In honor of my appearance this week on the Reel Nerds Podcast discussing Expendables 3, I thought I’d take a minute to bestow upon you 5 of my favorite dumb action flicks. I appreciate good cinema as much as I appreciate a good duck confit, but sometimes you’re not in a gourmet mood and you just want a big brick of cheese. That’s what a good action flick will do for you. So, with that said, here are 5 of my favorite cheesefests.
Need for Speed
As I allude to in one of the conversations I had with the Reel Nerds this week, I really enjoyed the recent Need for Speed movie, which I saw on a plane. There are 3 things that make this movie stand out from the generic car chase action movie canon.
1. Michael Keaton absolutely devours the scenery in every preposterous scene he’s in. He serves almost as the movie’s surrogate narrator and delivers each line with a barely restrained lunacy, you can’t wait to see his crazy sunglass adorned face again.
2. Aaron Paul is intensely watchable. He doesn’t deliver a hell of a lot of lines, but he doesn’t have to because his face tells the story of every scene he’s in. That story? I’m a very intense young man, and you should continue watching me drive this car.
3. The movie is sort of a throwback in that the director chooses a lot of practical effects and goes light on the green screen. You get a sense for where the cars in relation to each other, the cuts aren’t nearly as frenetic as most modern action movies, and the laws of physics are generally obeyed giving the entire film a sense of immediate danger that’s frequently lacking.
Highly enjoyable schlock.
This movie is a sentient high-five. The characters literally spend 95% of the movie laughing and glad-handing each other. This is not a bad thing! So much action cinema is dedicated to looking incredibly dour and gritty and convincing us how important everything that’s happening is, it’s nice to see a group of dudes appear to enjoy themselves. Liam Neeson kicks fucking ass as Hannibal as expected, Bradley Cooper is incredibly charming as Face, Rampage Jackson is serviceably not terrible as B.A. Baracus, and Sharlto Copley steals the goddamn movie as the unhinged pilot Murdock.
True, the climactic action sequence doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense, and Jessica Biel hilariously tries to look serious through this ridiculousness, but the rest of it is just a good time joyride that properly pays service to an even goofier TV show. I feel like I could watch this movie every day.
I’m reminded of this thanks to seeing Wesley Snipes for the first time in years in the Expendables 3. I didn’t realize I missed Wesley Snipes in my life until seeing him resurface, and what better way to pay tribute to him than by watching him trade tortured barbs with Sly in this highly goofy sci-fi action flick? The year is 2032, Los Angeles has sprawled to the point it’s now eaten like 9 other cities, prisoners are frozen in giant blocks of ice, and Denis Leary is still apparently doing the same material he’s done now for the last 20 years. I’m not sure if this movie is anti-censorship, anti-hippies, anti-political correctness, or just dumb, but I’m sure I don’t give a fuck.
Stallone and Snipes beat the shit out of each other a few times, they make approximately 9 billion Rip Van Winkle style jokes, and the set design is suburban office park meets quasi-post-apocalyptic street gangs from Death Wish 3. In all honesty, I do appreciate their attempts at grafting a story and some sort of muddled social commentary onto this movie, but I appreciate more Sylvester Stallone kicking Wesley Snipes’s frozen head off his body while quipping “Heads up!”
It’s moments like that when you remember why you love dumb action movies.
Best of the Best 2
This movie is hot garbage. Whereas the first installment of the series had an actual story with real actors (like James Earl Jones!), this one had Wayne fucking Newton playing an oily villain named – ready? – Weldon Dardano, who is the proprietor of a Las Vegas dance club that serves as the cover for an underground fighting league where warriors go to battle… for their lives! It’s like every nebbish anti-fantasy about what the UFC is, distilled onto the screen where bad actors deliver terrible dialogue in a brutally ugly plot that wildly swings between disparate tones.
With that out of the way, I love this movie! Philip Rhee plays Tommy Lee… Let’s just pause right there because how can his name be Tommy Lee in 1993 without comment or irony considering there’s a WAY more famous Tommy Lee that everyone knows? This movie gives no fucks about such trifles and plies you with lots of karate fights and greasy training montages with some hokey Native American wisdom thrown in just for added flavor.
The fights are what make this movie actually worth watching, but the doofy one-liners and incredibly un-self aware and inappropriate gun violence will leave you scratching your head. Also, Eric Roberts, Chris Penn, one of the villains from 48 Hrs. and a red-haired lady with crazy blue eyes appear in it, and none of them acquit themselves well, which somehow helps the movie work because if anyone was taking this shit seriously, they’d probably kill themselves.
Full disclosure: I got incredibly drunk with my two best friends in the parking lot of a JC Penney in the middle of the day on a Thursday when I saw this in theaters, and so I might be biased when I say it’s probably one of the top 3 theater-going experiences of my entire life. Listen to me on the Reel Nerds when I talk about the third entry into this series, and just apply most of those comments to this one too.
With this addition… watch this scene below:
I’m still not exactly sure what it is about this soliloquy that tickles my funny bone just so, but I literally have not laughed harder at anything in a movie theater in my entire life. Part of it was the drunkenness, for sure, but more I think it’s how this “tender” scene is dropped into the middle of this chest-thumping roidfest like a goddamn anvil with a hamfisted blue filter and too-obvious-by-half on the nose metaphor for the plot delivered by Mickey Rourke who damn near saves it with his delivery, which makes the ludicrousness of it all somehow that much more poignant.
I love this scene in ways that are probably not permitted by the state.
And that’s what a dumb action movie will do for you. Enjoy. And feel free to leave your favorite dumb action movies in the comments.