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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 08.17.12] action

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I often hear the line "everything is cyclical" and though it's usually attached to music and fashion, it's occasionally also heard when talking about movies. We're certainly in a period where remakes and reboots of favourite classics are in style but something else seems to be happening as well: the 80s style action movie is making a comeback.

It's not that it ever left but it certainly feels like the cheesiness and gleeful over-the-top action that was so popular in movies of the 80s and early 90s changed. I can't put my finger of where the turning point came or if there was some defining movie that changed the way action movies were made but by the time we hit the 2000s, the landscape looked different. The action stars we loved were mostly relegated to direct to DVD movies and replaced with pretty boys who simply look to nice and clean to really be threatening. And then a few years ago Van Damme starred in a crime drama where he played a version of himself and that same year Sylvester Stallone revisited Rambo in glorious, over the top style.


Since then we've had a bit of a resurgence in the sort of over-the-top and occasionally cheesy action movies I have fond memories of. Expendables brought together a number of the old action stars in a movie full of one liners and a mediocre plot but, there was a certain amount of excitement at seeing Dolph Lundgren, Sylvester Stallone, Terry Crews and Mickey Rourke in a movie together and as if re-affirming that the kick-ass action was back, this year also saw the release of the ridiculously explosive The Raid (review). It doesn't feature any major stars and this sort of over-the-top action is nothing new for fans of Asian cinema but Gareth Evans' movie had the upper hand of excellent marketing and a fairly wide theatrical release that put it in front of mainstream audiences that ate it up. Can you blame them? It's basically 90 minutes of non-stop action with a 10 minute introduction! If you love a good action movie and want to be wowed, The Raid is definitely worth a look and is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

The Expendables 2 (review) opens today, bringing together the whose who of action superstars of times past including Chuck Norris (!) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (not to mention the addition of JCVD and Bruce Willis to the already staggeringly awesome roster).

As if having The Expendables 2 open and The Raid released on home video in the same week aren't enough to mark this as "Action Week," the last few days have also seen the release of trailers for Stallone's Bullet to the Head (trailer) and Schwarzenegger's The Last Stand (trailer). So is this all just coincidence, one final stand by stars of action movies past, or the beginning of something better? I'm not really sure but I'm happy to enjoy it while I can and hopefully, I'm not alone.

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kul (2 years ago) Reply

i heard about this today on CKNW, 'the raid' . i see it as mindless violence, keep it simple andlots of blood andexplosions.. I don't know if the audience today is just dummed down to this level of nonsense mayhem, or the audience gave up waiting for orginal idea movies?! .. time will tell.

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Marina (2 years ago) Reply

I think there's a time and place for everything. Not every movie has to have a message, we can have movies that simply entertain and THE RAID is pretty damned entertaining not to mention a spectacle of action goodness.

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agentorange (2 years ago) Reply

After Expendables 2 we were talking about who the new action stars were who replaced guys like Stallone, Van Damme, Arnie, Willis etc. And it certainly wasn't clear.

I think they were replaced by "characters" and not actors. Think about comic book movies where the actors become ad hoc on some level and secondary to the recognizable character they're playing. Who's playing Dredd for example. How many people know who Karl Urban is? Not many I'll bet.

Statham seems to emerge as the biggest action star with both The Transporter and Crank series. Maybe Vin Diesel? The Rock?

What does everyone else think?

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Marina (2 years ago) Reply

That's a great point. Both Diesel and The Rock seemed to stall partway through their "action" star careers but seem to be back on track.

We've had a bunch of unlikely action stars too - Neeson comes to mind.

If I were a betting girl, I'd put a bit of money on Guy Pearce.

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projectcyclops (2 years ago) Reply

"I can't put my finger of where the turning point came or if there was some defining movie that changed the way action movies were made"

I always thought 'The Matrix' was the film that changed the landscape of action, both with effects and the message that computer skills essentially trump muscle. It's also around that time that Arnold left us after 'The 6th Day' flopped and Sly had become a bit of a living joke too.

I don't have any interest in seeing these new films, but I think it's nice that the old stars are getting a chance to shine again.

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agentorange (2 years ago) Reply

Projectcyclops nails it. The Matrix brought something high tech to the scene that put muscles out of business. And the fantasy of comic books seems to have flown nicely from the alternative reality vibe of that film. I buy it.

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Gabbo (1 year ago) Reply

The new era of action movies contain these: Dredd, The Protector (2005), The Raid, Safe, The Expendables I&II, Ninja (2009), Undisputed II+III, Bullet to the Head, and the coming Riddick.

The new blood is Scott Adkins, Statham, Jai White, Jason Mamoa (just about), Tony Jaa, and Iko Uwais. The only problem is directors and scriptwriters need funny scripts and stories like Die Hard, Running Man.


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