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February 11, 2013

Action Movies -- An All-Points Bulletin

So I have a question: is there something about Nicolas Cage that I need to know?

I’m asking this because -- as I’ve said before -- I’m not exactly the most competent when it comes to movie trends. I know who Nicolas Cage is, obviously, but the qualities of his filmography are lost on me.  Is he generally considered to be a good actor?  Is he bad?  Is he just plain weird?  Does he have a habit of appearing in terrible movies? 

That last one deserves a bit of focus, because…well, I seem to have gotten “unlucky” when it comes to Nic Cage movies. 

I don’t usually go out of my way to watch movies, but when my brother and I have our buddy over, more often than not we end up taking a break from games (and the gathered rage therein) to see what’s on TV.  And since my brother’s the one holding the remote, he’s certain to try and find something that tickles his fancy…and you can just imagine how well that tends to go for me.  More recently, he’s had us sit through not one, but two of Cage’s movies: first Drive Angry, and then Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.  I can sum up my thoughts on each in less space than a tweet.

Drive Angry: Too stupid to be good.  Not stupid enough to be awesome.

Spirit of Vengeance: A movie featuring a hellish biker isn’t allowed to be this boring.

Let’s ignore the fact that I’m baffled by the mere existence of these movies (and the less I have to remember the image of Ghost Rider pissing fire all over the place -- twice -- the better).  It brings up a more important question: what’s a good action movie?  I know I asked a question like this in the context of horror movies -- and now have a verifiable armada of movies to check out, so thanks for that -- but given how successful that post was, I thought I’d do the same for action movies.

To be honest, I don’t have a problem with action movies -- at least not as much as horror movies.  Whereas the latter has consistently disappointed me to the point where I assume directors would rather shoot a nuclear bomb than try to make one, action movies have much more potential to surprise us, amaze us, and in general be much more competent than the carnival of explosions might suggest.  Like I suggested with Drive Angry, I don’t mind if an action movie (or the subgenres related to them) is stupid; there’s no denying that The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is stupid and several types of terrible, I still enjoy it a lot more than I do Drive Angry or…well, either Ghost Rider movie, now that I think about it.

So I guess that’s what brings me here today.  Name me some good action movies, if you’re willing -- anything that’s entertained, excited, or even inspired you in the past.  It can be stupid.  It can be smart.  It can be deep.  It can be shallow.  It can be in any subgenre, any language, or any [insert third qualifier here].  I don’t even mind if it’s got Nic Cage in it; in fact, you get five million bonus points if you can point me toward a good Nic Cage movie.

So whatever you’ve got in mind, let me hear it.  I’m in the mood for a little excitement.  Just one thing, though -- don’t bother putting Die Hard on your list.  I’m pretty sure that’s already the one movie I need to see, so…yeah, I’ll get to it.


  1. Who could forget the buddy cop movies? Check out Lethal Weapon.

  2. Poor you. I saw Ghost Rider. I left wondering why it was even made. Try National Treasure. I'm not sure about Cage himself, he is not one of my favourite actors and I don't know if I would consider him a good or bad actor, but National Treasure are fun movies.

  3. Well, to see Nic Cage actually ACTING - I'd say Raising Arizona, or Vampire's Kiss, or Leaving Las Vegas. But those aren't really action at all. He's good, when he's not doing a hollywood blockbuster. The closest I could think of would be Con Air or The Rock, which are pretty good action movies but that's not so much due to Cage as it is the rest of the cast.

    Apart from that - seen District B13 yet? It's stupid, but they keep stuff happening. Ip Man 1 and 2 are great for watching Donnie Yen just wail on fools.

  4. I think it depends on what Nicky Cage films you are into. I never really pegged him as an action star, nor did I really like his action movies. But I did like Raising Arizona and The Weather Man. So, who knows? Cage just exists.

  5. "I left wondering why it was even made."

    The same could be said of a lot of bad movies, I'd wager. Ah, the places that money could have gone...but enough of that. I saw about five minutes of National Treasure once, and I can't say I have any objections toward it. It could be good, especially if I decide to actually pay attention to it. I'll have to keep it in mind.

  6. You know, now that you mention it I saw a bit of The Sorcerer's Apprentice a while back, and thought he was the best part of it...though that just might have been because he was with a REALLY annoying audience surrogate. So I guess maybe he has some real talent that just gets poorly-tapped.

    Theorizing aside, Raising Arizona sounds pretty interesting -- and I DO enjoy a good comedy.

  7. Lethal Weapon, huh?


    ...Why have I not seen so many famous movies? Man, I really need to start grabbing more DVDs. Which is to say, I need to start getting more than one DVD every few years.

  8. I haven't even HEARD of District B13, let alone seen it. Man, I am really out of the loop...

  9. A good action movie featuring Cage ? ... Face/Off, by John Woo when he was directing good over-the-tops stylized action movies like when he was in Hong-Kong.

    Otherwise, Cage appears in good movies as he has sometimes been directed by good directors : Raising Arizona by Cohen bros has already been mentioned, but also Bringing out the Dead by Scorsese, Bad Lieutenant : Port of Call New-Orleans by Herzog, Lord of War by Andrew Niccol or Rusty James by Coppola, none of them being action movies.

    And for good actions movies not featuring Nic Cage, hmmm....If in the nineties, the place to be was Hong-Kong (for example Jonnie To's and John Woo's movies), in the recent years, the best ones come from South Corea (Old Boy by Chan-Wook Park is terrific, The Good, The Bad and The Weird by Jee-Woon Kim is fun (and his I Saw The Devil is more a horror movie than a action movie), both Hong-jin Na's The Yellow Sea and The Chaser are good).

    First, these movies are well-made because, well, corean movie industry is solid. But moreover, these action movies use the corean context which is more... wild than the american one.

    Yeah, i'd definitely recommend you to watch at least Old Boy.

  10. Oh man, I need to check out some John Woo movies. The most exposure I had is to the video game Stranglehold that came out a while back. Impressive stuff, to be sure, but I think I'd be doing myself a disservice if I didn't watch some actual movies.

    Also, I'm in the midst of watching a clip from Old Boy. Consider my eyebrows raised in intrigue...

  11. Now that I gave more thoughts about it, there isn't a lot of action sequences in Old Boy. But you'll remember all of them for a loooong time.

    For John woo's movies, stay away from his american ones which are bad, except Face/Off and maybe Mission Impossible 2. Go look for he ones made in Hong-Kong, starting by The Killer, Hard Boiled and Bullet in the Head.
    Also, I warn you, Woo sometimes put some mushy mushy love sequence in his movies and, let's face it, he's terrible at this. He's better when he sticks to "side jumping-shooting with a gun in each hand while some doves fly in the background" and 10-minutes-long-take of ininterrupted action.

  12. Duly noted. Thanks for the heads-up.