this time) will fall into the Fun And Not Terrible camp of The Stath’s filmography, along with the first Expendables explodathon.
Even making the logical decision to explore beyond the fields one knows and entering the realms on Chanbara (60s samurai flicks), Exploitation cinema, Kung-Fu cinema, French actioners, Anime, Latin thrillers, Eastern Block Sci-fi, Wu Xia and the vast unknowns of African and Indian cinema quickly becomes an exercise in repetition, as the same movies are mentioned again and again, seemingly with no way of getting ahold of them, even with the aid of torrents and online video players.
A definitive list of worth-while action entertainment will never exist and would never be accepted by more than a small fraction of well-rounded cinephiles. But that’s no reason why one shouldn’t try. Below are many of the obvious additions to the list, plus all the obscure and left-field entries that might fit comfortably alongside the likes of T2 and UNDER SIEGE. Consider this list a base-line starter for an itemized breakdown of all the options available for those days when emotional integrity, sophisticated character development, credible plotting and resonant themes alone simply can’t cut it and a desperate voice burbles its ay through the floor boards of one’s mind to plead for “SHIT [to] GO BOOM!”
Consider this a work in progress.
Read more sophisticated commentary on contemporary cinema at Films Of Every ColourRead less