One question that has plagued the internet since its inception is who is the greatest action star of all time. A fair question in its own right, but with a such a grand spectrum of actions movies, how can we judge these icons of film? Well I have devised a four elements that I am judging action stars based upon. Would you like to know what the criteria is? Well let’s take a look:
1. Screen Presence: This one is simple. How does the star appear on screen? A good example of this would be based upon the 1985 classic Commando. We have Arnold Schwartzenegger one on side, ripped, looking like a boss. And then opposite him, the steam-filled Vernon Wells as the infamous Bennett. And with this I don’t mean to say every action star needs to look like 1985 Arnold, or NOT look like 1985 Vernon Wells (I think this blog post is the most times Vernon’s name has been used in a long time) as much as it means that action stars need to stand out in the world he’s in.
2. Machismo: The original working title I had for this category was ‘One Line Execution’ but to me that doesn’t handle it right. There’s a lot of notoriously terrible one liners (should Vernon Wells be brought back into this?) that are delivered so stupidly, with such lack of any true acting ability, that they are utterly ballsy. Now in that same vein we have legitimate screen actors who appear in several action movies (Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, etc.) who aren’t necessarily handed goofy one liners, but still deliver that…machismo. So to summarize, this is the badass-ery of the action star. If screen presence is how they fit into the movie, machismo is how the movie fits them (see Dwayne Johnson’s entire filmography).
3. Fight Prowess: Simple. How does said action star stand in fights. And I don’t mean ‘does he win?’ I mean moreso, does he belong there in the first place (oh hey Vernon Wells).
4. Overall DAMN Factor: This is a bit of an average of all of those with a twist. The DAMN factor is based on the visceral reactions these stars give in movies. How many times do they do something that makes me as a viewer go ‘DAMN!’ and possibly rewind it several times? You can be the worst action star of all time but one badass moment that makes me go ‘WOW’ gets you credit in my book.
So that explains what goes into the rankings…a few more bullet point notes before I start actually reviewing movies…
-I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what types of movies fall into the action category. Do the Rush Hour and Beverly Hills Cop series count because they are action/comedies? Does the Indiana Jones quadrilogy count because it’s action/adventure? Do war movies count? Do straight up spoof movies like Black Dynamite count? Do kung fu and sci-fi fall under the action umbrella? And my answer is this: I’ll watch these movies and make the call. If I stayed solely in the ‘action’ genre I’d get bored. I will certainly take movies that are action heavy with real plots and legitimate directors into account, but I might avoid some sub-genres altogether so this blog doesn’t get too broad (Spider-Man is action heavy, but how does he fit in the rankings next to the Hulk?).
-Recommend me flicks! I have a handful of movies that I want to review, but when presented with cool movies I may have never heard of, I may jump to those instead of all of Vernon Wells’ filmography.
-Sorry Vernon, for saying your name so many times in this post!
Want to hear a spoiler for what my first reviewed movie is? It rhymes with Plexplendible.
Remember those lazy mornings/afternoons/evenings in college on the weekends when your body was still recovering from the previous nights festivities and all you could muster up the energy to do was flick on the TV? Yeah. Those were the days. Now, I was lucky enough to attend a university prestigious enough to provide their students with free HBO, so rather than trodding along through the world of cable, I got prime entry to the world of Alvin and the Chipmunks, Madagascar, What Happens in Vegas, Over Her Dead Body and a slew of other movies that I was not in the target demographic of. However, lodged between the chick flicks and kids movies there were always a handful of gems, many of which featured machine guns, awful dialogue, and explosions that looked about as real Jar Jar Binks. I know these kinds of movies aren’t gems to everyone, but to me, they hit the spot. And I think one reason why these movies stuck to me, and continue to, is because as a young person I wasn’t really exposed to them. While not to say I was raised in a strictly PG home, I just missed a lot of classics and as I grew up never got around to seeing them. So as I’ve gotten older and gone to the movies to see movies like Fast Five, The Expendables, Shoot ‘Em Up, Taken and a whole buttload more of modern action movies, some of the cliches and beats are lost to me. And I want to discover the best and worst of those cliches and beats. Because I’m a geek, and that’s what geeks do.
So, having that in mind, I also want to determine which action star is the best. I plan on devising a simple set of categories that highlight the best parts of each action star. Now I know someone like Dolph Lundgren is no Marlon Brando, so I doubt you’ll see “Legitimate Acting Skills” as a category, more like “One-Liner Delivery” or “On-Screen Presence”. And as I watch more movies, and absorb more of these stars, I can put my finger on who exactly is the best action hero! It’s exciting, I know.
So, sit back, relax. Get ready to read my thoughts on some of the best and worst action movies of all time. I’m going to enjoy watching them!
P.S. A special thanks is due to Blame Society Productions‘ Matt Sloan, whose web series Welcome to the Basement inspired me watch classics I haven’t seen. Thanks!
Bulletproof can’t come soon enough…..