- Cameron Poe
Movie: Con Air
Actor: Nicolas Cage
This will always be my personal favourite Nicolas Cage film along with The Rock and Face/Off. Cameron Poe is an Army Ranger on his way home to his pregnant wife Tricia; while dancing at the bar, some local drunken hicks come over and ruin everything. When one of the men won’t take no for an answer Cameron gets in a fight and kills him.
He is sent to prison for several years and is finally released on parole. He’s excited to finally see his daughter Casey and his wife Tricia again. He just has to get on the plane with a bunch of criminals… what could go wrong? Actually… everything. When the plane is taken over by Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom and his posse of crazed convicts insane action scenes occur.
While Cameron tries to keep his sick friend Baby-O safe from harm, he does whatever he can to survive. Poe has such great lines as “I’m gonna save the fuckin day! And “I’m gonna show you God does exist!”
I don’t think anything will ever top “Put the Bunny Back in the Box” which is fabulously absurd. The movie revels in its own silliness and really is more of a comedy than a serious action movie.
The battle at the boneyard is the action highlight of the film with Poe indeed saving the day.
Although he cries maybe more than a man should, Poe still has the white wife beater, mullet and attitude to take out all the bad guys and guarantee him as one of the all-time great action heroes.
Author: Eoin Friel
- John Wick
Movie: John Wick
Actor: Keanu Reeves
In “John Wick”, Keanu Reeves returns once again to the action genre to play another Badass, arguably even more kick-ass than Neo (he had “superpowers” there, so it’s not fair!). The film, which is a revenge action-thriller, follows his search for vengeance after mobsters stole his car and killed his dog.
John Wick is definitely the “youngest” character in this list. As the protagonist of the new film of same name, he has had little time to prove himself and he got maximum approval of actions fans everywhere. He has insane skills as a combatant, both with firearms and hand to hand combat. He is relentless and cold blooded to a point he really looks like the monster they named him after inside the mob, “Baba Yaga”, which means Boogeyman.
Althought he is an excellent fighter, his weapon of choice is the handgun. His precision firing a weapon is remarkable, and he doesn’t believe in second chances, he always finishes his opponents with headshots. He displays fantastic aiming skills from long and short distances, constantly firing his weapon at point-blank.
John Wick constantly makes his “Baba Yaga” name worthy, by killing some people in stealth mode. There’s a particular scene where he just abducts a man and all we can see is a door moving where he once stood.
He moves swiftly and kills without mercy every single bad guy he coes across. During another notable scene, which is part of the Night Club sequence, he stabs a man in the neck while holding his body against a wall and the whole time he looks deeply into the man’s eyes, almost as if Wick was draining his soul.
Hopefully we are going to see more of John Wick and the fantastic and original universe the film is set in. The action genre needs more Keanu Reeves!
Author: Daniel Rodriguez
- Wong Fei-hung
Movie: Once Upon a Time in China Series
Actor: Jet Li
Arguably Jet Li’s most iconic character Wong Fei-hung is more folk hero than action hero however, his martial arts skills are legendary so who better than Jet Li portray him? He has been played by several actors over the years but it’s Jet Li who made the role his own and the first movie remains one of Tsui Hark’s finest hours.
The sequel would have Donnie Yen join the action and was a bigger box office success than the first. Wong Fei-hung is portrayed as a gentle man who only uses skills when pushed but he also struggles with how Western culture has started to take over his country.
Author: Eoin Friel
- Ip Man
Movie: Ip Man 1 & 2
Actor: Donnie Yen
Nowadays Donne Yen is as big of a name in Hong Kong as Jet Li or Jackie Chan, some say even bigger, but it wasn’t always the case.
Yen was around for a long time but his major recognition came with Kill Zone and more internationally with his portrayal of Ip Man. After Ip Man everybody on the planet knew who Donne Yen was and are now looking forward to his new projects.
Ip Man is a fictionalized story about Bruce Lee’s teacher, yet the first movie does the smart thing and ignores Bruce Lee and focuses on Ip Man’s life around the Japanese occupation and the horrors that the Chinese endured.
People who know their Donnie Yen, know that he usually played cocky guys in his movies, while with Ip Man he plays him as a humble family man who has great martial arts skill, but he is a true martial artist as he uses his skill only to defend and only when it is most necessary.
So there is a clear distinction between Ip Man’s approach and all the other martial artists in both Ip Man movies. In a way the character of Ip Man is a metaphor for martial arts themselves. You train to better yourself not to oppress others and try to win the fight by avoiding the fight, but when the fight comes knocking on your door you’ll bring the pain in a spectacular fashion, just like Ip Man.
Author: Milos Misic
- Lt. Nikolai Rachenko
Movie: Red Scorpion
Actor: Dolph Lundgren
Lt. Nikolai Rachenko is a soviet made killing machine. Taught to stalk. Trained to kill. Programmed to destroy…
He is sent to an African country where Soviet and Cuban forces are trying to enforce their misery on others. His superiors wanted the best man for the job. They thought that they controlled him. But they were wrong. Dead wrong!
Why? Because Nikolai Rachenko is not just another regular commie machine. When he realizes, after a series of events, that he is not fighting the good fight he turns against his creators…
He stops playing by their rules and he becomes the worst nightmare of the commie regime: An unstoppable force of freedom and punishment who unleashes havoc against it…
And when I say havoc, I mean the kind of havoc that you love to see in a one man army flick.
In the words of M. Emmet Walsh: Fuckin A’ Lt. Nikolai, fuckin A’…
Author: Stef Loisios
Movie: Road House
Actor: Patrick Swayze
Author: Lee Golden
- Frank Martin
Movies: The Transporter Trilogy
Actor: Jason Statham
The Transporter is a very important action movie because it came out at a time when no one was really making them, shortly after 9/11. Then Luc Besson came along and gave us essentially his version of James Bond.
Jason Statham had only been in a handful of movies and no one suspected that he was going to be the next great action hero.
Statham was born to play the role of Frank Martin; a mysterious Transporter who is a professional freelance courier/driver for hire.
Martin is a man of few words but when he does speak, it’s usually to recite his 4 rules:
“Never change the deal”
“Never open the package”
“Never make a promise you can’t keep”
These are really more guidelines than rules as one of the key themes of all of the movies is that Frank ALWAYS breaks his own rules.
Frank has expertise with explosives, surveillance, hand-to-hand combat and driving. Emphasis is given particularly to his skills as an accomplished driver. He often engages in hand-to-hand combat, having to improvise using unconventional weapons such as hoses against his opponents. Martin is also an accomplished sharpshooter. Usually his shirt will come off during a fight scene just to maintain the audience of female fans.
Frank Martin wears a uniform consisting of a black suit, white shirt, and a black tie. He also puts great emphasis on precise timing and punctuality. This is usually helped by his penchant for very nice cars.
In each movie he has a different model:
1999 BMW 735i E38 and Mercedes-Benz W140 in The Transporter;
2004 Audi A8 6.0 W12 in Transporter 2;
2008 Audi A8 6.0 W12 in Transporter 3;
So if you are looking to get a package delivered, best to use UPS as Frank can’t deliver anything without getting into a heap of trouble.
Author: Eoin Friel
- John Shaft
Movie: The Shaft Series
Star: Richard Roundtree
Who is the man that would risk his neck for his brother man? Shaft, the man introduced by that smooth Isaac Hayes theme song and the series of films that immortalized him, was a private detective whose adventures paved new ways in Hollywood and gave us one of the coolest cats ever to be called an action hero.
John Shaft is a tough-as-nails, uncompromising private detective whose quick wits and quicker trigger finger has seen him crack many cases that would crush lesser men. Even with the cops breathing down his neck, and everyone from the Italian mafia to the Black Panthers gunning for his back, Shaft always gets his man, and the ladies. A devil in the bedroom, an avenging angel on the street, and one of the coolest cats to ever grace the action genre.
Shaft’s biggest impact however, was the trends sparked by both the movie and the character. Putting aside that it breathed new life in the old film noir gumshoe detective archetypes, was one of the seminal work of the Blaxploitation subgenre; launching a dozen imitators from Coffy to Black Belt Jones, and becoming a cultural milestone in the process. Where most action heroes are content to make a few thrills, Shaft made history.
Hotter than Bond, cooler than Bullitt, you’ll see this cat Shaft is a bad mother. Can ya dig it?
Author: Sean Korsgaard
Movie: The Blade Trilogy
Actor: Wesley Snipes
In 1973, creators Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan gave life to a new breed of superhero in the form of a half-human, half vampire in a version that wouldn’t have likely serviced moviegoers 25 years later. By all means, it could probably work now much more than in 1998 when action cinema was taking on a new age, a new look and a new tone with a certain touch to music and costume design, and a cinematic flair that favored more toward contemporary storytelling as we entered the new millennium. But, as it stands, 1998 was the year we got our modernized approach in director Stephen Norrington’s Marvel Comics adaptation, Blade with actor Wesley Snipes, and you know what? You’re welcome.
Screenwriter David S. Goyer helped bring this particularly fascinating character to life in a film that already saw our protagonist well into his years as a methodically-skilled and seasoned vampire hunter, vengeful over the death of his mother with a specific hatred for anyone who preferred the taste of blood more than anything else and couldn’t stand sunlight, silver or garlic, as well as human defectors alike. Blade was the one that gave you goosebumps on your cold, dead skin. He was the cage rattler…the boogeyman… the one man army against all who threatened mankind, with an unrivaled skillset that made him a legend to be feared right down to the explosive, bloody end. And Snipes owned every minute on screen between both films…and maybe the third, but we’ll get to that later.
Deep down though, Blade wasn’t always a hardened killer. He was very careful with his judgement of character, human or otherwise, had a softside for a select few he and knew he could trust, or even love, and there are really only a few incidences where we see this, specifically with two important characters:
Abraham Whistler (played by Kris Kristofferson), his trainer and mentor, now aged with a leg that never fully healed in his own years of fighting, had a no-bullshit touch to his grump, geriatric tough guy exterior that contributed much to the comradery and loyalty he and Blade shared between each other. While Blade will certainly protect mankind where and when possible, Whistler is someone he would give his life for any time of the day. You could even say they were family aside from their “arrangement” as he so puts it to N’Bushe Wright in the first film, you and you could feel the pain and anger behind Blade’s numb, stone-faced as he walks away while Whistler presumably takes his own life. Granted, Blade isn’t exactly the kind of guy who is in touch with his own emotions all the time, but Snipes does a terrific job in achieving so much by doing ever so little, and putting it where it works best, which makes the third act worth every second as Blade tears his way through the House Of Anubis and nullifying Deacon Frost’s squad of noobs before sticking it to La Magra at the very end.
The second occurs in director Guillermo Del Toro’s sequel, Blade 2, when Blade inexplicably finds himself falling for a vampire named Neesa (played by Leonor Varela), upon allying themselves among a ragtag of uneasy vampires volunteering as part of a tactical unit to annihilate a new breed of monster that feasts on vampires and humans alike. As the story plays out, the alliance goes tits up when a traitor emerges and a blood feud is revealed between a father and his own children. To be honest though, I never did fully understand why Blade had those feeling for Neesa as it is never really explained in the film, although I digress seeing as how there really didn’t need to be one. You could argue that it was a stupid thing to add to the story and that Blade probably should have killed her anyway because they stand as opposites. But then again, you could chalk it up to Blade’s judge of character, a compass that leans any way he sees fit in deciding who he allows to get close to him, even enough to know the internalized human side that longs for an emotional connection. Strange bedfellows indeed, but what is left of Blade’s humanity is a man who still feels what he feels with a love that was vaguely boundless, and for all intents and purposes, very much self-explanatory.
The Blade saga has always been much more about watching Snipes perform the dazzling fight spectacle seen in all three films. Of course, the action really was amazing, but I wouldn’t be honest with myself if I didn’t acknowledge just how much I loved Blade 2 out of the entire franchise. Del Toro had his hands on everything from the action, set design and costumes, right down to the editing and music, and it’s one truly great example of why it is Del Toro is one of the most beloved directors of our time. To top it off though, it’s Snipes who deserves the brunt of any and all credit for such a winning role that can allow him to execute his caliber of martial arts screenfighting whilst exhibiting different dimensions to his acting. Good writing also plays a role in this, and I accredit all who have given Blade such a memorable place in action movie history.
On that note, you might be wondering why I didn’t include Blade: Trinity in this analysis, which I might be able to in some way or another, but I won’t, and for only one simple fact: I hated that movie. As much as there is to factor in whatever on-set circumstances there were, the bottom line is that Goyer is the director and at the end of the day, it is his movie.
“…But he made up for it in Man Of St-”
“…Well Goyer and Snipes didn’t like each-”
“…Well Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds worked really hard and-”
NO! Nothing should have gotten in the way of making that film a better finale for a trilogy, so I don’t care how many times Goyer blows my mind in the DC realm, he failed with Blade: Trinity, and any responsible director will respect that. So, take with that what you will.
What I’m taking away from this, is a memorable application of a classic superhero that remains as one of the best cinematic characters in action movie history. Hats off to Snipes and everyone who made it happen for the first two films, including Goyer, but by all means, forget whatever that travesty was in 2004, and since even Snipes himself wants back into the Blade fray, I’m more than welcome to it. Maybe a new director could accomplish what John Hyams did for Universal Soldier: Regeneration…
Maybe John Hyams can direct it! #KnockOnWood
Author: Lee Golden
- Conan the Barbarian
Movie: Conan the Barbarian & Conan the Destroyer
Actor: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Between the time when the oceans drank Atlantis and the rise of the sons of Aryus, there was an age undreamed-of. And unto this Conan the Cimmerian, last of his people, slave, gladiator and mercenary, set forth to avenge his people, and eventually become a king by his own hand.
Based off of the old pulp stories of Robert E. Howard, it takes a larger-than-life hero to deserve a Basil Poledouris score and narration from Mako, and Conan certainly measures up to the challenge. Just as you’d expect from any tales of high adventure, even a hero like Conan can seem small against a backdrop of weathered landscapes and ancient ruins, a band of misfits at his side, and foes from the snake cult of Thulsa Doom to the followers of the Dreaming God at his back. Yet by hook or by crook and with a blade in hand, Conan carves a place for himself in the world.
Unusual among action heroes for the sword-and-sorcery setting, Conan has always been a unique staple of the genre for the pulpy stories, violent action and introducing the world to action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger and director John Milius. But there is a deeper appeal as well, one core to the action genre that the fantasy genre seems to have forgotten in favor of Tolkien-style epics, that primal pulp appeal. Guts, glory and grand adventure – what more could one desire?
Author: Sean C.W. Korsgaard