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It slides by like a pair of grenades, exploding with its effortless cool and dark gut. In one sense, SPL 1 and 2 are only nominally part of the same series. No characters from the first installment reappear in the second, though a couple actors do return to play new roles. In another sense, however, the two films are very much of the same blood.
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Additionally, both films possess the added virtue of having deftly edited, coherently shot action scenes, ones where the relative placement and orientation of the fighters remains discernible even when the camerawork turns frenetic. The first film, likely resulting in large part from budget constraints, is smaller in scale, with fight scenes occurring in closer quarters and usually between no more than two or three combatants. Its story has a corresponding straightforwardness, structured around a single, primary goal take down the mob boss.
This stunning moment evokes what Bilge Ebiri described about the prison fight scene in The Raid 2. As bodies collide like molecules heated over a raging fire, SPL 2 untethers itself almost entirely from narrative, becoming instead purely about motion and impact i. Skyfall gets all the love these days, but I still consider Casino Royale to be the best of the Daniel Craig -led Bond movies — and, indeed, one of the finest of the entire series. Craig seemed to understand the roots of the Ian Fleming character arguably better than any other actor in the series, and the movie was dark and exciting and thrilling without losing its sense of humor.
The end of the movie when the iconic Bond theme song finally kicks in is still one of my favorite things to have experienced in a movie theater, with the entire audience breaking into applause.
Hong Kong auteur Johnnie To has only ever been nominally interested in the usual conventions of the action genre, using grandly orchestrated bullet ballets as a means, but never an end. Kim Ji-woon has always been a director interested in taking a genre and pushing it to the extreme. From his camera placement in a car getaway scene to an intense weapon disassembly and life-or-death reassembly to a take-no-prisoners finale shoot-out, most Hollywood directors could bit the bullet and learn a great deal about pacing and execution from this South Korean action spectacle.
One of the most under-appreciated characteristics that an action protagonist can have is desperation. Desperation makes people dumb, but it also makes them bold, and it creates an air of immediacy that cannot be matched, even by a ticking clock. Sleepless Night involves a father desperately trying to save his son from gangsters in a night club, and the various floors and rooms in the club mean each new scene can have a different feeling, while still allowing the same level of desperation and claustrophobia to exist.
With dire gambits and clever solutions aplenty, along with some visceral action, Sleepless Night is the low-key actioner the world needed, a pretty solid pre- John Wick blend of style and action.
Now, will they put that on the case of its tenth-anniversary hologram release? Almost avant-garde at times, yet never distanciating, and always breathtaking. Inception is an arthouse movie with blockbuster aspirations. It is the product of a director given free reign by his studio, and a film that challenges its audience as much as it seeks to delight them. Who can forget the dream-within-a-dream world building, or the visually stunning action sequences such as the one that takes place inside a rotating hallway? Dizzying, beautifully scored and edited, and filled with memorable performances including the role that properly introduced Tom Hardy to many American viewers , Inception is without a doubt one of the most influential and respected films to emerge from the genre in recent years.
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Rogue Nation is a movie that begins with an epic action set piece and never lets up. Michael Mann has been a master of action cinema for a few decades now, embracing the digitization of moviemaking and utilizing the rapidly-advancing technology to create a new meaning of grit and frenetic energy in each of his works. With Blackhat , Mann paints his globetrotting adventure with a confident flair, rendering action scenes like no other filmmaker today. When weapons are fired in Blackhat , they sound and feel like someone just pulled the trigger next to your face.
Throughout the film, Mann elegantly strings together these set pieces, while weaving in small moments of intimacy and character beats in between. Finally, the beauty of Blackhat a s an action film is that, despite all its larger-scale chases and multi-national travel, culminates in an intimate climax that resolves itself with just a couple men and a few brutal uses of a knife. Up close, dirty, and personal. Vulgar, tasteless, and psychotically over-the-top. Chev Chelios may be the character Jason Statham was born to portray.
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At its core, Crank knows what it is, and fully embraces heedless insanity for the sake of insanity. Even if some of those set pieces, like the one on the train, still rank as some of the best in comic book movie history. Seasoning the buddy cop formula with a slasher film antagonist and an encyclopedically cine-literate style, Wright and company transcend their roots of homage, creating an alternatingly hilarious and pulse-pounding action film.
In many cases, Hot Fuzz is actually more fun than the films it parodies with such affection.
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To paraphrase The Joker, this movie changed things forever. The fact that Heath Ledger so beautifully captured the essence of The Joker with his Oscar-winning performance, while remaining committed to the tone and the vision that Nolan was aiming for, is just one of the many reasons people will continue talking about The Dark Knight for years to come.
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But for some odd reason, Apocalypto , his nail-biting epic of survival in Mayan-era Mexico, is left out. This is a shame, because it is an incredibly well-directed, relentless journey packed with such uncompromising energy that its two-plus hours soar by. Yet the audience feels every minute of tension as protagonist Jaguar Paw — a Mesoamerican tribesman — is put through a series of hellish survival scenarios to save his family. Relying heavily on an economy of well-chosen images, Apocalypto is a brutal and incredibly satisfying piece of filmmaking that deserves more recognition.
This doozy of a premise asks us to ponder the ethicality of jailing would-be criminals based on not-yet-perpetrated crimes and, by extension, the question of fate itself. Is this system flawless or irreparably flawed? Minority Repor t is popcorn cinema bold enough to wax philosophical in these ways even as it pushes ever-forward through visual virtuosity and a pleasingly twisty storyline.
It is difficult to understate the sheer intensity with which T he Raid: Redemption hits. Jaw-dropping not in scale but in its frenetic choreography, Gareth Evans crafts an action picture that brought the fighting style of silat to the big screen, and simultaneously put Indonesian action cinema on the map. Originally slated to make what would become The Raid 2 , Evans had to tighten his narrative lens for budgetary reasons. What emerged is lean, efficiently minimal storytelling that still manages to hint at the larger world expanded upon in the sequel which is also well worth your time, but missed the cut on this list.
Evans squeezes out pathos from protagonist Rama Iko Uwais , before events unfold in a high rise in the slums of Indonesia, where the action barely relents for its entire minute runtime. While I tried to find more academic ways to say it, it really boils down to the fact that The Raid: Redemption is a badass cut of action cinema that will repeatedly punch you in the gut with sledgehammer ferocity.
Most nightmares would make great action movies. Collateral plays like the nightmare of a Los Angeles taxi driver come to life, and the story is just the beginning of the simply and brutally efficient quality of this film. Jamie Foxx and a grey-dyed Tom Cruise are an amazingly mismatched pair, and each brings so much depth and consideration to their character that you can almost feel the rest of their lives existing off screen. Los Angeles has never looked more awful or more beguiling.
That might explain why it took so very long to be completed, and in some part accounts for the existence of multiple versions. My advice is to stay with the longest, its original Chinese cut, but to take a look at the reconfigured American take. In so many ways, John Wick is the ideal modern action film. First, the setup is simple: a retired gunman loses his wife.
Then, a couple thugs with ties to his past steal his car…and kill his dog. Now, John Wick a pitch-perfect Keanu Reeves must don the suit he swore off to his past for the most personal job of all, revenge. Within a razor-sharp economy of moments, John Wick offers genuine emotional weight behind all the mayhem. And what slick, beautiful mayhem it is. Lean, mean, and a one-man-wrecking-machine, John Wick is a new action icon we have been sorely missing.
The viewer has mere moments to chew over their surroundings before the main course kicks in. Shot with an unblinking eye, the fight choreography is slick and brutal, standing as an audacious proclamation from Soderbergh of his evolving verve in the current cinematic climate. What follows is a sleek hour-and-a-half stuffed with A-list stars and a story that is simultaneously breezily told and yet dense in its plotting.
The pleasures of watching Bourne run the game at a distance are plentiful, but it is when he gets rough and running that Ultimatum truly hits its stride. Keeping the camera rattling and whip-panning to sustain the frenetic mood, Paul Greengrass nonetheless maintains continuity of motion across myriad shots so that we can still discern the who, what, and where of each scene.
There may be no more diverse director working in Hollywood today than Ang Lee. The highest-grossing foreign-language film in America by a large margin and multiple Oscar winner earns its reputation with its thrilling grace and stunning beauty. When it comes to popcorn entertainment — a term often used synonymously with action films — Ghotocol proves to the ideal example in the 21st century, and the peak of the Mission: Impossible franchise thus far. Action movies often suffer from a problem of pacing.
Mad Max: Fury Road solves this problem by being constant action, though — to use an apt metaphor — constantly running in different gears.
Even the quiet moments are at first gear, rather than neutral, and the most action-packed moments are in sixth with a nitro-boost. The practical effects, the inventive setpieces, and the Doof Warrior are all lovely additions, but its the pacing that really sets this film a cut above the rest. Sorry, Aldo Raine. For all its thrills — and there is not a single dull action sequence within the four-hour runtime, to say nothing of the fact that all are distinct from one another — Kill Bill is about as deeply felt as movies get: a bloody bacchanal that gradually reveals itself as a tale of the insane things people do in the name of love.
I dare you to find a movie that is more self-assuredly cool than Miami Vice. I dare you to find a film that is more in love with itself than Miami Vice. This movie burns with the fire that only the truly un-self-conscious can embrace, and every scene drips with style and grace.