The 411 Movies Top 5 11.23.12: Week 357 – Top 5 Action Stars
Welcome to Week 357 of the Movie Zone Top 5. My name is Shawn S. Lealos and you have entered my world.
The 411mania writers were given the following rules: Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back this week with his first starring vehicle since he quit acting to go into politics. With Arnold coming back, it got me thinking back to my favorite genre – action movies. This week, we will look at your favorite action stars. This includes guys who are almost only known for action (Statham), guys who have been great in action movies although they have also branched out (Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis), old (Stallone), new (Tom Hardy), and female (Jolie, Saldana, Jovovich).
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Honorable Mentions: Sylvester Stallone, Ahnold Schwarzenegger, Kurt Russell, Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Cynthia Rothrock, Michelle Yeoh, Bruce Willis, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson, Sho Kosugi, Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Chow Yun Fat, Scott Adkins, Vin Diesel, Tony Jaa, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Michael Jai White. I know I’m forgetting someone here.
5. Olivier Gruner
Gruner has been in the B-movie action game for a little over twenty years now, and he’s still cranking them out and he’s still as badass as ever. It started with Angel Town back in 1990, but he didn’t really hit his stride until his second movie, the classic Nemesis in 1992. From there he did the absolutely fantastic Automatic, Mercenary with John Ritter, and the cooler than it has any right to be Mars. Just about all of his movies have been direct-to-video, which is a damn shame because I bet The Circuit or Crooked (he made that with Don “The Dragon” Wilson) would have rocked on the big screen. Hopefully, Stallone invites Gruner to be a part of the next The Expendables. I would love to see him mix it up with Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, or Jackie Chan.
4. Milla Jovovich
Out of all of the female action stars working today, Jovovich is the most consistent of the bunch. From the awesome Resident Evil movies to The Fifth Element to garbage like Ultraviolet, she always looks good kicking ass. And I don’t mean that in the “she’s hot” sense. I mean when she engages in martial arts hooey or picks up a gun and starts wasting zombies, she always looks good doing it. Even when she’s hooked up to wires and it’s obvious that there’s quite a bit of CGI going on you totally believe that she’s the most dangerous woman in the world (well, at least one of the most dangerous women in the world). I can’t wait for the next Resident Evil movie.
3. Chuck Norris
Chuck’s action hero heyday was obviously the 1980’s, where he cranked out great movie after great movie for the fine folks at Cannon Films (Invasion U.S.A, Missing in Action, and The Delta Force are just some of the movies Chuck made for the Golan-Globus folks). One of his iconic roles, as Texas Ranger JJ McQuade in Lone Wolf McQuade, was sort of the basis for his CBS action show Walker, Texas Ranger, which ran for nine seasons. If he hadn’t committed himself to the show he probably would have made more great movies through the late 1990’s and wouldn’t have become a religiously insane ultra right wing wacko. And that’s a damn shame. At least we still have the movies from the 1980’s and, to a lesser extent, the late 1970’s. They will live on, just like the killer John Kirby from Norris’ still amazing Silent Rage.
2. Dolph Lundgren
The great Dolph Lundgren is still best known for his role as the monster Russian boxer Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, but he’s done so much great stuff since then. Very little of it got major theatrical play, but Dolph was one of the first major action stars to figure out how to make quality movies in the direct-to-video world. He’s done some stinkers, sure (In the Name of the King: Two Worlds, Retrograde, and Diamond Dogs are just a few of the clunkers Dolph has made), but he’s done more good stuff than bad stuff. Army of One (Joshua Tree) is a great one, as is his The Punisher (Dolph isn’t the Punisher anymore, but his version is still damn good). I Come in Peace, one of his few major theatrical releases, still kicks ass. Missionary Man, Command Performance, and The Killing Machine (aka Icarus) are three classic Lundgren movies that he’s also directed (The Killing Machine is probably the best of the three. The Russian Specialist, another movie Dolph directed, isn’t that great but it has its moments). That’s probably what Lundgren will do when he eventually decides to stop acting. He’s shown that he can make a good action movie on a small budget. Imagine what he could do with a little more money. I bet it would rock.
1. Jason Statham
Statham gets the top spot on my list because, at the moment, he’s the only major action star that still gets to make real action movies that also get major, consistent theatrical releases. From The Transporter series to The Mechanic remake to Safe to Killer Elite, Hollywood and audiences allow him to carry movies like Ahnold and Stallone used to back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. He’s made some bad movies (War with Jet Li was a big disappointment, and Revolver was lame), but then he’s also the star of the ultra cool and insane Crank movies, so he’s forgiven for whatever crap he’s made. His next movie, Parker, opening in a few weeks, has him co-starring with Jennifer Lopez. Statham’s agent probably thinks that Parker could lead to bigger and better things since he’s rubbing elbows with mega star J-Lo. I hope he doesn’t take the bait and go “major A-list star” on his. I hope he keeps making real action movies for the foreseeable future. There’s no one to replace him at the moment.
5. Bruce Willis
Some will say Die Hard would have worked no matter who starred in it. But Willis brought something special to the table as John McClane, tough, scrappy but still very human, bleeding and taking lumps majorly as well as a pretty crap fighter when it came down to it but still doing what it took to win. Willis has used that persona well for other films like The Last Boy Scout, The Fifth Element, Sin City, REDS and more. The man is quick with a quip and sometimes his attitude can become too much (See Hudson Hawk) but he remains bankable and his good turns in the likes of Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys and Moonrise Kingdom show his worth as an actor that makes his action turns all the better as he remains more of an everyman than other action heroes but still a guy worth rooting for big time.
4. Chow Yun-Fat
Some will say it’s John Woo who boosted the wild shooting action films of the ’90’s. But his work wouldn’t be as good without such a charsimatic leading man as Yun-Fat. In The Killer, he’s amazing as a contract hitman who finds himself falling for a woman he accidentally blinded in a shootout and bonding with the cop trying to take him down. This led to his finest moment, Hard Boiled with his toothpick-chewing Inspector Tequila blasting away with guns in one stunning shootout after another, keeping his cool through it all like no one else can. His role as the elder fighter in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon showed his ability to shift styles quite well, as capable with a sword as a gun and he remains a fantastic pioneer for the action genre.
3. Michelle Yeoh
It’s easy to dismiss her as a “female Jackie Chan” but Yeoh more than stands on her own as the best female action star on the planet. Her early Hong Kong work is amazing as she’s poetry in motion, a blur taking out a dozen men twice her size and believable doing it all. She took that fame to heights as a Bond girl and the classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, fiesty and still well liked as there’s nothing hotter than a gorgeous woman who can easily kick your ass with style.
2. Arnold Schwarzengger
Say what you will about his personal life but Arnie remains a true action icon. He paved the way for the slew of action films in the ’80’s and ’90’s that featured larger-than-life individuals taking on all odds and coming out on top. Witness Commando as he takes out a hundred guys by himself with classic one-liners (“Let off some steam”) and inspired countless parodies. He’s still a powerful presence with his build and voice, slowed by age but deserves his status as an action legend who set the bar for so many to follow.
1. Jackie Chan
“If you’ve never seen him before, you’ve never seen action.” That tag line for Rumble in the Bronx summed it all up as no one has ever matched the stunning skill of Chan on screen. To watch him in his prime is like watching Astaire or Kelly dance, he is stunning with martial arts moves that still blow your mind. Battling a dozen guys at once, leaping off buses and trucks, all with a comedic flair that would do Buster Keaton proud. And of course, the fact he did all his own stunts, his movies showing the pain he went through from broken bones to nearly getting killed from a head injury yet he kept on going. He may have slowed down today but his legacy stands as his international popularity is untouched and his work shows what martial arts films can be, made better as you know he truly risked life and limb for it all just to entertain you which damn well deserves respect.
5. Tom Cruise
I realize I am going to take some crap for this selection, but I honestly do not care. Tom Cruise is one of the few remaining actors in the action genre that actually wants to entertain his audience and damn near puts his life on the line to do so. Very few American actors would willingly commit to climbing on the outside of the world’s tallest skyscraper, 119 stories high, just to give the audience a thrill for five minutes. His devotion to entertainment is just insane sometimes. Even at his weakest movie choices, his action pictures are still rather memorable in comparison to most typecast action star vehicles. Only time will tell when he decides to take on less demanding roles, but at this rate it doesn’t appear that the Cruise machine is ready to slow down.
4. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Ever since the release of The Scorpion King back in 2002, Dwayne Johnson has been laying a smackdown at the box-office year after year. Sure he has made some questionable family films along the way, such as The Tooth Fairy, but he is still the only wrestler turned actor who hasn’t destroyed his career by making such decisions. There is no denying that the man has strong screen charisma and brings a great deal of intensity to his action flicks. Dwayne Johnson has a promising career ahead of him, and I personally think we have not seen the best of him yet.
3. Bruce Willis
This choice is practically a no brainer. No way in hell would I ever make an “action star” list without John McClane himself. Let me be clear though, with the exception of Looper and Moonrise Kingdom, I have not been a huge fan of the “shaved head” era of Bruce Willis. However, I have tremendous respect for his early work. I will always have fond memories of watching The Last Boy Scout and Die Hard with my Dad growing up. I was too young at the time to watch those films according to MPAA standards (like 7 or 8 years old), but my father would allow me anyways and it would piss my mother off royally. It was hilarious. So, needless to say, the early action career of Bruce Willis had great impacts on my childhood.
2. Chow Yun Fat
I must be honest here, because I’m not sure if I am a bigger fan of Chow Yun Fat or John Woo. However, when these two forces collaborate, the results are a genuine action utopia. Between The Killer and Hard Boiled, the amount of bullets flown and destruction unleashed is absolutely mind-blowing. Most of the entire Gun Fu series of films with Chow Yun Fat were complete game changing action spectacles. All of which I could watch a thousand times and never find myself bored in the gun-blazing awesomeness. I know it’s highly unlikely, but I hope one day Chow Yun Fat and John Woo reunite for one last cinematic bullet fest. I’d be there opening day without hesitation.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger
I know the Governator is a very obvious pick, but this man has defined my entire generation of action pictures. In fact, I find it extremely difficult to think of the word “action” and his face not pop into my mind. I was born in the mid 80’s, which means some of my very first memories were the releases of Total Recall, Terminator 2, Kindergarden Cop, and True Lies. Hell, I even watched Last Action Hero in theaters when I was a youngster and remember greatly enjoying it at the time. I believe there is something magical about the Arnold persona that cannot be matched by most action stars. For this reason, I am beyond excited to see him rule the big-screen once again when “The Last Stand” releases on Friday.
Honorable Mention: Tom Cruise, Liam Neeson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Mel Gibson
I didn’t used to be a Dolph Lundgren fan, but something won me over. When I saw him the first time, it was in Rocky IV and I wasn’t super impressed. I kind of hated him as He-Man in Masters of the Universe and I didn’t really get his allure in The Punisher. However, something happened over time. I realized that Dolph Lindgren knew he was funny and really didn’t take himself seriously. I can’t really sympathize with Jean Claude Van Damme because the Muscles from Brussels is too serious about himself and Steven Segal is even worse. However, Dolph Lundgren can do this.
Time for my homer pick. When I was a kid, I loved two football teams over any other – the Dallas Cowboys and the Oklahoma Sooners. My favorite player when I was a teenager was Brian Bosworth, The Boz. The guy was just dominating and had the anti-authority attitude I loved at the time. Then he went to the NFL and his career quickly ended. However, he did three things after he left college that was brilliant. First, he signed a guaranteed contract. Second, he insured his body with Lloyds of London. Third, he signed a movie deal. The year he was forced to retire due to a degenerative arthritic condition, he got his contract, his insurance policy and his movie money and became an instant multi-millionaire. And the world got Stone Cold, one of the best B-movies of the ’90s. The movie was awesome, with Boz playing an undercover cop infiltrating a motorcycle gang led by Lance Henriksen. He went on to star in One Man’s Justice and Virus, but fun action movies. Not everything he did was great (Phase IV) but he also appeared in Three Kings at the end, which was awesome. He also had a fun role in Adam Sandler’s The Longest Yard remake, and while he is not acting much anymore, I’ll follow The Boz anywhere.
While he isn’t the biggest action star in movies today, he is one of the most charismatic action star of all time. When The Rock left wrestling, he took his first roles in movies just like his contemporaries – cheap action movies. Forget The Scorpion King (please) and move on to The Rundown. The big difference was that he wasn’t a generic action hero (Steve Austin) and actually had a personality that made him instantly likeable and funny. Plus, Arnold Schwarzenegger passed the mantle to The Rock in this movie. The Walking Tall remake was better than it had the right to be and Rock was the best thing in Doom. Then he took a break for family movies but recently returned to action Fast Five, where he was AWESOME. The Rock is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and a perfect action star.
Let’s go back in time. In the ’80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone ruled the day. Then, suddenly Bruce Willis showed up and changed everything. The former comedian from Moonlighting starred in Die Hard and action movies were changed forever. No longer did a person have to be a roided up monster or do split legged kicks to be an action star. Bruce Willis was just a normal guy who fought harder than anyone. Die Hard changed movies and Bruce Willis is the reason it worked so well.
I mentioned that The Rock was one of Hollywood’s top stars and a perfect action hero. However, Jason Statham is Hollywood’s top action star. No one can get a straight action movie made and into cinemas outside of The Rock and Statham, but the Stath is the man who lives to make action movies. There are no tooth fairies or dinosaurs in Statham’s movies – just one man kicking everyone else’s ass. Thanks to Jason Statham, action movies still thrive today. Crank might be the best action movie I have seen in many, many years.
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