So far, I’ve looked back at my favorite blockbuster and newer horror viewing experiences of the year, so now it’s time to talk about action flicks! In 2017, I discovered some underrated movies in this department, saw some way more well-known ones, dipped into a few new genres and even marathoned the films of a particular 80s and 90s action icon!
Let’s get the easy links out of the way, if you’re looking for some solid 70s revenge/on-the-run flicks, grab the Fighting Mad/Moving Violations double feature from Shout Factory and put that in your face. For some more bonkers films, I found myself taking the plunge into awesome Italian 80s movies heavily influenced by some of my favorite U.S. action films. 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape From The Bronx, Raiders Of Atlantis and The New Barbarians were all on Amazon Video at various points this year and became one of my favorite genres. I also fell in love with Tokusatsu, especially the delightful Super Inframan, which I believe is still on Amazon Video. I can’t think of a more fun film-watching experience I’ve had in a long time. I wish there were 75 of these movies.
I’d also be down for a lot more movies starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling directed by Shane Black and set in the 70s like 2016’s The Nice Guys. I won’t get too far into the plot because, well, it’s pretty complicated and it’s been months since I watched this movie, but I will say that this LA-set action-comedy-drama features Gosling and Crowe eventually teaming up to solve a crime with more twists and turns than a Dirty Harry car chase.
I find myself often wondering these days how rewatchable a movie is. The ones I grew up on all had that quality — aided by the fact that they were on TV all the time — but, of course, that’s not always the case. However, Nice Guys definitely fits into that group. I can only remember bits of pieces — all of which bring a smile to myself — but also want to show this one to my wife and anyone else who’s interested!
Hey look, it’s another 70s-set movie with a killer cast: Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire! This one’s relatively simple plot-wise as a group of people meet up in an abandoned warehouse for a gun deal that goes very, very, very wrong. Basically, most of the film takes place during a multi-way shoot out between all parties involved.
This one stars (deep breath) Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Michael Smiley and Bill Hader lookalike Sam Riley. I would have liked it if Larson had more to do in the story, but she held her own both as a character and an actor surrounded by all of this talent. Copley does an awesome job as the over-the-top, almost Michael Scott-esque Vernon and I absolutely adored Hammer as the mostly nonplussed Ord.
Wheatley does an admirable job working with this cast and keeping my interest throughout a film wherein many of the participants spend huge chunks of time lying on the dirty ground trying not to get shot. I also really like how realistic the film felt. From the sound of the bullets bouncing all over the warehouse to the injuries sustained, this one felt real and honest, but also not like an advertisement for gun use.
Another really great movie I stumbled upon on the streams was Sean Foley’s Mindhorn. In this one, washed-up actor Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) finds himself traveling back to the Isle of Man where he used to shoot his 80s TV show Mindhorn. There, he becomes embroiled in a mystery that revolves around a supposed killer who says he can only talk to Mindhorn, thinking that the TV character is actually real.
Though they’re very different films, this one reminded me of the wonderful What We Do In The Shadows, because I went in thinking it would mostly be one thing, but it fully surprised me with extra layers. Thorncroft’s desperation is funny, but also plays as very real. He’s also got a lot going on with his ex wife and we get glimpses of how falling from celebrity can lead to incredible sadness and feelings of inadequacy. But Mindhorn‘s also a very funny movie with some pretty solid action scenes. I highly recommend giving this one a watch on Netflix.
I’m probably not blowing any minds by saying this, but Keanu, directed by Peter Atencio and starring Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key is also a damn fine action comedy movie. I’m realizing that a lot of these films that I liked so much revolved around people getting in way over their head in crazy situations which is exactly what happens in this movie as our stars pose as killers to infiltrate Method Man’s gang so they can get the stolen cat Keanu back.
A nice mix of hilarious and violent, Keanu has so many amazing scenes that stick out, two of which take place simultaneously: the Michael Bolton bit and the off-the-wall Anna Faris cameo. I think it’s also worth saying that this film has a very specific point of view coming from its creators (Peele co-wrote this one with Alex Rubens). I haven’t seen Peele’s Get Out yet, but I think it’s important that he keeps telling these highly entertaining stories that also say a lot about our culture and how we treat each other that might not come from other points of view.
Please forgive my lack of transitional grace as I shift focus to Ian Bonhôte’s Alleycats. I really thought I wrote about this one already and even had the poster image already in my Gallery, but can’t find any trace of it on the blog or in my drafts.
This one’s about a bike messenger in the U.K. who accidentally stumbles onto something big and his sister digs in to figure out what’s really going on. Oh and since we’re talking about bike messengers, she and her friends are basically slightly older takes on the Kids On Bikes genre from my youth. However, instead of easily escaping cops in a neighborhood a la E.T., these guys and gals have their work cut out for them just staying alive.
I love when filmmakers make films or shows that are similar to the ones they loved as kids, whether that means actually setting their projects in decades past or bringing those elements into to present (think Stranger Things for the former and Alleycats as the latter). Last year I fell in love with Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope and I would put Alleycats up there with that one. In fact, they would make a stellar double feature.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the major Jean-Claude Van Damme deep dive I did partially based on my possession of a DVD 4-pack featuring Hard Target, The Quest, Street Fighter and Sudden Death. Around the same time, I also listened to several How Did This Get Made episodes featuring JCVD’s films which lead to a few more rewatches of Timecop and Bloodsport. I finally stalled out, though, while trying to watch Nowhere To Run, which I found just as boring the second time around as I did the first. None of these movies are great, necessarily, but I sure do watching bad guys get their faces kicked in for being bad.