Friday, December 12, 2014

Matt’s Ten Favorite Action Movies (at this moment)

    While talking about Die Hard on the ITMODcast, Brad challenged me to come up with my top five action movie list.  I thought I’d expand that, and list ten of my favorite action movies.   I’d certainly say that Die Hard is awesome, and totally deserves a spot on the list.  But as I realized while watching it last week at the Alamo Drafthouse, I have very little experience with it; it’s not a film I’ve ‘lived’ with like some of these.  Of course, like any of these lists I make, the order (and even the inclusion) of films is subject to change depending on the day and my mood.

10.  The Matrix:  Its massive popularity and the disappointment with the sequels have probably combined to create a backlash against the movie.  But I still love it.  To say the very least, it was a game changer.  Though if that change was good or bad may still be up for debate.  I love the culmination of so many cyberpunk concepts into a kung-fu filled, effects laden action adventure.

9.  Desperado:  Here’s a movie that I had NO interest in ever seeing.  The trailers made it look like some pseudo-Brad Pitt romance with a bit of action thrown in.  No thank you.  But then a friend told me to put my preconceptions aside and give it a try.  The movie started up, Steve Buscemi starts telling his story of the ‘biggest Mexican’ he’d ever seen, and I was hooked.  Way over the top violence, lots of bent humor, and a sense of wild excitement.  It’s so danged much fun.

8.  Conan the Barbarian:  Not surprisingly, I have a couple Arnold movies on this list.  This is probably my favorite fantasy genre film, featuring some of my favorite scenes.  The final battle, in spite of only featuring a relative handful of horsemen, is one of the most epic things I’ve ever seen.  And the music.  Oh, the music.

7.  Fist of Legend:  No wire work, no crazy effects.  Just fists flying at mind blowing speed.  The movie that taught me Kung Fu flicks could be more than just bad dubbing and unintentional fun.  Jet Li was a revelation, the movie had surprising heart and soul, and the action is top notch.

6.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon:  A sweeping, martial arts period piece with some of the of the most pulse-pounding kung-fu I’ve ever seen.  Gorgeously shot, marvelously staged, and lushly crafted.  It’s not only an amazing action movie, it’s an amazing movie.

5.  Aliens:  Alien is one of the all time great horror films.  Aliens is one of the all time great action films.  Gone is the haunted house stalking, replaced by hoards of bugs eating a colorful team of wisecracking Colonial Marines.  This is, to my thinking, the peak of James Cameron.  He never even came close again.  But what a peak.  For all his bloated, soulless, time-sucks that came later, this movie remains a masterwork; untarnished.

4.  Escape from New York:  In the 80s, there was one thing people were pretty darned sure about, and that’s that the world was going to go right down the tubes.  This look forward into the corrupt police state of America circa 1997 is darned cool.  Snake is the Clint Eastwood channeling hero who goes into the prison world of New York City, where he has to save the President from the clutches of The Duke.  Lots of great supporting roles and a cool atmosphere make this one a classic.

3.  Commando:  Yup.  My fourth favorite movie of all time.  Yeah.  That’s right.  Obviously, the script is the strength of the film, but Arnold pounds the living crap out of a bunch of people, then cuts and shoots apart the entire army of an evil dictator all by himself, and all for the love of his daughter.  Let off some steam, don’t disturb my friend, and if you’re lucky, I’ll kill you last.

2.  Raiders of the Lost Ark:  Thrilling heroics and retro-fueled adventure are the name of the game in this, one of my all time favorite films (# 10, in fact) and one of my great cinematic influences (# 1 on that list).  Fistfights, foot chases, and that awesome truck fight.  It’s all the cliffhanger excitement of classic film crammed into one beautiful package.  Cool characters, cool story, and beautifully shot.  One of the greats.

1.  The Road Warrior: I’m a fan of the whole series, to be honest.  Yeah, I even like Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.  Actually, I love it.  But The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) is a straight-up amazing film.  It’s gut punchingly savage, dark, depressing, and exciting as all heck.  The iconic final chase is a thing of beauty (so much so that they felt the need to directly lift it in Beyond Thunderdome), but the movie features several cool action scenes, not to mention a beautifully presented apocalyptic world, populated by interesting characters.  Like the best movies, I felt like it took pace within a much larger world.  While we’re watching the story of Max, I have no doubt that over the next hill, equally dramatic lives are being lived and snuffed out.

-Matthew J. Constantine

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