Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back (Short Cuts (Wallflower))
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Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back is a short, sharp introduction to the cinema of action. Action movies aren't just full of action, they're about action: about responding to threats and traumas with extreme prejudice. Action heroes don't seek out adventure, they respond to dire necessity; frequently with panic, hysteria, and rage. Though they look like hypermasculine ubertexts, action movies reveal the fears and anxieties behind the bluster. In fact that's what most of them are actually about. Harvey O'Brien takes us through the evolution of the action movie as a distinct genre, with an eye for the ethics and aesthetics of 'action movies' not just as a description of content, but a moral argument. He revisits some familiar arguments around gender and violence, but brings a new angle to the debate by not taking first impressions for granted. Films examined in detail include Death Wish, Mad Max 2, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Last Action Hero, The Matrix, Kill Bill, and The Expendables: disreputable entertainments that nonetheless tug at the popular imagination for good reasons.
and articulated meaning assumed by the fact that the given ‘mission’ of the soldier protagonists necessarily corresponds with the national mission of the war effort, and, as he says ‘its purpose was evident, inevitable’ (2005: 55). But with Vietnam lost and the notion of national service dead in the United States, the assumption of legitimacy of any war was in question, as were the logistics of how future wars might be carried out – in other words, where does the responsibility for agency
to get him, a sequence of close-up shots of the 47 Action_Movies_pages.indb 47 10/9/12 10:50:45 SHORT CUTS ‘I’m coming to get you’: Stallone promises vengeance in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) assembled and equally anxious cast of characters delays the action. The film cuts from Rambo to Podovksy, to the torturer (Vojo Goric), to Colonel Trautman at base, and to Murdock, each image sustained enough to register each character’s sense of anticipation and give the audience more time to
femaleness of expression in favour of a straight co-opting of the masculine role. Filmmakers, for their part, seemed uncertain what to do with them until they simply stopped trying to take them seriously. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) attempts to use a female Terminator (Kristanna Loken) to capture the lean intensity of Robert 66 Action_Movies_pages.indb 66 10/9/12 10:50:46 ACTION MOVIES Patrick’s T-1000, but undercuts itself through self-conscious hyperfeminisation. Instead of
move in the elaborate ways required to carry out a bewildering array of stunts and movements in these films is absolutely necessary, and feeds into the experience of the art for those who practice it. David Bordwell remarks that this quality of authenticity informs the division between the aesthetics of action cinema in Hong Kong and America. When a Hong Kong actor takes a blow, it is ‘performed’, but real enough to register genuine impact. When a Hollywood star is in a situation of jeopardy,
US) Crank (Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor, 2006, US) Cross of Iron (Sam Peckinpah, 1977, UK) The Crow (Alex Proyas, 1994, US) Damnation Alley (Jack Smight, 1977, US) Dante’s Peak (Roger Donaldson, 1997, US) The Dark of the Sun (Jack Cardiff, 1968, UK) Days of Thunder (Tony Scott, 1990, US) Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975, US) Death Race (Paul W. S. Anderson, 2008, US/Germany/UK) Death Sentence (James Wan, 2007, US) Death Wish (Michael Winner, 1974, US) The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978, US)