In this second list for Expendables Week I look at my favorite action scenes. Now what makes an action scene different from a fight scene? All things considered, not much. Both, when done right, feature pulse pounding action that stick with us well after the movie ends. What makes the difference is how the action is done. Instead of fist fights these are the explosion-laden, guns blazing battles Schwarzenegger excels at. Those are the type of scenes I want to focus on today. As always this is all subjective and I’m sure I’m missing some amazing scenes. But this is my blog so whaevs. Regardless get the squibs and awful CG ready because these are My Top 9 Favorite Action Scenes.
Blood Rave- Blade
As much as I like the first two Blade movies it’s a bummer to think the series peaked with their very first scene. Nevertheless here we are with one of the coolest scenes of any comic book movie. As it turns out vampires are wicked 90’s with their love of techno and raves. All of which culminates with when blood flows out of the fire sprinklers coating everyone. Their fun stops with the appearance of vampire hunter Blade (Wesley Snipes). With a mix of martial arts, swordplay and enough firepower to make Stallone jealous he cuts his way through the vampires and into this top 9 countdown.
5 Minutes- Drive
I know people that hated Drive which I totally get. The whole “art house action” thing didn’t appeal to them which is totally fine. But what we can agree on is the fact that the opening chase is absolutely perfect. A well crafted and unique game of cat and mouse instead of an out and out chase. It’s a pulse pounding thrill without resorting to Fast & Furious style gimmickry.
Dubai Vacation- Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
So we can all agree that Tom Cruise is crazy. From the Scientology to the couch jumping thing years ago we all agree that he’s a bit cray. With that said this isn’t all bad. Case in point his willingness to do his own stunts. Climbing up the Burj Khalifa skyscraper with glue gloves tensions rise when the gloves start to malfunction. Needing to get back to his floor he takes a leap of faith that still elicits a gasp from me.
Hotel Corridor- Inception
In a movie full of awesome scenes this is definitely at the top. As the dream world starts to collapse upon itself the gravity leaves Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finding a new way to initiate the kick. With the gravity constantly shifting and people on his tail he takes them out in zero Gs. Almost as impressive is how the scene was done. Without the use of CGI a 100-foot hallways was built with a locked down camera. Technical achievement alone would put this on the list but the end result solidifies it.
Shantytown Stakeout- Police Story
There are two kinds of Jackie Chan scenes. The first is the chase that leads to fun kung fu action. The other is the chase that leads to “OH MY GOD THAT IS ABSOLUTELY INSANE!” This is the latter. When a stakeout goes awry Jackie chases a hijacked bus on foot. Using the handle of an umbrella Jackie hangs from the open rear window of the bus before being thrown off. Taking one last stand he pulls his pistol and goes mano-a-mano with the bus… and wins. Why? Because Jackie Chan is that awesome.
The System Purge- Cabin in the Woods
A satirical analysis of the horror genre Cabin in the Woods seems to have mixed reaction from audiences despite its critical acclaim. Kind of like the aforementioned Drive in that respect. Also like Drive there is one scene that always gets a cheer from people and that’s the System Purge. Trapped in a control room and with nothing left to lose Dana (Kristen Connolly) and Marty (Fran Kranz) release all of the creatures onto the Facility. Pressing the red and hilariously blatant System Purge button all hell breaks loose. Everything from killer clowns to zombies to unicorns killing everyone in sight. With mass mayhem going around all around half the fun is figuring out all of the homages. It’s a real blast for any fan of horror movies.
The Hospital Shooutout- Hard Boiled
What would a list of best action scenes be without John Woo? Starting his career in the late 1960’s he revolutionized Hong Kong action with 1986’s A Better Tomorrow and the creation of the heroic bloodshed subgenre. Despite his countless classics and an expansion into American cinema I consider his peak to be 1992’s Hard Boiled. Starring Chow Yun-Fat it features action scenes that can more than hold their own with modern blockbusters. But if I had to pick one scene it would be the hospital shootout, particularly the above tracking shot. Inspector Tequila (Chow Yun-Fat) and policeman Tony (Tony Leung) go through this hallway with bullets flying and guns blazing around them. It really demonstrates how amazing Woo is as a director in that he could not only pull it off but that it looks so great even to this day.
The Normandy Invasion- Saving Private Ryan
It’s been nearly two decades since Saving Private Ryan was released and I have yet to see a war scene as the one Steven Spielberg presented us here. Brutally realistic the scene portrays the absolute miracle that was D-Day. Displaying the atrocities of war you can help but be in awe watching this massive showing of destruction. This opening is what every war movie has strived, and failed, to achieve since.
Avengers Assemble- The Avengers
What do you get when you combine the thrilling chase from Drive, the all out insanity of Cabin in the Woods, the super heroics of Blade and the perfect cinematography of Hard Boiled? You get the final battle in 2012’s The Avengers. I could describe it in detail but you’ve all seen it. The whole last quarter or so of the movie is a visual spectacle and insanely fun. I just want to note that the tracking shot (does it count if it’s all green screen?) of The Avengers working together is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It’s the comic brought to life that I’ve always wanted to see. Building up over several years and movies this was the culmination of it all and is a level of cool other movies wish to achieve.
Stuntman Mike Chase- Death Proof
Despite being the worst Tarantino movie (mainly due to its slavish devotion to 70’s car movies) Death Proof features one of the best chase scenes in recent years. The masterful switch of antagonist mid-chase is also pretty awesome. Having a boss like Kurt Russell involved helps.