We Want Action Double Feature: Sabotage (2014) & Chinese Zodiac (2012)

sabotage french posterI thought about calling this post “We Want Old Man Action’ but thought it might get a lot of the wrong kinds of hits. Well, now that I’ve typed that I guess I’ll get them anyway! But, I’ve got to say, I was very impressed with both Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac which are anchored by stars the 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-58-year-old Jackie Chan respectively.

I don’t remember hearing much in the way of good reviews about David Ayer’s Sabotage. After having seen the film, I have a feeling that people didn’t show up because they didn’t want to watch “a Schwarzenegger film.” It’s too bad for them because, this is a tight, sometimes sinister thriller about a squad of DEA agents who tried to steal a ton of drug money, failed and start getting murdered one by one.

Plot-wise, this sounds like the kind of 80s or 90s action movies that don’t live up to the emotional heaviness inherent in their plots, but that’s not the case here. Schwarzenegger’s squad includes Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Max Martini, Kevin Vance and Mark Schlegel all of who balance the reckless after-hours antics of these agents with the ridiculously serious and proficient way they go about their actual jobs. They each bring different levels of intensity to their characters that, when combined with a breakneck pace, intense moments of violence and cops played by Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau, make for an incredibly engaging and intriguing film.

Much like with The Last Stand and even Escape Plan to a lesser extent, I thought Schwarzenegger did a great job of being in a film that doesn’t so much rely on him running around and getting into fist fights or blowing people away, but instead lets him do some actual acting work (while also firing the occasional weapon, of course). If that last sentence sounds like crazy-talk to you, just look at Ayer’s other films like End Of Watch, Fury and Training Day and ask if you think he’d make a silly action film.

chinese zodiac poster If you are looking for something a little bit more silly and fun, then I highly recommend Chinese Zodiac which Jackie Chan starred in and also directed. I’ve read that the movie takes some cues from Chan’s earlier films Armour Of God and Operation Condor (or Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor as it’s also known), but I still haven’t seen those all the way through and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything not being familiar with them.

In the movie, Chan plays a master thief who, along with his crew, agrees to steal back a series of Zodiac statue heads that were pillaged from China about 150 years ago. This job sends them all over the world from locales as diverse as a huge mansion to a large boat in the middle of a jungle protected by pirates.

I love the adventure aspects of this movie that felt like they borrowed well from the Indiana Jones films. I also really enjoyed the action elements. Chan handles a lot of them on his own, but his crew also proves to be more than capable fighters and entertainers at the same time. I was a little worried that he might look stiff or that he might use a fill in like Chuck Norris did in the awful The Cutter. Instead, he’s as spry as I remember him which is nice because the last newer Chan movie I watched, Gorgeous, was a big disappointment.

I’m happy to say that Chinese Zodiac reminded me of Chan’s action-comedy masterpiece Police Story and it’s follow-up. In addition to being a fun action movie, it also has an interesting message about the complexity of the world’s relationship with ancient artifacts, especially ones that were removed from one place where they were revered and taken to another place where they became equally important.

While Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac are very different movies, I liked them both very much both because they’re good in and of themselves, but they also show that these two action stars can still do their thing. To paraphrase Stan Lee in Mallrats, if they keep making these movies, I’ll keep watching them true believers!

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