July 29, 2012

How the French Reinvented Action Cinema

On September 11th, 2001, America was changed forever; the way they saw themselves and made their movies would never be the same.

After the horrific events of that day, America stopped making action movies and lost their confidence with a genre they practically invented.

Fantasy and Superheroes took over as people had seen enough explosions in real life, which were anything but cool or fun.

So while America struggled to regain its confidence with the action genre, it was up to someone else to reinvent it for a new age. This task fell to The French, one man in particular: Luc Besson, the man behind Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element.

In 2002 he created a franchise called The Transporter and gave the world a new tough guy: Jason Statham. The film was a hit and spawned 2 sequels and an upcoming TV Series.

Besson would go on to write and produce numerous action movies over the years including Kiss of the Dragon, Taken, Bandidas, Revolver, Unleashed, District B13, Colombiana and Lockout to name but a few.

He became THE action producer in a world where Jerry Bruckhiemer used to be King, before turning to family movies.

Besson introduced us to a new group of French directors who would all add their own visual flair to their action movies: Pierre Morel, Louis Leterrier and the awesomely monikered Olivier Megaton. Most of the movies they would make were rated PG-13 which we love to bitch about but alas, you can’t argue with Box office.

Admittedly some of the films were hit and miss but some of them would be game changing, Taken anyone? Taken is arguably the best action movie of the past decade and showed us what a complete bad ass Liam Neeson could be. He played the invincible hero out to get his daughter back from scumbag sex traffickers.

The audience was obviously ready for a return of the badass as Taken made $226 Million Worldwide and a sequel is in the post as we speak.

With Taken and Kiss of the Dragon, we saw the uglier side of Paris; we weren’t seeing Museums and the Eiffel Tower; we were seeing the seedier side where prostitutes and drug dealers run rampant and are practically immune to prosecution. Director Pierre Morel said in the making of Taken that he wanted to show audiences what the REAL Paris was like.

Besson has always written interesting stories, which have plenty of kick ass action to boot and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

He has recently called for applications to his L’Ecole de la Cite film school, which will accept students in September. The school will be housed at the new La Cite du Cinema, France’s largest studio complex, which opens the same month.

Once again Beeson continues to innovate by encouraging young people to go to film school and learn the craft of filmmaking.

It’s not just Luc Besson who is making great French action movies though; in 2010 a heart-stopping action thriller called Point Blank showed up and was written and directed by Fred Cavayé. It starred Gilles Lellouche who plays Samuel Pierret, a nurse who saves the wrong guy — a thief whose henchmen take Samuel’s pregnant wife hostage to force him to spring their boss from the hospital. A race through the subways and streets of Paris ensues, and the body count rises. If you love great action thrills then definitely check it out.

Fear not America, for the comeback has begun; The Expendables 2 is out this summer and real action is returning after the smash hit original blew up the box office in 2012. I am pleased to say that thanks to Luc Besson, Sylvester Stallone a few select others, action is still very much alive.

About the Author

Eoin Friel
Eoin Friel
I grew up watching JCVD, Sly and Arnold destroy bad guys, blow things up and spew one-liners like it's a fashion statement. Action is everything I go to the movies for and the reason I came up with this site is to share my love for the genre with everyone.



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