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Added by Larri on 15 Oct 2014 10:07
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Cornerstones of Action Cinema II: 21st Century

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People who added this item 4191 Average listal rating (2879 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.9

When "Bourne" is the conversation, count me NOT a fan. Despite my petty peeves with the series, which I won't go into (feel free to inquire more if you will), I can still see why this series of film adaptations of Robert Ludlum's novels has struck a nerve with the audience since 2002. Matt Damon has the face and stature of an everyman, rare for the genre earlier dominated by Stallones and Gibsons, not to mention the burden of amnesia and angst of a man treated like a pawn by intelligence agencies and officials around the world. Who wouldn't wanna kick nards at that point!
The super-slick hand-to-hand moves and fast editing showcasing Bourne's unexpected skills have become a signature for the 2000s action movie, if you ask me, but it's the impressive car chase that truly stands out. Set to Paul Oakenfold's interestingly out-of-place, yet kind of fitting, "Ready Steady Go" Bourne drives the exact opposite of James Bond's lavish Aston Martin, a Rover Mini, across the streets of Paris to flee his enemy.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 4106 Average listal rating (2826 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 8
Casino Royale (2006)

After "Die Another Day", considered a Bond classic by NO ONE, it was time to give the British super spy a much needed enema.
Following in the footsteps of the Bourne series, the era of wacky gadgets and casual world-saving was to end, introducing a huge deal of raw realism and new angles to everything that had become stale in the franchise, while still keeping things highly flammable. The world famous hero now had personal anguish, sense of humor dryer than sandpaper, and even made the kinds of fuck-ups that could've ended a career faster than a shot at a gunbarrel. The film's action sequences don't lack in anything except the wild creativity from the earlier installments, but really, it's the fact that it's James Bond, a character so many of us grew up with, that gives the action scenes proper weight.

The movie was directed by Martin Campbell, who already gave 007 a makeover 11 years prior to Casino Royale, but even GoldenEye wasn't such a departure from earlier in tone. The first time I saw this movie, I didn't know if it was the worst film in Bond history or a stroke of genius. I know now: the goosebumps I get from the very last lines of the movie says it all. It was unreal at first, but then it hit me - Bond was back.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 1028 Average listal rating (713 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.1

I hesitated adding comic book adaptations on the list but if this ain't an action movie, I don't know what is. People've been trying to bring back 80s action with Schwarzenegger's return, 'The Expendables' movies and all that, but so far 'Dredd' has been the true testament to that genre. The simplicity of the plot - pure Schwarzenegger. The futuristic imagery and gory violence - Verhoeven greatness. Judge Dredd - a questionable hero you get when you put Clint Eastwood and RoboCop in a blender.
The critic for my local newspaper made this notion that this is the comic book adaptation that avoided pleasing the crowds which may have made for smaller box office success, but certainly gained back in having more edge than most of its peers. Very true.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 679 Average listal rating (470 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.6

This is one entry I included in my original "25 Cornerstones of Cinema" list also, a semi-biographical movie about Martial Arts Master Huo Yuanjia. His family gets killed, which is pretty much the ultimate basis for any revenge story, but once he plants some rice for dinner, he's ready to rise back to the top to celebrate, not violence but, the sportsmanship in martial arts.
Very few Asian action movies serve a plot all that important (considering how unappreciated the plots of action movies already are, that's saying a lot) but the fight sequences are made with such heart and care it almost makes you consider if you should start stretching your own legs a bit. No matter how many trips to hospital it takes

Jet Li vs Nathan Jones, two representatives of completely different approaches to fighting, is still something that's not utilized enough in these kinds of films.

Larri's rating:

Here's another instance that is characteristic for action films in the new millennium, where realism has been surpassed by vivid imagination and really letting loose creatively. There's an entire BREED of people who can't stand movies where gravity is defied and Isaac Newton's teachings completely ignored but if you can look pass that, dear God are wuxia movies beautiful! You can expect the wide array of bright colors delivered by the costume department and set designs but when you add those magnificent fight scenes in the mix, it's like having an enormous box of candy - with an ample amount of jawbreakers, of course.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 7956 Average listal rating (5772 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 8.2

After its initial success, isn't it true that Tarantino's Kill Bill project has become viewed as a fad and sign of Tarantino's artistic decline: brilliant re-inventor of American cinema starts indulging and cooks up an homage of all things he loved in his childhood, but rather than creating anything new he's passing off something obviously recycled as something new.

That's one way of looking at it. You can also see it as a very well put together revenge film. There's a real comic-booky vibe to it, not only in its stylized violence and colorful visuals, but also in the blunt power of its story that could've been dreamed up by Frank Miller in his prime, right down to dividing the screen into smaller panels and the animated backstory in the middle.

The Crazy 88 fight is of course the standout action sequence of the movie and one of the finest in recent years, but don't just watch the movie in anticipation of that episode alone; otherwise, you'll miss the preceding sequence of The Bride reclaiming her Hattori Hanzo from the master himself, Sonny Chiba. Quentin Tarantino is well-known for bringing all sorts of pop culture relics from obscurity to public consciousness, but only few match the beauty of Gheorghe Zamfir's 'Lonely Shepherd'. Rock that pan flute, baby!

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 10037 Average listal rating (7411 ratings) 7.6 IMDB Rating 8.7
The Matrix (1999)
Whenever I think of the turn of the millennium cinema, I think of greenish hues, long black overcoats and aggressive rock music.

To be perfectly honest, my own feelings toward The Matrix are lukewarm at best. The spiels about the chose one, the monochromatic visual style and so-called cool that was mostly appealing to the nerdiest (or the coolest) kid on my block were always offputting at best.
But there is no denying that the Wachowskis turned the action game on its head. Everyone wanted to either be the Matrix or parody it - while secretly harboring feelings of actually wanting to be it. In essence, they took the finest Asian action cinema had to offer, from Jet Li's styles in wuxia to John Woo's trademark bullet ballet, and wrapped it inside the kind of science fiction facade that was easier to market for a Western audience.

However, something I realized after seeing the sequels that made me appreciate the originator more: for such a famous action-film the action itself is used surprisingly sparingly! The Wachowskis give us a teaser into what they can do with their bombastic, yet mysterious opening sequence, then dial back and take their sweet time to set up the stakes, properly explain the matrix and let us know who Neo is, before giving us the massive extravaganza that is its climactic fight.
Larri's rating:

Usually when you spend a good four hours and two movies watching something you don't particularly enjoy, you stop!
Not the case for stubborn bastards and boy was I glad I didn't give up on Mission Impossible. The third installment directed by JJ Abrams seemed to have everything fixed from the previous efforts.
What's even more impressive is that the fourth one seemed to be its own thing too. The third one had that dirty visual look and Die Hard-ish rawness that made me question if everyone was even going to live by the end, while the fourth clearly goes for more fun shenanigans and lighter mood. This is what Pierce Brosnan era-Bonds should've been! I have no doubt in my mind that this success was the result of an odd choice for director, animation guru Brad Bird, who clearly doesn't see limitations in what can be done. Invisible screens and traceable paper? Chases in a sandstorm? Why not!

There are plenty of set pieces to see in the movie: the prison break, the climactic car factory fight, Seydoux vs Patton..., but I can't resist the foot chase in Dubai between Tom Cruise and Samuli Edelmann: a celebration of foot work complimented by camera runs and just the right angles.

And if you think there's no difference in people running, see Steven Seagal in 'Nico'. Not everyone can do it right!

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 659 Average listal rating (462 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.2

This is from a chase scene among the most entertaining in recent film history. It's humorous and very aware of its ridiculous nature, but nothing short of skill as the busy streets of Bangkok become a straight-up obstacle course for our characters.

The more I see movies, the more convinced I am that if you want something new out of the action genre, you go to Asia. Already familiar with Jet Li's gravity-defying stunts, John Woo's slo-mo shooting and Jackie Chan's slapsticky fight sequences? I dare say you'll still be surprised with Tony Jaa's Muayi Thai acrobatics. While Ong-bak does hit hard with it's kicking and punching, it doesn't put quite as much emphasis on violence as it does to Tony Jaa's - as well as his opponents' - agility, playing a lot like a sports compilation right down to the head-nodding beats for music and instant replays of what we saw.
What we need now is a distinctive screen-persona for Jaa to match those of Jackie, Yun-Fat and Zhang Zi-Yi.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 744 Average listal rating (546 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.6
Let's not leave the continent.




and various other shrieks of death. Add to that Mike Shinoda's bass-fraught tamping and you'll pretty much have the defeaning soundtrack to The Raid: Redemption.
I'm personally having a hard time deciding whether the slaughtering in this film is A) actually fun or B) nothing but excessively vile torture. It is extremely graphic and hits you exactly where you least want it to, but on the other hand, the stunts and choreography certainly don't lack in craft and skill. There's no documentary value, it's all for show.

The fact that the movie didn't even have an excuse for much plot, bothered me none whatsoever. An Indonesian SWAT raids an apartment building. That's just good ol' Stallone cinema for your pleasure.
My sister took offense to the lack of plot. Why I keep watching movies with her, I'll never know.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 1405 Average listal rating (964 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 7
Rambo (2008)

2006-2008 was amazing for Sly Stallone. The career of this relic wasn't exactly on the rise at the turn of the century, and he even jeopardised what was left from his two most revered franchises, Rocky and Rambo.
What could've been an embarrassing disaster, brought Rocky back to his roots to everyone's surprise in 2006.
Two years later, the same was to happen to John Rambo, only Rambo said "F-ck the roots" and blew 'em to pieces! Before eating them.

Despite the reputation for being violent, the Rambo series from the 80s was always fairly tame in violence, rarely showing much blood or gruesome imagery as long as people were mowed down as many as possible. This new millennium installment just dropped my jaw on the ground! Rambo doesn't just swat down evil soldiers like flies, he wipes them off the face of the Earth. Only instead of the fun, clean killing of the previous films, the frantic editing, camera movement and HD picture quality brings a sense of a documentary, making me question whether I should be enjoying this or not.
Something not so documentary-like is the way Stallone utilizes what I like to call 'Superhero intervention' to amp up the dramatic punch, and he does it to a great effect, indeed.

Oh, and if that makes Rambo a superhero, would you really disagree?

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 1156 Average listal rating (814 ratings) 6.2 IMDB Rating 6.6
Shoot 'Em Up (2007)

"Shoot 'Em Up" - a movie well worthy of that title. This is, for sure, a shoot-em-up movie to end all shoot-em-up-movies. An affectionate love letter to gun-toting in every form you can think of. I don't even get how some people genuinely dislike the movie - I mean do they think lines like "F*ck you, you f*cking f*ckers" are supposed to be taken seriously? Or the frequent use of carrot as a lethal weapon?

I suppose "Shoot 'Em Up" isn't for everyone. But it's exactly the kind of tongue-in-cheek attitude that I sometimes wish I possessed.
If there's one thing I don't like, it's the ugly colors and dirt on the screen, the overall cheapish visuals that looks more like filters added via Photoshop in post-production than properly planned cinematography.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 2492 Average listal rating (1681 ratings) 7.3 IMDB Rating 7.8
Taken (2008)

Every once in a while I come across complaints that action movies aren't done the way they were back in the 80s. Then how do you explain the careers of Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson in the last ten years? Plotwise, all they do is Schwarzenegger movies of the 00s! Only now the leads are not muscle mountains but good actors.

If you described the story of 'Taken' to me, I'd think you were talking about Commando. Father hunts down the kidnappers of his daughter - it's as simple as it gets, and effective at that. Nobody wants their family hurt - you really gotta fuck up if that doesn't pull the viewer immediately in with the drama.

Larri's rating:
People who added this item 1979 Average listal rating (1320 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 6.8

I used to have this misconception of Jason Statham as like a watered down, year 2000 version of Bruce Willis with his snarky, troublesome yet ultimately lovable screen persona while really there may be even more badass credibility to him than Willis! Sure both got the action hero's eternal stubble, signature bald head and husky voice that makes everything sound cool, but how many can brag about actually being an accomplished martial artist (outside Asia!)? Add to that the believability gained from Guy Ritchie's rugged street level crime films and a background in black market salesmanship, that makes for an unexpectedly multifaceted action star!

With that said, I can't help but feel Statham deserves better.

The movie as a whole is barely anything exceptional, but fortunately, the simple, yet effective story of a mercenary delivery man protecting the woman who, at first, was his task makes the scenes in-between action set pieces really worthwhile. The French Mediterranean landscape and Shu Qi for visuals are no eye-sore either.
The fight scene near the end where Statham tussles bad guys in oil with bicycle pedals on his feet (!) maybe one of the most inventive action scenes in recent history, but I'm gonna name the episode where Frank intrudes the henchmen's card game the film highlight. Set to DJ Pone & Drixxxe's "Fighting Man", the scene almost seems like a continuation to Fat Boy Slim's legendary "Weapon of Choice" video. You know, if Christopher Walken had axes to look out for, to bring that extra sense of danger to it. Fighting for your life is a lot of fun!

Larri's rating:

I figured there's room for a surprise shoutout. While I seriously doubt the fourth Universal Soldier movie will become any sort of future classic (or even a cult hit) I do want to include it for discussion.

Approaching 17th birthday, this action-movie nut was definitely fascinated by the gratuitous nature of the genre and constantly searching for the bloodiest ass-kicking fests you can find. Little did I realize that the pinnacles of nasty bloodshed weren't limited to John Woo masterpieces - they were still on the way. It's bittersweet watching "The Raid: Redemption" and "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" in my 20s, wishing they'd had been there when I would've LOOOOOVED them seven years ago.
So, here's to you, you chubby, insecure, last decade version of me.

In all fairness though, the fight between Scott Adkins and Andrei Arlovski in the sports equipment store is an honest-to-God fine battle sequence. The best I've seen in a while. I've always thought moviemakers should utilize different environments better in their action scenes. Throwing weights at each other and just straight up demolish the spot. A little collateral damage never hurt anyone (except when it does).


Larri's rating:
People who added this item 2647 Average listal rating (1785 ratings) 6.4 IMDB Rating 6.7
Wanted (2008)

Mark Millar clearly shares my fascination with ordinary blokes being sucked into the superhero world. It's a great way to pull the viewer/reader in, explore the fantasies coming closer to reality and commenting on the traditions of the genre.
Even moreso, Wanted is a prime example of The Matrix's influence on action movies from the Noughties. Obviously there's the meaningless nobody for main character who lacks purpose until discovered as a potential hero, but then there's the type of action that rejects the straight-forward type of gun-toting in favor of showing us something no one would mistake for realistic. While The Matrix made 'bullet-time' a household word, Wanted went for the curved bullet trajectory.
Wanted is also much... dirtier, so to speak - not only in its violence but verbal violence and nasty humor. Add the rapid tempo and it almost feels like Guy Ritchie was robbed out of a directing job.

Larri's rating:

Heyy! Long overdue continuation to my list of action movie gems: www.betalistal.com/list/lights-camera-action-greatest-action
This time, let us look at the 00s!

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