Have we seen the last of the action heroes? - AVF Movies Podcast Discussion Thread

Tom Davies

Editorial Contributor
Hello, dudes and dames, and welcome again to this month's AVF Movies Podcast discussion thread.

The next Movies Podcast hosted by me, @Simon Crust and @Casimir Harlow will be livestreaming on our YouTube channel on Wednesday 18th August 2021 at 7:30pm

This time around we're stuck thinking about the garbo that Bruce Willis (and his contemporaries) are pumping out these days and wondering "is there a place for true 'action heroes' these days?"

Maybe you think yes, maybe you think no. We've probably already made up our minds but they can be changed!

The most interesting responses will be discussed on the podcast!

- If you had to pick just one action movie from any time, which would it be and why?

- Which action star has had the biggest fall from grace?

- Are there any performers that you think could be the next big thing in the genre?

Let us know your thoughts by typing them out and posting them in this forum thread.
 
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Mark Costello

Distinguished Member
Gutted to be missing this weeks poddy - apparently the wife didn’t think taking the laptop on holiday with us was conducive to ‘quality family time’. Pfft, a week alone with me will have her eating those words, trust me…….:D

Anyway to contribute to this cracking topic, let me get my two penneth in here:

1. One action movie is a tough one because there’s so many different types of them…….but for establishing the genre back in the 80s, the one we now all lovingly hark back to, it has to be Rambo First Blood Part 2. Not the best action film……hell not even the best Rambo film. But for a perfect illustration of the genre of excess, you can’t beat this - written by Cameron, directed by Cosmatos who by all accounts makes Walter Hill and John Milius look like metrosexuals, it certainly gave me my first taste of utterly ludicrous excess. And it tasted good. Huge explosions, even bigger pecs and a political message that most dictators in training could get behind, it’s has everything. Bar subtlety. But who wants that, right?

2. Biggest fall from Grace - it’s too easy to laugh at Willis, he’s always been a tool, he just had better people around him back in the day. Controversially, I’m gonna say Arnie. Not necessarily because of his choice in films lately - although Maggie and Aftermath show that while he may wish for acting range, he just doesn’t have it in him. No…….because he thought that politics was a better use of his time than giving us continued actioners. For nearly a decade we were robbed of his films, denied a continuation of the greatest action star evs (oh yes he is), and all for what? Something noble? Pfffft. Have a word. I’ve only just forgiven you Arnold…….

3. Up and Comers - it’s tough because the new star will depend on where action movies go next in terms of their form. I think the only one who could get close to what we think of an action star is Chris Hemsworth - Extraction was a good example of an old school actioner and he could easily do more…….if he chose to. Which I doubt he will. I think traditional martial artists simple aren’t having the impact in the mainstream that they did 20 years ago - The Raid was a superb blast of action junkie porn but it didn’t cross over. And so while I’d dearly love Scott Adkins to be the next big thing, he’s getting on and he doesn’t have the acting chops to go with this huge fight and physical skills. Look at Wick 4……it’s not bringing in hosts of newbies, it’s going back to the well and bringing in Donnie Yen (who’s 60!) and Adkins, after The Raid chaps and Mark Dacascos (who I love) for part 3…….symbolic of the lack of youngsters coming through? Hmmmm. Or more representative that these kind of action films are made for an older audience, one that the kids these days don’t want to be in…….hmmmm again.

Action cinema is changing - you could argue that superhero films are action films and are in rude health……but to me they’re not. And therefore the market place is turning to niches for kicks - Nobody was the evolution of Wick (or blatant rip off if you will). If you thought Reeves was the antithesis of Arnie and Sly, then wtf is Oedenkirk???? Will we ever see action cinema be as huge and mainstream as it was in the 80s and 90s again? Maybe action cinema will live and prosper in the old DTV ranks, away from huge audiences where it can get as crazy at it wants to…….And therefore until we see that next different niche with that next new star, we just won’t know. But I can’t wait to see what it is…….
 
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Nic Cage's ''Action holy trinity movie run'' ... The Rock, Con Air & Face/off
from oscar winner to unlikely action star
 

richp007

Distinguished Member
Nah I think they will rise again. They've just become dormant in recent years, perhaps in some ways because the action hero has been replaced by the superhero.

People want more super bang for their buck.

I think it's also partly due to a passing of the torch that hasn't quite finished. The Rock I think is sitting pretty right now to comfortably receive it, but then watching Hemsworth in Extraction he's certainly one to keep an eye on as well. And then we have Frank Grillo. He's made for it too, but why is no-one making anything for him?

But the old guard aren't quite done as we've seen, even though they probably should be.

Agreeing with how Bruce Willis has had a spectacular fall from grace, no-one can tell me Grillo isn't a ready made John McClane for his own Die Hard adventure.
 

Casimir Harlow

Blu-ray Reviewer
Nah I think they will rise again. They've just become dormant in recent years, perhaps in some ways because the action hero has been replaced by the superhero.

People want more super bang for their buck.

I think it's also partly due to a passing of the torch that hasn't quite finished. The Rock I think is sitting pretty right now to comfortably receive it, but then watching Hemsworth in Extraction he's certainly one to keep an eye on as well. And then we have Frank Grillo. He's made for it too, but why is no-one making anything for him?

But the old guard aren't quite done as we've seen, even though they probably should be.

Agreeing with how Bruce Willis has had a spectacular fall from grace, no-one can tell me Grillo isn't a ready made John McClane for his own Die Hard adventure.

I think The Rock isn't suited to serious roles. Maybe OTT, Commando-style, but his more 'serious' moments, even in Fast Five, are pretty unintentionally hilarious. He's better in Jumanji, Moana etc. where he doesn't take himself too seriously. It's been the case ever since he started (ironically, another 'Welcome to the Jungle') where he was almost literally passed the torch by Arnie.

Grillo's great, but he's at the tail end of his action career, he could rock it for maybe another decade - maybe - but he's hardly fresh blood (much like Statham).

There's also the trouble that these days anybody can make an action movie - you don't need to be an 'action star' anymore. Cruise does it, Reeves does it, bloody Neeson does it. So why limit yourself to just those roles, particularly if there isn't a market for 'another Arnie'.

Wait, am I supposed to be saving this for the podcast? Dammit!
 

richp007

Distinguished Member
I think The Rock isn't suited to serious roles. Maybe OTT, Commando-style, but his more 'serious' moments, even in Fast Five, are pretty unintentionally hilarious. He's better in Jumanji, Moana etc. where he doesn't take himself too seriously. It's been the case ever since he started (ironically, another 'Welcome to the Jungle') where he was almost literally passed the torch by Arnie.

Grillo's great, but he's at the tail end of his action career, he could rock it for maybe another decade - maybe - but he's hardly fresh blood (much like Statham).

There's also the trouble that these days anybody can make an action movie - you don't need to be an 'action star' anymore. Cruise does it, Reeves does it, bloody Neeson does it. So why limit yourself to just those roles, particularly if there isn't a market for 'another Arnie'.

Wait, am I supposed to be saving this for the podcast? Dammit!

To be fair I've just looked and didn't realise Grillo was 56. Damn Hollywood has missed an opportunity there.

With regards The Rock, I don't think he needs to do serious. I've said a few times that I see him in the roles that Arnie played, The Running Man is one I always return to. He's ready made for that. He tried the serious gig in Skyscraper and he didn't pull it off really.

Hemsworth though I think could. Perhaps he's the man instead.

Neeson's falling from grace ala Bruce Willis at the moment, his last two on Amazon have been terrible. He just doesn't look the part anymore.

I guess everyone is at it these days though as you say. But I do think I'm right in recent times with regards superheroes. Marvel have in some ways monopolised it and overshadowed other action films because their's have gotten so spectacular the more bog standard actioner sometimes pales in comparison.

Speaking of which, Chris Evans for some more action roles perhaps? He's got the beef.
 

gavinhanly

Distinguished Member
- If you had to pick just one action movie from any time, which would it be and why?

Die Hard. May be one of the best movies of all time, let alone action movie. Still holds up incredibly well today. Pacing, story, characters (even the side characters) - all done so well. And one of the best bad guys of all time. Also HIGHLY quotable.

- Which action star has had the biggest fall from grace?

To be honest, particularly after looking at the above, Bruce Willis. There was real potential for him to do indie movies and action movies back to back but he just seemed to lose all interest. Wish he would retire.

- Are there any performers that you think could be the next big thing in the genre?

Chris Pratt seems to be action hero-du-jour, obviously. But it's surprising how few up and comers look like they could hold their own. I think looking at TV stars, given the massive popularity boost that a streaming hit can give stars is where you'll see the next action heroes coming from (unless they're swept up by Marvel first). Regé-Jean Page may be worth watching, for instance - he's starting to enter the big leagues.

Also - Yahya Abdul-Mateen II would be amazing as an action star - again, has some very interesting big movies that could springboard into that.
 

Cobb

Distinguished Member
I miss the action movies of old. I agree with the sentiments regarding The Rock. For as much of a fanboy as I am for his work - I don’t see him ever going full-on serious. I think family films and appealing to the masses are his objective and why not, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and makes fun movies, and heaps of cash.

Jon Bernthal for me is as credible as it gets right now. The Punisher Netflix series was superb, he doesn’t have the physique from the past era of Arnie and Stallone but he has 100% credibility that he could walk into any room and ruin everyone’s day.

Chris Hemsworth I just don’t buy it. I liked Extraction but he’ll always be Thor to me. Much like Chris Evans, it felt off seeing him in Knives Out.

Frank Grillo 56 - wow Hollywood really missed something there. Jon Bernthal however still only 44.
 
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richp007

Distinguished Member
I miss the action movies of old. I agree with the sentiments regarding The Rock. For as much of a fanboy as I am for his work - I don’t see him ever going full-on serious. I think family films and appealing to the masses are his objective and why not, he doesn’t take himself too seriously and makes fun movies, and heaps of cash.

Jon Bernthal for me is as credible as it gets right now. The Punisher Netflix series was superb, he doesn’t have the physique from the past era of Arnie and Stallone but he has 100% credibility that he could walk into any room and ruin everyone’s day.

Chris Hemsworth I just don’t buy it. I liked Extraction but he’ll always be Thor to me. Much like Chris Evans, it felt off seeing him in Knives Out.

Frank Grillo 56 - wow Hollywood really missed something there. Jon Bernthal however still only 44.

fudge yes Jon Bernthal. I can't believe I forgot about him. The Punisher was tremendous, an absolute travesty amongst travesties that it got binned.

Put him and Grillo together in a film and it's game over. We've peaked.

Surprised by your comments about Hemsworth. He may be Thor but Extraction was the film that proved he can mix it up with the best action wise. He has the presence and impact in a scene to take it to the level that the likes of Arnie and Stallone could in their heyday.

With the right direction of course.
 

mtenga

Distinguished Member
The one for me is Total Recall. Arnie at his best with the muscle, aggression and one liners. I’d have picked T2 which is a better film but obviously he is not as funny.

Biggest fall is Steven Seagal for all that is going on offscreen.

Action heroes belonged to another age. The wise cracking, uber male, muscle guy, banging up his enemies often with excessive gun use does not fit in with these more egalitarian times.
 

mjn

Distinguished Member
Great thread :smashin:
 

bruce-leroy

Distinguished Member
"Is there a place for true 'action heroes' these days?"

It depends on the definition of a true action hero as its definitely not confined to the era of Willis, Stallone and Arnie. Almost every decade has had its own incarnation. Starting from the 60s, you had arguably the ultimate action hero in the form of James Bond. Unlike Roger Moore in the seventies, Connery played him as such, especially in the earlier ones of Dr. No and From Russia With Love - hello brutal train fight with Red Grant - before the gadgets became more prominent, as did Lazenby in his solo outing. The seventies had the iconic presence of Dirty Harry, whilst Bronson was still in his prime with stuff like The Streetfighter and Mr. Majestyk (amongst many others). There was also some bloke called Bruce Lee too.

As many of us here grew up during the 80s, Sly, Arnie and Willis will have left an indelible imprint in our consciousness of course (Mel Gibson was just as prominent with Martin Riggs during this time). We mostly think of these as our ”true action heroes.” Swayze is most famous for Dirty Dancing and Ghost to mainstream audiences, but he was always an action man at heart - from Red Dawn to the little known Steel Dawn (I loved this back in the day), Next of Kin and culminating with the absolute monster classic of Road House in 1989 (and we all know what he did after Ghost). You could also argue Jackie Chan was just as influential when Hollywood started copying his ideas (notably Stallone in Tango and Cash).

Whilst the 90s saw Van Damme and Seagal break through from DTV to challenge the then established order, it also brought about the biggest evolution in terms of how our action heroes are packaged these days. Keanu Reeves alternated other genre projects with some of the best action movies ever made at the beginning, middle and end of this decade. I think he was the progenitor of the breakaway from what we see as our traditional action guys (like those cemented in the 80s; I forgot to mention Kurt Russell and Harrison Ford also) to the modern day incarnation. Reeves paved the way for the contemporary action star in terms of an actor you might not have expected to do it when you watched Bill and Ted - OK, you could argue no-one thought Willis would go from Moonlighting and Blind Date to John McClane. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of the pie with most notably Nic Cage, as well as Will Smith and John Travolta getting in on the act.

Reeves was also arguably the most influential in terms of non traditional action actors putting in the training to get into shape, being less reliant on stunt doubles (Die Hard is a classic but Willis is doubled a lot in that movie) and able to perform the fighting skills of their character with genuine authenticity. This paved the way for Matt Damon in the Bourne series and Cruise in the current phase of his career. Most recently, Hemsworth looked the real deal in Extraction and despite playing a superhero, Chris Evans in The Winter Soldier demonstrated he could be a credible action lead in any film if he wanted it. And that’s where we’re at I think. Whilst the genre has been overshadowed by Marvel for the last ten years, I believe it will see a resurgence. The cycle never ends but just constantly evolves. It may not be in the traditional sense (whatever we deem that to be) of what we grew up with as those guys aren’t getting any younger (although still mostly hanging in there - apart from Willis of course, who doesn’t care anymore). However, as long as 87Eleven Action Design Studio are around (Stahleski, Leitch and co), and action/stunt directors like Sam Hargrave go from strength to strength, they can make anyone into a “true action hero” (as evidenced by Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde) as long as the actor is willing to put in the hard graft (thanks to Keanu).
 

bruce-leroy

Distinguished Member
- If you had to pick just one action movie from any time, which would it be and why?

Very hard to pick one. Die Hard is the obvious one as it covers all the bases spectacularly well. I could easily put forward Commando as that had everything I wanted from an action movie as a kid. As the former has been mentioned, I will throw in Jackie Chan’s Police Story as the Hong Kong equivalent of Die Hard. On an action level - not martial arts, or gunfights; a bit of that but in terms of pure action and stunts in a contemporary rather than period Hong Kong setting - its hard to beat. You just have to consider the amount of Hollywood movies which have lifted set pieces from it (Tango & Cash, Bad Boys II, Rapid Fire). The opening action scene starting from the shanty town pursuit to Jackie Chan dangling off the side of the hijacked bus, with the theme music in full flow, still gets the adrenaline pumping whenever I watch the movie.


- Which action star has had the biggest fall from grace?

Willis is the obvious one as he’s a total sellout now. The one that’s been sad to see - due to a combination of ageing, poor choice of material, poor output - is Jackie Chan since 2010. Apart from The Foreigner, he’s made so many terrible films which have tried to recapture previous glories. Chinese Zodiac I struggled to watch and stopped around less than half an hour into it. What the hell he was going for with Bleeding Steel I don’t know? Never mind steel, it made my eyes bleed (metaphorically).

- Are there any performers that you think could be the next big thing in the genre?

As already mentioned, most of the action stars doing it now are still the older guard of the likes of Cruise, Reeves, Statham (and for Hong Kong cinema) and Donnie Yen. All are the wrong side of fifty - luckily they’re also in great shape. In terms of younger talent, there isn’t a lot in recent years in all honesty. As I said, with people like Stahelski and Leitch around, they can mould anyone into an “action hero.” Charlize Theron was a revelation in Atomic Blonde - she’d dabbled with the genre earlier in her career but nothing like that. Pitt is up next in Bullet Train. Going back to younger (under forty years old) performers, I’d like to see how Henry Golding does in Snake Eyes (which has been critically panned). There is Cavill in the Highlander update. Vanessa Kirby was awesome in Hobbs and Shaw, and will probably get to do a lot more in the next Mission Impossible. Mary Winstead looked capable in Gemini Man and I’ll definitely be checking out her action thriller Kate.
 

barnaby jones

Distinguished Member
Our 80’s heroes are virtually gone, I guess Cruise still remains but that’s about it.
Hemsworth is a good shout, he does some good actiony stuff in between Marvels.
Keanu of course is kind of a modern day Seagal, you either love him or you hate him.
 

Jessica Noir

Well-known Member
- If you had to pick just one action movie from any time, which would it be and why?

I'd have to go international and say Hard Boiled. Breathtakingly ambitious, effortlessly cool and rarely matched. Given that the action genre is a relatively recent genre (you don't have to look too far into silent films to see many that would count as action, but limits on recording equipment and studio sets kept Action as Adventure movies during the studios heyday), it's great that we have so many examples of just how great it can be. The Warriors, Die Hard, Speed, The Raid, etc. all perfect synergy between stunts, pyrotechnics and talent in front of and behind the camera.


- Which action star has had the biggest fall from grace?

Given that he was always e massive tool, I'd still say Segal. From some decent early nineties efforts to needing his stunt double to do any scenes with him walking a now being part of Putin's propaganda machine is a hell of a long way to fall.


- Are there any performers that you think could be the next big thing in the genre?

Given that the most exciting action films (outside of the John Wick series) are mainly straight to VOD, the real heroes of the genre currently for me as Frank Grillo, Scott Adkins, Joe Taslim and Julie Estelle.
 

mooperman

Distinguished Member
sooo much talk of action movies (and a lot, if not all, i agree with) but no mention of Bruce Lee... when i think about action movies Enter The Dragon i think was the first movie of his i saw (and then later looked up the others) but Enter The Dragon really changed things in Hollywood even if they were nicking ideas from elsewhere. I'd also throw Warriors into the mix - street gangs and some tame kung fu type ideas - all round excellent movie.

My other big favourite is undoubtedly Commando.... the hulking Arnie at his best for me and possibly only topped by Predator.

Fall from grace i'd agree with Seagal - but im not really sure he was ever ever flying high - we had some ok action movies but Akido was really the star in his movies. I thought about Wesley Snipes who had a cracking movie in Passenger 57 (hello Liz Hurley) and went on to the excellent Blade movies (aside from 3 maybe).... a few tax dodges later and its career over...

up and coming is definitely the harder question - mostly because they arent making 'those' kind of movies anymore so we dont really see what they are capable of.... plus, as mentioned by Bruce Leroy, a lot of us grew up in that 80's action hay day so they are the absolute benchmark. Thinking about the stars of then though they were all relatively famous before getting into the ridiculous action chops... Arnie was the famous bodybuilding champ and was covered in Pumping Iron which brought his face (and muscles) to many. Sly Stallone made the oscar worthy Rocky before taking that in a very different direction... Bruce Willis (again as mentioned previously) was already a big TV personality before Die Hard changed things.... JCVD/Seagal all kinda came off the back of those stars really. Even Jackie Chan only really got a kick start at the beginning of his career as they scrambled to find the next Bruce Lee albeit JC carved an absolutely excellent set of movies out for himself (minus the last 15 years perhaps).

Defo put me down for a ticket for the Chris Evans action movie though - only a slight bloke crush :D

honourable mentions out to the likes of Verhoeven with the excellent Robocop as well! I also wanted to mention the rise of action TV shows in the 80's as well... so many A-Team, Airwolf, Knight Rider and even the Equalizer episodes.... superb.
 
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