Action films

Here’s why we’ll never get over our love of action movies


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The best feel like a party.

There is a great line (one among many) in Die hard that really explains why we love action movies. John McClane, our hero in a soiled white tank top, just threw a villain out of a high rise window. As the body hits the hood of an unsuspecting police car, triggering a flurry of terrorist gunfire, McClane salutes the chaos with a well-timed quip: “Welcome to the party, mate!” ”

The best action movies are like a party. Not a quiet midweek reunion, but a big, raging rager aimed directly at your pleasure centers. You leave excited and exhausted, already impatiently awaiting the next one.

But our obsession with this genre goes beyond stunts and sets. Without a real stake, all that adrenaline on the screen is just a cheap rush. So what really makes us come back to action movies?

Super people are everywhere in 2018, but not all action heroes wear capes. In the comic book world, bullets bounce off breastplates, wounds heal in the blink of an eye, and little scuffles graze entire city blocks. The classic action movie model, on the other hand, stays a little closer to the ground.

Take John McClane, the archetype of the ordinary hero. Sure, he’s an NYPD cop, but not indestructible. He is a handyman with a stolen machine gun but no one at marriage. And, as uber-villain Hans Gruber identifies in a classic scene, if you cut him (“Shoot the glass “), it will bleed. This combination of courage and vulnerability is perfectly portrayed by Bruce Willis, who at the time was best known as Cybill Shepherd’s comedic sidekick in the TV series. Moonlight.

After Die hard conquered the box office in 1988, relatable action heroes ruled the 90s. Speed (1994), Keanu Reeves gets the cool, buzzcut earpiece as SWAT officer Jack Traven, but it’s Sandra Bullock’s regular citizen, Annie Porter, who directs the bus to safety. Then there’s runaway surgeon Dr Richard Kimble in The fugitive (1993), one of Harrison Ford’s great harassed performances. Special mention also goes to Nicolas Cage as Dr Stanley Goodspeed in The rock (1996). A nervous chemist thrown into a macho takeover of Alcatraz Island, Goodspeed plays directly into Cage’s talents. (The following year he composed the Cage-isms for the one-two punch of Air conditioning and Face / Off.)

And it’s a trope that’s going nowhere. In the next movie Skyscraper, Hollywood’s busiest man, Dwayne Johnson, plays former FBI agent Will Sawyer, who wears a prosthetic leg after a raid gone awry. Now a security consultant, he is called to China to assess the tallest building in the world, where the trouble begins. Sure, Sawyer looks like Dwayne Johnson, but he brings a complicated past – and, if we trust the trailer, no love for heights – to all of his exploits.

Of course, not all of our favorite action protagonists have to feel like real people. There is another pleasure in watching John Wick or Impossible missionEthan Hunt does the impossible in pointy costumes. But it’s fun to imagine yourself as the scrappy, resourceful hero, discovering a Harrison Ford-like courage you never knew existed.

In The long kiss Good night, an underrated gem of ’90s action comedy, Geena Davis plays Samantha Caine, a small town teacher. She leads a quiet suburban life with her daughter, Caitlin, but Samantha isn’t who she thinks she is. Spoiler: she’s an amnesiac super-spy! Naturally her past hits, and we left on a strange Pleasantville-meets-Bourne’s identity adventure.

The long kiss Good night is anchored in all manner of reality by the stunned detective character of Samuel L. Jackson and Samantha’s relationship with Caitlin. Spoiler # 2: Villains Just Can’t Leave The Kids Out. But, needless to say, they picked the wrong girl to kidnap.

If we are to believe the history of action films, audiences never tire of families in danger. Explosions and espionage are good, but we all understand the drive to save our loved ones – at least on a good day. It is an elementary hook that allows us to stay anchored even in the most external action.

After the horror of Extraterrestrial, Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ellen Ripley became an action heroine in Aliens (1986). And who can forget the brave survivor Newt, whom Ripley protects as if she were his flesh and blood? (All together now: “Get away from her, bitch!”) This age-old trope covers everything from Commando (1985) – AKA Arnold Schwarzenegger brings out a small army to save his daughter – for Taken (2008), AKA Liam Neeson takes out Albanian sex traffickers to save his daughter.

On one of the Skyscraper posters, we clearly see Will Sawyer’s alliance as he swings from this burning building. (Again, all in one day’s work for Dwayne Johnson.) With his wife and kids in danger, he’s the classic family man called to action.

Here’s a tip for movie villains: Stay away from the families of anyone with very special skills.

Once we believe in our hero, an action movie needs – wait for it – action. And that doesn’t necessarily mean shootings and punches. Some of the most exciting movie sets aren’t about violence at all. There is an undying appeal to watching death-defying exploits from the safety of your theater seat.

You can’t talk about top tier stunts without mentioning Breaking point (1991): two glorious hours of surfing, skydiving, bank robbery and Keanu as an “FBI agent”. Or other classic blood pumping sequences like the continuation of the prison transfer in The black Knight (2008), the opening of Suspense (1993), and the breakage of the safe in Impossible mission (1996). Don’t sleep in a white knuckle Denzel Washington vehicle either. unstoppable (2010), who throws a runaway train in the role of the villain. Now, with visual effects smoother than ever, the sets just got bolder.

When they get the basics down (and create a few surprises), action movies are so easy to love. Here is a genre that just wants to show you a good, exciting time. Welcome to the party, mate.

(Main image: 20th Century Fox)

Part action film, part human story. Skyscraper in Australian theaters on July 12.

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