2019 is nearly done so before we start a shiny new year, I thought I’d look back at some of the highs and lows of the action movie genre from the past year.
It was a great year for Asian action with the likes of Furie, Revenger, Ip Man 4: The Finale, Maria, The Brink (which only got released on home video here this year so don’t split hairs), Golden Job, The Gangster The Cop The Devil, The Divine Fury, The Captain and so many more; in fact I could literally write an article just on the best of Asian action cinema… which I’m not going to do but if someone else wants to then go nuts.
Furie is one of my favourites this year with Veronica Ngo proving herself the next badass on the block; it had some great fight scenes and is a movie I will happily revisit.
Ip Man 4: The Finale is just out but I thought it was a fitting concluding to a fantastic series with Donnie Yen and Scott Adkins at the top of their game.
Speaking of Scott Adkins, he had one of his best years with not only Ip Man but Abduction, Triple Threat and Avengement. I think Avengement and Triple Threat are my top action movies of the year. Triple Threat was the best Expendables movie we never got and for all-out ass kicking action it was hard to do better. There was also No Surrender which I think Scott did as a favour to his Middle Eastern fans but as a movie it wasn’t the greatest.
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum delivered the action goods and was a satisfying third entry in the series with Mark Dacascos making for arguably the best villain of the franchise; I do wish it had been the final entry as I feel like 4 may be overkill however, stick in Scott Adkins and Iko Uwais and you’ve got my attention. Mark also had The Driver which I bought last week but havent watched it yet.
Sylvester Stallone returned with Rambo: Last Blood which many fans loved and others not so much; I personally really enjoyed it and found the violence to be awesome but I can understand why people wouldn’t have liked it as much as the other entries. Stallone also did Escape Plan 3 which had a great cast but wasn’t all that memorable.
Arnold Schwarzenegger came back (again) for Terminator: Dark Fate which once again split the fanbase and didn’t make a huge impact at the box office but I’ve seen plenty worse.
Jean-Claude Van Damme starred in The Bouncer and We Die Young; neither of them had much in the way of martial arts brawls but the man is in his fifties and I’m 41 and get tired going up the stairs so it’s understandable. We Die Young had him play a character who can’t speak and has to communicate through his phone by text which was something we haven’t seen from him before. I’ve only watched The Bouncer once but I remember enjoying it and look forward to reevaluating it again soon. I hope next year we finally to get to see Full Love and possibly The Tower.
Bruce Willis starred in the usual straight to DVD stuff but he also did Glass which I found rather disappointing but Motherless Brooklyn which was more of a drama seemed better than his usual recent output. I haven’t watched Trauma Centre and 10 Minutes Gone but Cameron reviewed them both and they are apparently better than we’d maybe expect.
Nic Cage managed to star in 6 movies this year which has to be some kind of record; he had Grand Isle, Primal, Kill Chain, Running with the Devil, Colour Out of Space and A Score to Settle. I would love to see him do National Treasure 3 before he gets too old but I’m not sure if that is still on the cards.
Steven Seagal starred in Beyond the Law and Attrition both of which were better than a lot of his recent fare but I still miss the days of Marked for Death and Under Siege.
Hobbs & Shaw was as ridiculous as you’d expect from the Fast & Furious franchise but despite losing all my brain-cells watching I found plenty to enjoy… mostly Daniel Bernhardt fighting Jason Statham again (Parker reunion!) and some fun buddy banter. Dwayne Johnson also entered Jumanji again with The Next Level which has been another big hit for him; I’ve yet to see it but now I’m back from vacation I can catch up on a lot.
Liam Neeson starred in the bizarre Cold Pursuit which was a remake of the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance and had some dark humour and violence but it’s not something I would watch again.
Everyone seems to have forgotten Revenger which showed up on Netflix at the beginning of the year but it is one of my faves too as it had some awesome action and brutal fight scenes. Definitely worth checking out.
Other Netflix action movies included Polar with Mads Mikkelsen which I think deserves a sequel and Triple Frontier starring Ben Affleck which lacked a villain but was an entertaining one-time watch. Close starred Noomi Rapace who is becoming quite the action hero in her own right and I find her very empathetic on screen.
Steven C. Miller gave us arguably his best film to date with Line of Duty which was a thrilling actioner that starred Aaron Eckhart and Ben MacKenzie.
Mike Banning returned in Angel Has Fallen which also had Nick Nolte play his dad giving us a Last Crusade vibe except with more violence and swearing. It was hardly a classic but it was another action-packed entry to an entertaining action series.
Everyone seemed to hate Godzilla: King of the Monsters but I loved it; “the human characters aren’t interesting”. They never are, they are just there to propel the story in-between monster beatdowns of which there are plenty. It also has my favourite music score of the year.
Alita: Battle Angel wasn’t a smash hit but it was a lot of fun and I would like it to get a sequel to find out what happens next.
Will Smith returned to action with Gemini Man which I admittedly haven’t seen yet but it died at the box office; I’ve heard it’s good from a few reliable friends so I’ll check it out soon.
Zombieland 2: Double Tap was several years too late but ended up being one of my favourite movies of the year with some laugh out loud moments and satisfying zombie kills.
In terms of superhero movies Avengers: Endgame went on to become the biggest movie of all time, Spider-Man Far from Home became the highest grossing Spider-Man movie to date and Joker went on to be the biggest R-rated movie of all time which is most impressive.
Michael Bay returned to form with 6 Underground which was everything you would expect and want from a Michael Bay movie.
Shaft got a reboot/sequel with Samuel L. Jackson returning and it got panned by critics but I still enjoyed it for what it was.
Frank Grillo continued his awesomeness with Black and Blue where he played a corrupt cop and it was packed with tension and a kick ass female lead in Naomie Harris. Frank also starred in Into the Ashes, Hell on the Border and Point Blank. He has a bunch of movies coming out in 2020 so we shall watch his career with great interest.
We had more corrupt cops in 21 Bridges starring Chadwick Boseman which I massively enjoyed but when I think about it they didn’t do enough with the idea of closing off the island which could have provided some more chaos.
Roland Emmerich gave us Midway which I missed in theatres but I heard it’s entertaining stuff but very Roland Emmerich in its execution so we can expect a fun time.
The Skywalker Saga came to an end with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker which I really enjoyed and it may be my favourite of the flawed new trilogy.
There was some quality television this year with The Mandalorian, The Boys, Warrior, The Witcher, Wu Assassins, Hanna, Treadstone, Jack Ryan: Season 2 and Watchmen. There was also a massive crossover on the Arrow-verse which isn’t even finished yet called Crisis on Infinite Earths which was incredibly ambitious. Mandalorian, The Boys and Warrior are my 3 favourite shows of the year and I look forward to seeing what goodies we have to come in 2020.
There weren’t too many movies I disliked as I can usually find something to enjoy but I didn’t love Stuber with Dave Bautista but I know some of you did; in terms of box office duds there was Charlie’s Angels, Dark Phoenix and Hellboy. I enjoyed Hellboy but mostly due to being invited to the red carpet and getting to interview David Harbour and Milla Jovovich which is something I never thought would happen. Men in Black: International wasn’t a huge hit either and to be honest I have no interest in ever watching it as that series really isn’t my bag.
Overall, 2019 has been a good year for action movies so here’s hoping we get even more goodness in 2020.
As a final note I just want to say that my day job got frustratingly busy this year and I’ve been trying to get used to becoming partially deaf so I didn’t have as much time to work on the site but we have had some great new writers including Jonathan Mark, Cameron Sullivan, Matthew Essary, Shane Cronican, Shawn Gordon and a few guest contributors as well as my old-school henchmen Alex Hush, Stephen Ball, David J. Moore and Nathan Philips which has been a great help to me so a big thank you to all the site contributors. If someone wants to give me a million dollars so I can quit my job and do this full time that would be swell.
For all who have followed and supported the site this year thank you so much; here’s to an explosive New Year to all.