The Expendables And The Action Movies It’s OK To Like

This weekend sees the release of action spectacular The Expendables. Truth be told it’s a more-than-adequate, enjoyable, fun, balls-to-the-wall action movie.

But nestling in that praise for Sly and co’s latest, is a derogatory word. Movie. Not film, movie. Action has been, and always will be, placed into the bracket of ‘movie-dom’ by people, well, people like me.

Yet there are examples of pulse-racing, sweat producing, explosion-exploding films that have every right to be put on a par with their dramatic counterparts. Like these…

Best for… originality
Seven Samurai (1954)
Huge amounts of Kurosawa could be included in this list (Hidden Fortress, Ran, Throne Of Blood) but if one needs to be picked then it’s the MacDaddy of all action films, Seven Samurai. Not only has it been directly remade over seven times, most famously as The Magnificent Seven, but it’s also been massively influential to everything from Star Wars to A Bug’s Life.

Best for… beauty
Hard Boiled (1992)
Anybody who sits watching Strictly Come Dancing every Saturday banging on about how beautiful the twirls are should be forced, preferably at twin-gunpont, to watch John Woo’s Hard Boiled. Proof if proof were needed that violence can be as gorgeous as a sunset bathed in kittens. The choreography on display in such set pieces as the hospital shoot-out (see below) don’t require my bland descriptions. In any case action speaks louder than words.

Best for… heart
Leon (1994)
Leon is the film that got me into film. It’s funny, it’s dramatic, it’s stylish, it’s cool, it’s even dare I say it, incredibly romantic. The Nabakov-lite relationship between Jean Reno’s 40-year-old hitman and Natalie Portman, his 12-year-old neighbour, is purposefully uncomfortable but also touchingly poignant. As director Luc Besson said at the time, “I was interested in talking about pure love. Society today confuses love and sex… that is why I chose to talk about two twelve-year-olds, even though one of them is 40”.

Best for… brains
I’m sure this inclusion will warrant more “Get your head out of Nolan’s arse” feedback, but quite simply for Action With A Brain, Inception takes the prize. You could easily argue the genre more fitting for the mind-bending epic is sci-fi, but from the off Inception plays like a Bond film with an I added to the Q. As great as the action is, and as great a mindfuck as the story is, it’s the two together that make Inception so fundamentally awesome.

Debate away below. And as well as the usual healthy doses of undiluted love and vitriolic hate let’s all come together to try and figure out the action film that’s best for humour. Because I couldn’t. Although I will say the final line in this trailer below is by far the funniest thing Will Ferrell has said in years…

Owen Nicholls edits