Articles tagged with: Action Films
James Cameron hates humanity. In the decade plus since Titanic confirmed him as Hollywood’s fiducial king of the world, Cameron’s right wing militarism has found a way to harmoniously converge with his leftist, egalitarian ecological supremacy in Avatar. That Cameron has been a leading pioneer of special effects throughout his entire career is not in question; that Avatar represents an incremental step forward is also unquestionable. But this is not a triumphant return. It’s a political screed of addle-brained intensity that lashes itself to the golden bough of “relevance” and instead rings a loud, clear note of bitter misanthropy.
As a star who rose to prominence in comedy — as the lead in Blake Edwards’s Blind Date, the weirdly popular and thoroughly gimmicky Look Who’s Talking, and TV’s Nick and Nora-ish Moonlighting — Willis cemented his status as a leading man in an iconic action role. Die Hard remains one of the finest American “high action” films ever made; its durability owes to many factors, but a big asset was certainly John McClane’s earthiness. McClane’s working class charisma owed itself to Willis’s undeniable, almost inexplicable screen presence. Profane wisecracks and and an increasingly battered, bruised, and bloody physique deflate the image of the Superman action figure, but his endurance is magnified by his gritty, blue collar determination. This balancing act hinged upon another basic component of stardom: cool. Willis virtually created his own style of blockbuster stardom, and from that entitlement grew the ego that finally burst onto screen as Eddie “Hudson Hawk” Hawkins.
Some stories are rather simple; they can be reduced to a symbiotic dichotomy. Life and death. Cops and robbers. Men of action, defined by their chosen profession, who live by the gun and die by the gun. Michael Mann’s Public Enemies follows in the reductionist vein of his last several films, finding a myriad of intersections between oppositional — and codependent — forces of self-identity. Public Enemies may be Mann’s most schematic film to date — a study in contrasts, gilded by period detail and graced by the presence of two of the most dynamic leading men in show business, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
Terminator Salvation also opens with a text crawl that recapitulates information we don’t need to know. In fact, it restates events that we already saw in Terminators one through three, and the rest of it is restated in expository dialogue only minutes into the film. The text crawl of T4 assumes two things: 1.) We’re really dense, and utterly incapably of tracking basic plot points along with the film, and 2.) None of us has seen a Terminator film before. Evidently because an audience shelling out greenbacks to the fourth film in a franchise is rarely familiar with the movies that preceded it.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a film that assumes its target audience actively desires to have no taste or aesthetic standard. It assumes that the viewer’s reservoir of self-awareness tops out at the recognition that all they want out of life is a big, stupid movie about stupid characters and big robots that beat the shit out of each other. It is a movie so big and so stupid and so damn long that it very nearly forgets about halfway through that it is a movie whose sole purpose for existence is to sell toys and entertain people with big, stupid robot battles and exquisitely rendered explosions. How do you forget something that elementary?
Once again, Chev Chelios (a.k.a. Jason Statham) races around the city collecting power ups throughout the game — er, movie — to keep the battery for his artificial heart revved up and ready for action. These power ups come in the form of various and sundry electric jolts, each (literally and, ostensibly, metaphorically) more shocking than the last. Neveldine and Taylor toil relentlessly under the mistaken impression that being the loudest, most obnoxious, most vulgar kids in the class constitutes rebellion. Heavens, no, fellas. That just makes you tiresome and in desperate need of a corporal thwack across the bums.
Ronnie Barnhardt has to be just likable enough that audiences won’t start hurling Orange Julius smoothies at the screen by the fifth or sixth time he’s said or done something irredeemably stupid or cruel. But director Jody Hill is entirely uninterested in sweet and sincere; the adolescent fantasies of his male protagonists are not necessarily deserving of our sympathy or empathy; certainly, Hill gives them little or no respect, so there’s no reason to think we should, either. Instead, he sifts through their lives like a dumpster diver rifling through a Hefty bag choked with damaged goods. His storytelling is surprisingly intimate, and his characters unquestionably pathetic. Rather than just cashing in on the formula of the loser-makes-good, Hill’s lateral approach to the problem is a kind of exploitive compassion.
The focus on fear, rather than suspense, or grand guignol over mordant spectacle, generally separates “horror” in my mind from other genres involving death and the threat of violence. By showing new ways in which we cannot escape the question of death, good horror films can be uplifting by opening up possibilities of engagement, as opposed to simply parading avatars of death across the screen and celebrating their excesses. Then again, maybe they are spectacles of nihilistic obsession after all, which offer nothing but a dehumanizing blow to the spirit.