Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Lights, camera, action movies!!!!

I believe there are few things on God's green Earth more enjoyable than watching stuff blowing up, going up in flames or otherwise being violently being rendered unusable. And any "action movie" that fails to include these elements is a serious discredit to its genre. I mean, really, it would be like watching a Sharon Stone flick without nudity!! Woe befall a director who perpetrates such a crime against humanity. (My research indicates that such directors usually end up directing documentary films titled "The eating habits of the panda" and other such stuff...).

Anyways, back to the theme of action movies, an essential ingredient of any action movie is the action hero (or heroine, as the case may be). You could have the perfect director, stunts co-ordinator, action sequences and even script (as if action movies really require a script), and still end up making a lousy movie with a wrong choice for the role of the all-important "action star". I've seen perfectly good movies go to waste because they had the wrong guy yelling, "Now let's kick some bad-guy butt...", bringing tears to the eyes of directors, stunts co-ordinators, stunt doubles, script writers, producers, studio bosses, multiplex owner dudes and the audience. It is with a view to stem this tidal wave of tears that threatens to drown the genre of action movies that I write this article, in which I categorize "action stars" into four categories: The good, the bad, the ugly and a fourth category whose name you shall discover (much to your delight, I promise) in due course. I hope this article serves as a guide to aspiring producers/directors of "the next multi-million dollar action extravaganza" as they go about the task of selecting the "action star"...

The Good:
* Harrison Ford: Agreed, he's finally beginning to look like a grandfather. Agreed, he hasn't had a hit in like a million years. But "Indi" is still my choice to play the role of a common man action-hero. In movies where he's not playing a guy whose wife/girl-friend died/got murdered/cheated on him, he plays the everyman action hero without the smart karate moves or bulging biceps. His fight scenes are invariably ugly and he typically gets beat up a lot, but he brings a touch of reality to the action scenes he is in. He seems to say, "Dude, you can do it too...". I don't know about you, but me like what he says!!
* Hugh Jackman: The first movie starring Mr Jackman that I saw was a rom-com involving Ashley Judd whose name I forget. Anyway, the name is inconsequential. The fact is, it took me quite a while after that to get around to accepting him as a genuine action hero. But his excellent portrayal of Wolverine in the "X-Men" trilogy put any doubts I had to rest. He brings an intensity to his role that one can't expect from, say, Tobey Maguire....
* Will Smith: When I saw "Bad Boys" (only the most excellent action-comedy movie ever), I knew straight away that the man formerly known as the "Fresh Prince" was born to play the role of an action hero... Well, an action hero in action-comedy flicks really. The man has a great sense of timing and comes across as being a pleasant enough chap. Now seriously, how many action heroes can claim that?
* Arnold Scwarz-blah-blah: Arnold has acted in more lousy movies than probably all other action stars (excluding Van Damme, of course) put together. But somehow, the man has managed to entertain in even the lousiest of his movies. His deadpan delivery of one-liners always leaves me in splits. And when it comes to playing a robot/humanoid/cyborg, Arnold is the gold standard.

The Bad:
* Sly Stallone: I know a lot of you are going to take offence to the fact that I've put Ah-nuld in the "good" category and unceremoniously dumped "Rocky" here, but I have a good reason. The reason: Stallone is a terrible actor, period. When the movie just demands that he kick some bad guy butt (the Rocky series) or blow stuff up (the Rambo series), the man is perfection. But if the role demands that say anything more than "Adrian!!", he tanks bigtime. Cases in point: The Specialist, Daylight.. the list really goes on. I mean, the keyboard I'm typing on is a better actor than Stallone...
* Bruce Willis: There was a time when people thought Bruce Willis was the next big thing on the action movies scene. And during the "Die Hard" days, he promised to be as much. But there's only so long you can keep playing a guy messed up in the head and hope to be an action star. Bruce crossed that line a long while ago. He has since made a very wise career move in moving into Shyamalan's "supernatural" camp. He can now continue to play a guy messed up in the head with total impunity....
* Nicholas Cage: There are people who think Nicholas Cage is a brilliant actor. I am not one of those people. I think Cage is just plain awful and supremely irritating. Mr Cage made a brief, and disastrous transition from being an irritating actor to being an irritating action hero. Fortunately for him, and us, he has now transitioned back to being an irritating actor. I plead with directors to have mercy on the legion of action movie fans and not attempt to tempt him back to action movies...
* Tobey Maguire: There ought to be a law banning people that look and talk like Tobey from acting in action movies. I mean, seriously, it's not hard to imagine Ben Stiller kicking Tobey Maguire's ass. And if you can imagine Ben Stiller kicking anybody's ass, they don't deserve to be action heroes. Tobey ought to be acting in movies that have his character being slapped silly by a gang of high school girls...

The Ugly:
* Jean-Claude Van Damme: The good thing about Van Damme's movies. They all look and feel the same. So you've seen one, you've like seen them all. The bad thing about them: there's so many of them!!! It's a mind-numbing waste of satellite frequencies... Well, there's actually one other good thing about Van Damme's movies. He gets beat up a lot in all of his movies. I guess that's a good reason to see the movies...
* Chuck Norris: I guess today's generation won't even know who Chuck Norris is. It suffices to say that he was the Van Damme of the '80s. Captain America who single handedly saved the world from total devastation!! And unlike Van Damme, he didn't even get beat up a whole lot in his movies... Aargh...

Steven Seagal:
* Steven Seagal: in case you are wondering why I have "Steven Seagal" typed out twice above, the first SS is the surprise category I was talking about at the beginning of the article. The man is a phenomenon and in a class of his own. I said Nicholas Cage was irritating. Steven Seagal is a million times more so. The story about Seagal goes thus: There was a time, a very good time, when Steven Seagal was just a stunt choreographer. Then, I'm guessing, he happened to stunt-choreograph a movie starring Nicholas Cage and he thought to himself, "If this fool can be an action star, I can too....". And the rest is painful history. I would like to see one movie in which Mr Seagal gets as much as a scratch on his cheek as he fights bad guys using his super moves and awesome mind techniques. After fighting a million bad guys, there is not a spot on his person or a hair out of place. Really, how does he do it?? "Executive Decision" was not a bad movie by itself, but what made it really special was that Seagal's character actually departs for heavenly abode in the movie. Ok, he didn't get beat up before he died, but I can live with that. How I, and I'm sure a million others, would love to see a movie in which Steven Seagal gets beat black and blue by an elderly lady in a wheel chair... Aah, the very thought is so pleasing....

So there you have it. The authoritative list of who stands where in the action hero hierarchy. There really can be no excuses if a director mis-casts an action star now. All I will do in such a case is eagerly lampoon the movie and say, "I told you so..." ... until later... cheers... :)

15 Comments:

At 2:27 PM , Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff .. couldn't agree with you more about Cage and Stallone .. time and time again, in movies that require little to no acting ability, they just manage to look incredibly stupid from start to finish

 
At 2:32 PM , Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

Great stuff .. couldn't agree with you more about Cage and Stallone .. time and time again, in movies that require little to no acting ability, they just manage to look incredibly stupid from start to finish

 
At 1:45 AM , Blogger Pushuka said...

[Reel]: You said it, dude. I couldn't agree more with your observation... :)

 
At 2:11 AM , Blogger Guruprasad Kini (Guru) said...

Good one. But hey leave poor Brucie alone! Poor chap never claimed to be the super action hero. He gets whacked in practically every movie till the very end and only then he gets a chance to kick some ass.
And Cage, IMHO, should not even be considered as an action hero. His action hero career featured only 2 movies - Co(r)n Air and Face/Off (he was a dough-soft scientist in The Rock).
And how can you forget the action/romantic/singing/dancing hero for all seasons: Mr. John Travolta! Heheh

 
At 3:44 AM , Blogger Pushuka said...

[Guru]: You do have a point there. But I guess the "Die Hard" series typecast Bruce before Shyamalan came along with his brand of supernatural. And old John.. it's hard to even imagine him in an action role. (This despite his having acted in the odd almost-action movie...) 8-)

 
At 4:49 AM , Blogger the Monk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:51 AM , Blogger the Monk said...

No no no no no...How could you forget Face/Off and The Rock? Agreed both had supremely charismatic co-stars, but Cage was good, dammit, in them...he pulls off the vulnerable/desperate-nice guy/stud
act quite well...

I like Cage.

 
At 9:01 PM , Blogger Pushuka said...

[Monk]: Hmm... At last, our opinions differ.. :) Cage reminds me of our very own Shah Rukh Khan. Not a bad actor at all, but goes over the top with his acting...

 
At 11:21 PM , Blogger Kaushik said...

For once,I am forced to take great offence at your post.

Whats all this about dumping Arnie in the 'good' category, that too way below...Harrison Ford???

The guy epitomized action, dude. Without him, the letters a,c,t,i,o,n have no significance whatsoever! They might as well have been c,f,a,r,g,d. I look upon him as God's gift to us lesser mortals!

I shall now break a coconut at the nearest temple and pray that the lord forgives you....

 
At 11:45 PM , Blogger Pushuka said...

[Kaushik]: Dude!! I apologize for the immense aggravation I seem to have caused you. (Imagine me on my knees, pleading for forgiveness..) I seek to stress that the order of listing is of no consequence. I will be much obliged if you could break a coconut at the nearest temple and seek divine forgiveness.... -sniff-

 
At 10:05 PM , Blogger the Monk said...

Oh, come now, SRK and Cage? Try Cage's Adaptation, if you haven't already...The closest SRK came to doing anything different was Swades.

BTW, Kaushik, I totally agree with Pushuka's classification of Arnie..the guy really did entertain, all said, done and imitated.

 
At 2:34 AM , Blogger Pushuka said...

[Monk]: My God!! I seem to have rubbed everyone the wrong way with this post... :) I guess Cage is just one of those actors that I dislike but have trouble pinpointing why... another is Woody Allen. Many people swear by him, but to me he comes across as just plain annoying.. As the old saying goes, "One kid's trash is another kid's treasure..." 8-)

 
At 11:28 PM , Blogger Arjun Sharma said...

Fantastic!

Cage, yes, I fail to see why a lot of people think he's a great actor and all. He manages to pull off that "I'm in pain but I don't know why" look very, very well, agreed. But he does nothing beyond that. Just like Bruce Willis' smirk.

Agree with the Seagal bit too. But making him a whole category was brilliant!! Ha ha!!

I too take offence but at the demotion of Stallone. Come on, have we not all enjoyed his crying scene at the end of Rambo: First blood"?? How many of us can cry while at the same time looking like we're paralyzed in the left side of our face?

No, seriously, Rambo and Rocky were great fun. Yes, napkins and pieces of wood have been known to act better than Stallone. But the man did entertain, just like you mentioned "Me Aahnold! Me pissed! Many people die!"

 
At 2:06 AM , Blogger Pushuka said...

[Arjun]: Pushing Stallone down was a tough choice, but in the end his total inability to act left me with no choice at all. In my opinion, in the contest between Sly and the Guv'nor, the latter edges it just... :)

 
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