Action-ing For Change

Action films often get a rough ride. They rarely get the respect they deserve and many excellent pictures are dismissed before they’ve even previewed.

For some, this was the case with Edge of Tomorrow. Its publicity was poor, Jimmy Fallon cheerily branded the picture “Groundhog Day meets Call of Duty”, degrading the film to almost novelty status. The film’s trailers and posters did little to help the situation. They similarly portrayed the picture as another run-of-the-mill, run-and-gun, ninety-minute explosion fest. Even I was somewhat liable to judging this film by its publicity, expecting nothing more than an enjoyable action cruise. However, after 113 minutes sat in Dukes at Komedia in the company of Tom Cruise and co., I was hypnotised. Edge of Tomorrow is not just a film full of action, spectacle and satisfying violence, but is smart, original and engaging at every turn. It may have some parallels with Groundhog Day and Call of Duty, but these are purely superficial. Edge of Tomorrow made me fall in love with film.

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Acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson has similar opinions. He said that Edge of Tomorrow is “fucking great”. He was disappointed that “no-one went to see that movie” despite it being “Cruise at his best”. This is the sentiment I would like to echo. Bias and unfair ignorance toward the genre prevented people from seeing a film that deserves to be recognised as one of the best of 2014.

Come the end of last year, Edge of Tomorrow was finding itself included in many critics’ ‘Best of 2014’. Not aided by its questionable publicity, many critics and fans alike wrote off the picture before giving it a chance. This points to a definite prejudice; a prejudice I am saddened by.

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Some may say that Edge of Tomorrow is more of a sci-fi flick than pure action. Yet, when action is blended with another cinematic genre, truly special cinema can be made. The example I’d like to point to here is Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters, a Swedish-Norwegian action-thriller of the highest order. Dark and twisted thriller elements are elegantly wrapped up with exhilarating action sequences, in what is an absurdly entertaining picture.

A film that however, cannot be argued as anything but pure action is The Raid. This Indonesian picture is the epitome of just how special action movies can be. Not only is the film a martial-arts masterpiece, with action sequences that will be seldom bettered, but The Raid is a fresh, stylish picture with superb direction and pacing. The film has been critically lauded and widely praised by its audience, proving that action films can be both critically-worthy and pleasing to general audiences.

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Yet, it isn’t just foreign film that deserves respect. Despite producing shockers such as the 2012 rehashing of Total Recall, Hollywood can also produce quality action cinema. A standard case of this is Fast Five. As the name suggests, the film in question is the fifth instalment in the Fast and Furious franchise, and acted as a revival of sorts. Adding Dwayne Johnson to a cast featuring action aficionados such as Vin Diesel and Paul Walker was a brilliant decision. Fast Five is more than just muscle cars and bicep muscles. The franchise has created a diverse group of interesting individuals that are strangely aspirational. Apart from their illegal activity, the group is a highly motivated bunch that values family and loyalty above all else. The creation of lasting, charming characters is something to be admired in action films, as well as in more respected genres.

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Some may say that action films get as much respect as any other genre. In my opinion, they are a little way off. Poor publicity and the production of some sub-par cinema, such as Lucy and The Marine, don’t help the already propagated notion that most action films are lowly cinema. Snobbery and prejudice hold action films back from critical recognition. Yet, there’s plenty of excellent action around, so don’t disregard Run All Night or The Gunman when they open later this year.

Respect Renner, welcome Willis and stand by Stallone.

There’s nothing wrong with a little action.

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