Intensities in Ten Suburbs

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on February 16, 2007

Life is more interesting in list form.

It’s probably an age thing–scratch that, it’s almost definitely an age thing–but to me, the 90s will always be the Golden Age of action movies. In the period between 1991, when Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the movie which set the standard for all other 90s action blockbusters to be measured against was released–and 1999, in whcih The Matrix signaled that the paradigm for action movies had irreversibly shifted–there was a spate of classic Hollywood action flicks the likes of which no decade had seen before. Speed, The Last Boy Scout, Assassins, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Enemy of the State, Face/Off, Goldeneye, Heat, Leon/The Professional, Desperado, Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Bad Boys, The Fifth Element, Under Siege, Air Force One, Cliffhanger–even Titanic and the Tarantino movies were pretty action-oriented.

These movies might not be classics in the traditional sense, and to people of a certain age they probably seem like utter garbage, but to people of a certain age (mine, namely), the mention of any of these titles will evoke a set of memories more vivid than those of any other movies, even if they haven’t seen the films since they were eight, and wouldn’t even like them if they saw them today. Sure, the 80s might have more action titles that have since been canonized–mostly those associated with the names Schwarzeneggar, Cameron and Stallone–but if the 80s created the formula, then I feel that the 90s perfected it.

So what happened between then and now? Well, Cameron stopped making movies, Schwarzeneggar went into politics, Segal and Stallone slid into total irrelevancy, Jerry Bruckheimer took it too far with Pearl Harbor, Bruce Willis decided to try his hand at romantic comedy, Will Smith attempted artistic credibility, the worst ever movie in the Bond franchise was released, Tom Cruise and John Travolta lost the plot and then their minds, and even Tony Scott’s winning streak ran dry. And as previously mentioned, The Matrix had upped the ante, ensuring that the basic gunfights, car chases and explosions recipe wasn’t going to be quite so mindblowing anymore. Not to mention that I grew up a little.

That’s not to say that no one picked up the slack, however. Thanks to some new faces on the scene, both behind and in front of the camera, as well as some strong veteran and comeback efforts from old favorites, the genre’s still alive and well, and even if it can never quite measure up to the glory days in my eyes, there’s still enough out there to keep action junkies like myself (or at least, my twelve-year-old self) satisfied. Here are the top ten examples.

(Oh, and FTR, I didn’t include the Tarantino movies because they’re too cross-pollenated to really count in any one genre, Batman Begins because the action scenes were the worst parts of the movie, Sin City because it’s too weird to be considered a straight action movie, or V for Vendetta and the Lord of the Rings trilogy because they fucking suck)

10. The Italian Job. Far from a flawless movie by any standards (where does one train to be a professional safecracker, anyway? Are there schools for that sort of thing? And are they all attended by chicks who look like Charlize Theron?), The Italian Job secures a spot on this list for the three main things it has going for it. One is its supporting cast–one of the best The Crews I’ve seen assembled for a recent action movie, with memorable turns from Mos Def, Seth Green and Jason Statham (who, um, might be appearing at least once more on this list). The second are the two lead actors, the always underrated Mark Wahlberg and the contractually-obligated Edward Norton, whose extremely obligated bitterness at starring in a movie he considered beneath him created a compellingly malicious villian. And the third is of course the job itself–unnecessarily elaborate and entirely implausible, just like all the best heist movies. Oh yeah, I think there might’ve been some nice cars in there somewhere too.

9. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The first two (or fourth and fifth, depending) Star Wars movies were somewhat undeniable clunkers–the dilaogue ridiculously stilted, the Touching Moments usually seeming downright creepy, and most importantly, the memorable action sequences few and far between. With the release of Revenge of the Sith, though, it was pretty apparent that they were just saving all the best fights for the end of movie three–a continuous, near-hour-long fight sequence breathtaking enough to justify just about everything that came before it. Not to mention one of the best “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” cries in movie history for a capper.

8. S.W.A.T. A servicable, if cliche-ridden action script, given cred by a brilliantly-assembled cast of leading lights and new talent. Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell and the always solid LL Cool J, in a team led by Samuel L. Jackson? Yeah, that’ll do it. Still, the most memorable part of the movie comes not from these guys, but from Olivier Martinez’s french Stanley Whiplash-style hamming. Say it with me now: “OOOONE HUUUUUUNDRED MEEEEEEEEEEEEELIOOONN DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!”

7. Die Another Day. Rebounding from the atrocity that was The World is Not Enough was tough, but between the gadgets (an invisible car–amazing the things they can do with mirrors these days!), the girls (Halle Berry, of course, but I prefer frosty belle Rosamund Pike), and the pointless, pointless extravagances (swordfights, LAZOR BEAM CHASES, even a dude with diamonds in his face), Die Another Day became the first worthy entry in the Bond canon from this Millenium, and for what it’s worth, I still prefer it to Casino Royale. Except for that Madonna theme, ugh.

6. The Fast and the Furious. He had done some other stuff before–aspiring business types will probably still point to Boiler Room as the definitive work in his ouevre–but for most people, it was The Fast and the Furious that introduced perhaps the first entirely 21st century action hero with Vin Diesel. A thrill-seeking brute with a heart of gold and a head shinier than a new penny, Vin turns this racing B-movie into an action A-lister with a single utterance of his need for speed. Even Paul Walker, possibly the biggest mimbo to ever be considered something resembling an action star, can’t hold this one down.

5. The Matrix Reloaded. The second and third Matrix movies don’t tend to get much love, but I didn’t think they were that much worse–or even that different–than the first one. The thrill of the new was gone, sure, and the plot just kept getting more and more ridiculous, but the thrill-a-minute action was still there, and this movie’s highway chase–in which pretty much all the trilogy’s main players show up for a piece–easily ranks in my top five action scenes of all-time. I still watch it whenever it’s on TV, the true test of an action classic.

4. The Transporter. The return of Luc Besson, and the emergence of Jason Statham as the coolest British dude since Noel Gallagher. You probably know the most legendary scenes even if you’ve never seen the movie, since the previews were jammed down TV viewers’ throats continuously for months–the running kick-down-the-door, the car jump off the bridge onto one of those carrier things, the deflecting-a-rocket-with-a-lunch-tray evasion (which isn’t actually in the movie, for some reason) and explosion after explosion after explosion. Add a fantastically creepy, possibly gay Rick Schroeder-lookalike villian who always looks ensure of whether he wants to kill or seduce The Transporter, as well as the foxiest teenage Asian kidnapping victim/love interest since that girl from The Big Hit, and you’ve got an 00s classic for certain. The sequel is essential viewing as well, if that wasn’t already obvious.

3. XXX. Why this movie didn’t establish Vin Diesel as the biggest action hero since Sean Connery got his double-0 status, I have no idea. An extreme sports-loving, non-drinking/smoking, exceedingly ugly but irresistible to women, motorcycle-jumping, fur coat-wearing dude trying to save the world from evil Russian anarchists? C’mon, how does this not become a twenty-movie franchise? The second movie is almost as good, but awesome though Cube is, it’s Diesel who should’ve been able to coast his entire career off of this one role. Dropping the role was like David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue for a movie career–let’s just hope Vinny gets a CSI: Miami-style opportunity for resurrection.

2. Collateral. Michael Mann has spent the better part of two decades proving that action movies can be be exceedingly suspenseful and smart at the same time, and even if he dropped the ball somewhat with the should’ve-been-a-slam-dunk Miami Vice, he created a worthy successor to Manhunter and Heat with Collateral. The two-hour mental face-off between Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx is never short of transfixing, and watching Foxx transfer from a legitimately nervous, dorky cab driver to an in control, worthy adversary for TC proves that Foxx won his Oscar in the right year for the wrong movie. And there’s just something so unassuming about the way Mann presents violence and destruction that you don’t really even have to suspend your disbelief for his movies–it feels completely natural, a claim that maybe .00001% of action movies can be able to make.

1. Crank. And yes, it should be no surprise the fourth appearance from Jason Statham (he has a bit role at the beginning of Collateral, which I had completely forgotten about) is the #1 movie on the list. Crank is most easily explained as “Speed with a person instead of a bus,” and that description really couldn’t be much more accurate–Crank is just as exciting, fresh and just downright kickass as Speed was back in ’94. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor make up for their lack of a big budget with tons of nifty little action tricks, flashing words and pictures on the screen when appropriate (“do I look like I’ve got ‘cunt’ written on my forehead?”), aerial photography courtesy of Google Maps, and tons of WOAH DRUGZ camera filters and effects. At a platry 87 minutes, Crank is by definition a “non-stop thrill ride,” and the action is phenomenal, from Statham doing a nose dive off a moving motorcycle, to defibulating himself across the room, to breaking someone’s neck in midair, and so much more. Amy Smart probably didn’t win too much feminist cred for her role as Statham’s girl, whose performance basically amounts to performing sexual favors in public situations and generally acting like an idiot, but it’s still exactly the performance a movie like this requires, and she’s a pretty good sport about it. Add in Efrim “Vote for Pedro” Ramirez as Statham’s utterly useless gay assistant Kaylo, Dwight Yoakam as Statham’s morally inept physician, Jose Pablo Cantillo as Statham’s ethnically ambiguous, tough guy would-be assassin Ricky Verona and a soundtrack featuring Loverboy, Quiet Riot and Harry Nilsson (!!!), and you’ve got all you need for 90 of the most fist-pumping minutes in modern cinema. Bruckheimer could really be reminded of a thing or two from this one.

Advertisements

7 Responses to “Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far”

  1. recipe » said

    […] Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far Life is more interesting in list form. It s probably an age thing”scratch that, it s almost definitely an age thing”but to me, the 90s will always be the Golden Age of action movies. In the period between 1991, when Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the movie which set the standard for all other 90s action blockbusters to be measured against was released”and 1999, in whcih The Matrix signaled that the paradigm for action movies had irreversibly shifted”there was a spate of classic Hollywood action flicks the likes of which no decade had seen before. Speed, The Last Boy Scout, Assassins, Die Hard: With a Vengeance, Enemy of the State, Face/Off, Goldeneye, Heat, Leon/The Professional, Desperado, Broken Arrow, Mission: Impossible, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Bad Boys, The Fifth Element, Under Siege, Air Force One, Cliffhanger”even Titanic and the Tarantino movies were pretty action-oriented. These movies might not be classics in the traditional sense, and to people of a certain age they probably seem like utter garbage, but to people of a certain age (mine, namely), the mention of any of these titles will evoke a set of memories more vivid than those of any other movies, even if they haven t seen the films since they were eight, and wouldn t even like them if they saw them today. Sure, the 80s might have more action titles that have since been canonized”mostly those associated with the names Schwarzeneggar, Cameron and Stallone”but if the 80s created the formula, then I feel that the 90s perfected it. So what happened between then and now? Well, Cameron stopped making movies, Schwarzeneggar went into politics, Segal and Stallone slid into total irrelevancy, Jerry Bruckheimer took it too far with Pearl Harbor, Bruce Willis decided to try his hand at romantic comedy, Will Smith attempted artistic credibility, the worst ever movie in the Bond franchise was released, Tom Cruise and John Travolta lost the plot and then their minds, and even Tony Scott s winning streak ran dry. And as previously mentioned, The Matrix had upped the ante, ensuring that the basic gunfights, car chases and explosions recipe wasn t going to be quite so mindblowing anymore. Not to mention that I grew up a little. That s not to say that no one picked up the slack, however. Thanks to some new faces on the scene, both behind and in front of the camera, as well as some strong veteran and comeback efforts from old favorites, the genre s still alive and well, and even if it can never quite measure up to the glory days in my eyes, there s still enough out there to keep action junkies like myself (or at least, my twelve-year-old self) satisfied. Here are the top ten examples. (Oh, and FTR, I didn t include the Tarantino movies because they re too cross-pollenated to really count in any one genre, Batman Begins because the action scenes were the worst parts of the movie, Sin City because it s too weird to be considered a straight action movie, or V for Vendetta and the Lord of the Rings trilogy because they fucking suck) 10. The Italian Job. Far from a flawless movie by any standards (where does one train to be a professional safecracker, anyway? Are there schools for that sort of thing? And are they all attended by chicks who look like Charlize Theron?), The Italian Job secures a spot on this list for the three main things it has going for it. One is its supporting cast”one of the best The Crews I ve seen assembled for a recent action movie, with memorable turns from Mos Def, Seth Green and Jason Statham (who, um, might be appearing at least once more on this list). The second are the two lead actors, the always underrated Mark Wahlberg and the contractually-obligated Edward Norton, whose extremely obligated bitterness at starring in a movie he considered beneath him created a compellingly malicious villian. And the third is of course the job itself”unnecessarily elaborate and entirely implausible, just like all the best heist movies. Oh yeah, I think there might ve been some nice cars in there somewhere too. 9. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The first two (or fourth and fifth, depending) Star Wars movies were somewhat undeniable clunkers”the dilaogue ridiculously stilted, the Touching Moments usually seeming downright creepy, and most importantly, the memorable action sequences few and far between. With the release of Revenge of the Sith, though, it was pretty apparent that they were just saving all the best fights for the end of movie three”a continuous, near-hour-long fight sequence breathtaking enough to justify just about everything that came before it. Not to mention one of the best NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! cries in movie history for a capper. 8. S.W.A.T. A servicable, if cliche-ridden action script, given cred by a brilliantly-assembled cast of leading lights and new talent. Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Farrell and the always solid LL Cool J, in a team led by Samuel L. Jackson? Yeah, that ll do it. Still, the most memorable part of the movie comes not from these guys, but from Olivier Martinez s french Stanley Whiplash-style hamming. Say it with me now: OOOONE HUUUUUUNDRED MEEEEEEEEEEEEELIOOONN DOLLARS!!!!!!!!! 7. Die Another Day. Rebounding from the atrocity that was The World is Not Enough was tough, but between the gadgets (an invisible car”amazing the things they can do with mirrors these days!), the girls (Halle Berry, of course, but I prefer frosty belle Rosamund Pike), and the pointless, pointless extravagances (swordfights, LAZOR BEAM CHASES, even a dude with diamonds in his face), Die Another Day became the first worthy entry in the Bond canon from this Millenium, and for what it s worth, I still prefer it to Casino Royale. Except for that Madonna theme, ugh. 6. The Fast and the Furious. He had done some other stuff before”aspiring business types will probably still point to Boiler Room as the definitive work in his ouevre”but for most people, it was The Fast and the Furious that introduced perhaps the first entirely 21st century action hero with Vin Diesel. A thrill-seeking brute with a heart of gold and a head shinier than a new penny, Vin turns this racing B-movie into an action A-lister with a single utterance of his need for speed. Even Paul Walker, possibly the biggest mimbo to ever be considered something resembling an action star, can t hold this one down. 5. The Matrix Reloaded. The second and third Matrix movies don t tend to get much love, but I didn t think they were that much worse”or even that different”than the first one. The thrill of the new was gone, sure, and the plot just kept getting more and more ridiculous, but the thrill-a-minute action was still there, and this movie s highway chase”in which pretty much all the trilogy s main players show up for a piece”easily ranks in my top five action scenes of all-time. I still watch it whenever it s on TV, the true test of an action classic. 4. The Transporter. The return of Luc Besson, and the emergence of Jason Statham as the coolest British dude since Noel Gallagher. You probably know the most legendary scenes even if you ve never seen the movie, since the previews were jammed down TV viewers throats continuously for months”the running kick-down-the-door, the car jump off the bridge onto one of those carrier things, the deflecting-a-rocket-with-a-lunch-tray evasion (which isn t actually in the movie, for some reason) and explosion after explosion after explosion. Add a fantastically creepy, possibly gay Rick Schroeder-lookalike villian who always looks ensure of whether he wants to kill or seduce The Transporter, as well as the foxiest teenage Asian kidnapping victim/love interest since that girl from The Big Hit, and you ve got an 00s classic for certain. The sequel is essential viewing as well, if that wasn t already obvious. 3. XXX. Why this movie didn t establish Vin Diesel as the biggest action hero since Sean Connery got his double-0 status, I have no idea. An extreme sports-loving, non-d
    rinking/smoking, exceedingly ugly but irresistible to women, motorcycle-jumping, fur coat-wearing dude trying to save the world from evil Russian anarchists? C mon, how does this not become a twenty-movie franchise? The second movie is almost as good, but awesome though Cube is, it s Diesel who should ve been able to coast his entire career off of this one role. Dropping the role was like David Caruso leaving NYPD Blue for a movie career”let s just hope Vinny gets a CSI: Miami-style opportunity for resurrection. 2. Collateral. Michael Mann has spent the better part of two decades proving that action movies can be be exceedingly suspenseful and smart at the same time, and even if he dropped the ball somewhat with the should ve-been-a-slam-dunk Miami Vice, he created a worthy successor to Manhunter and Heat with Collateral. The two-hour mental face-off between Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx is never short of transfixing, and watching Foxx transfer from a legitimately nervous, dorky cab driver to an in control, worthy adversary for TC proves that Foxx won his Oscar in the right year for the wrong movie. And there s just something so unassuming about the way Mann presents violence and destruction that you don t really even have to suspend your disbelief for his movies”it feels completely natural, a claim that maybe .00001% of action movies can be able to make. 1. Crank. And yes, it should be no surprise the fourth appearance from Jason Statham (he has a bit role at the beginning of Collateral, which I had completely forgotten about) is the #1 movie on the list. Crank is most easily explained as Speed with a person instead of a bus, and that description really couldn t be much more accurate”Crank is just as exciting, fresh and just downright kickass as Speed was back in 94. Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor make up for their lack of a big budget with tons of nifty little action tricks, flashing words and pictures on the screen when appropriate ( do I look like I ve got cunt written on my forehead? ), aerial photography courtesy of Google Maps, and tons of WOAH DRUGZ camera filters and effects. At a platry 87 minutes, Crank is by definition a non-stop thrill ride, and the action is phenomenal, from Statham doing a nose dive off a moving motorcycle, to defibulating himself across the room, to breaking someone s neck in midair, and so much more. Amy Smart probably didn t win too much feminist cred for her role as Statham s girl, whose performance basically amounts to performing sexual favors in public situations and generally acting like an idiot, but it s still exactly the performance a movie like this requires, and she s a pretty good sport about it. Add in Efrim Vote for Pedro Ramirez as Statham s utterly useless gay assistant Kaylo, Dwight Yoakam as Statham s morally inept physician, Jose Pablo Cantillo as Statham s ethnically ambiguous, tough guy would-be assassin Ricky Verona and a soundtrack featuring Loverboy, Quiet Riot and Harry Nilsson (!!!), and you ve got all you need for 90 of the most fist-pumping minutes in modern cinema. Bruckheimer could really be reminded of a thing or two from this one. […]

  2. joe said

    I’ll just assume that Deep Blue Sea was #11.

  3. kyle said

    the lack of an appearance by Jason Bourne on your list is appalling.

  4. Andrew Unterberger said

    I’ve actually yet to see either of the Bourne movies for more than a half-hour at the time, so you’re probably right.

    And once SLJ taps out of Deep Blue Sea…I dunno, what’s the point?

  5. […] Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far And are they all attended by chicks who look like Charlize Theron?), The Italian Job secures a spot on this list for the three main things it has going for it. One is its supporting cast?one of the best The Crews I?ve seen assembled for … […]

  6. […] Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far the girls (Halle Berry, of course, but I prefer frosty belle Rosamund Pike), and the pointless, pointless extravagances (swordfights, LAZOR BEAM CHASES, even a dude with diamonds in his face), Die Another Day became the first worthy … […]

  7. […] Listeria: The Top Ten Action Movies of the Decade So Far And are they all attended by chicks who look like Charlize Theron?), The Italian Job secures a spot on this list for the three main things it has going for it. One is its supporting cast?one of the best The Crews I?ve seen assembled for … […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: