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Monday, December 20, 2010

My Christmas List: Top 5 Favorite Action Movies

Tomorrow "Salt" is released on DVD, a film which goes down as one of the finest action movies I have seen. But what makes "Salt" such a great action movie? Action Movie, really, is a pretty vague term and we all have different defintions. A couple years back The New Yorker's D.T. Max, when mentioning "The Bourne Supremacy", wrote that it was a film "in which dialogue was scant and motivation gave way to momentum." Motivation Gave Way To Momentum. Yeah!  That's the ticket!  That's what I'm talkin' about!  Preach it like you teach it, D.T. Max! Or how about what Scott Tobias of The AV Club said in relation to the same movie: "(H)ow matters more than what."  When it comes to action movies there is one word that, for me, stands above all others.


Just go. Like Al Pacino in "Heat" hollered at poor Albert Torena, "Don't waste my motherf---in' time!!!!!"  I love character and I love story and I love plot but I find all those wonderful things at other movies and I'm at an action movie now so just give me my bearings and get up and goooooooooooooooo. Collect $200.  Over and over and over.  There's a reason, see, action movies often have that scene of the grisly hitman in the nightclub surrounded by voluptuous woman as techno throbs on the soundtrack. Action movies should be techno. Action movies should not be lyrically complicated acoustic ballads.  What should action movies be to you?

5. Aliens (1986). This one actually has quite a bit of set-up time, not that it's boring or unimportant, because it's neither but when it finally gets up and goes....oh, my Father who art in heaven does it go. It's a roller coaster at Busch Gardens combined with that Drop Tower in Las Vegas mixed with a G Force Accelerator.  Hang on for your life.

4. Ronin (1998).  My Great Movie of July this year, John Frankenheimer's gritty and un-ornamented thriller is a total throwback that is a tasty piece of meat stripped of every single cotton pickin' ounce of fat.  The final car chase is my favorite chase invovling cars ever put on celluloid but the first ten minutes in which both nothing and everything happens is just......woah.

3. Salt (2010). This movie doesn't just have momentum, it has spacecraft propulsion.  The how matters more than the what.  Oh, the what is there and all but, you know, it's just a clothesline on which to hang the how.  When Angelina Jolie's rock solid Evelyn Salt comes face-to-face with that freeway overpass little did I know I was in for a rush of Arcade-Fire-live proportions.  If you say one word about the Laws Of Physics I hereby ban you from movie theaters for all eternity and sentence you to a lifetime of watching nothing but NOVA.

2. The Bourne Supremacy (2004). There is one shot in this film that seems to summarize it more than any other, and it is when Matt Damon, injured, bleeding, absconds with the taxi and he is being pursued by the authorities and by the grim-faced assassin and he pulls out a map and you only see the map for, like, .089732 seconds but it just totally overwhelming and discombublating and then a quick cut to Damon's face which is overwhelmed and discombubulated and then a quick cut to a street sign and then a quick cut to Damon shifting gears to send the car on a different path and this all happens so fast and yet it is not confusing. This is what I like to call FILMMAKING. A director (Paul Greengrass) and editors (Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse) working in complete harmony to create a lean, mean pitch-perfect film that cares not for the word relent. 

1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981).  Everyone already knew this was #1 and so rather than re-proclaiming that this movie will never ever be topped (and it won't) I'll simply ask, Is it coincidence that two of my all time favorite action movie sequences involve........trucks?


Castor said...

We share the same #1 action movie of all-time! Aliens is a classic but I'm surprised (not really) to see Ronin at #4. Definitely an underrated crime thriller. I haven't seen Salt yet while I prefer the last Bourne over the first two.

Nick Prigge said...

I like all three "Bourne" films quite a bit but the second one is just geared completely toward my particular mindset.