I’m about to cast my fantasy action film.
Why? Because that’s what The Expendables was MEANT TO BE!
But before that, some much needed set-up (and venting) ...
The Expendables - Sly Stallone’s pet action venture. It seemed infinitely more exciting when it was just on paper.
Sure enough both EX1 and EX2 made tidy profits ($275m on $80m, and $313m on $100m respectively.) But their critical approval is in the gutter. The Expendables manages a score of 45 on Metacritic with a puny 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its sequel improved with a score of 51 and a freshness rating of 65%.
Production on EX3 is now in full swing, announcing cast members such as Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford. And this is symptomatic of the franchise’s primary failing...
IT’S FULL OF GERIATRICS!
These action legends are literally decades past their prime. But rather than ushering in a generation of fitter, deadlier, more charismatic performers, they mask their own inability by hurling hundreds of millions in pyrotechnics at the screen!
This industry is positively bursting with action stars.
I don’t mean doe eyed rookies.
I mean steely professionals.
Action specialists who don’t need guided missiles or .50 calibre machine guns to thrill you.
They just need a hand-cam.
And a willing stunty!
Michael Jai White
Claim to Fame – Black Dynamite, The Dark Knight
Too Legit to Quit – He has SEVEN Black Belts. Including Kyokushin i.e. Full contact Karate for crazy people!
Michael Jai White is the greatest asset to the Action Genre never used.
This powerhouse has been (very literally) kicking about for decades, sadly never rising beyond the mantle of Straight-to-DVD King. The cult success of Black Dynamite lit a flame in our hopes, but it never caught fire.
This speaks little of White’s prowess as an actioner though. He is the very seal of legitimacy. He is a locomotive. And when he moves from one point to another, you feel for the poor sod standing in his way, stuntman or no.
Claim to Fame – THE RAID
Too Legit to Quit – 20 years of Pencak Silat and joint action-choreographer for the greatest fight film of all time. He also plays footie.
Watch this space – Iko Uwais is going to be a phenomenon.
A great many factors will contribute to this; his partnership with Gareth Evans, his everyman stature, his boyish features and how he infuses flawless Silat with a hint of breathless, improvised realism. Or perhaps it’ll be the fact he can actually carry a scene. And using just his facial expressions to boot!
[Haters check out THE RAID’s hiding-in-the-dry-wall sequence]
You’ll be seeing a lot of Iko over the next few years.
Claim to Fame – District 13, Kiss of the Dragon
Too Legit to Quit – Has quarter century of Acrobatics, Parkour and Whushu under his belt. Has cool name.
Raffelli transforms the simple act of human movement into art. Whether jumping into a car, off a building or onto someone’s face, the man is an absolute joy to witness in motion.
Action isn’t just for luddites and Neanderthals.
There’s a very appreciable artistry to it.
And Cyril Raffelli is a master craftsman.
Claim to Fame – Dredd
Too Legit to Quit – Nothing specific, I’m just very fond of him.
So is the internetz though, in my defence. He’s been floating around the action back catalogue for years now with duds like Doom, Pathfinder and The Chronicles of Riddick. But there can be no denying, he crushed it as Dredd.
With no real stunt skills to his name, Karl Urban is getting a nod on this list due to the fact he’s magnificent in most roles. And with a few months training, he’d be trading roundhouses with the best of them.
Well maybe not the best of them. Speaking of whom...
Claim to Fame – Ip Man, Hero, Blade II
Too Legit to Quit – Besides the 40+ years of Whushu and a 6th Dan in Taekwando? Well there’s Brazillian Ju-Jitsu, Judo, Muay Thai, Boxing, MMA, Wing Chun, Parkour... Is that enough?
Donnie Yen is the greatest Martial Arts Star on the planet.
Not ever*, but without doubt, working today. And at 50 years old he shows no signs of fatigue. The thrilling thing about Yen is how his style constantly evolves, merging forms, fusing techniques.
And the fact he looks like an arrogant blighter doesn’t hurt either.
Yen famously hurls himself at productions, sculpting himself into a capable leading man in the process. Also, having him on set means you have a back-up, top tier second unit director on standby.
The man is an industry unto himself.
Claim to Fame – Mirageman, Undisputed 3
Too Legit to Quit – He can pull off a jumping 720 spin kick, a side aerial axe kick and a twisting back somersault heel kick. He is also six foot four!
Zaror’s not been in much. But he’s made a splash. Unsurprising, given his frame...
He won awards for doubling The Rock on 2003’s The Rundown. He garnered critical acclaim for his work on Mirageman. And he dropped jaws with his athleticism in Undisputed 3. Leaping squats with a barbell across your shoulders will do that...
And though this year’s Machete Kills is unlikely to be an ideal outlet for his talents, there’s only so long the world can ignore someone, SOMETHING, like Marko Zaror. For fear he’ll kick it out of its own orbit!
Claim to Fame – Seriously?
Too Legit to Quit – SERIOUSLY?!?!
I realize Statham is currently a lynchpin of the Expendables franchise.
But the truth is, no big action brand can afford to be “Without Crank.”
Case in point – Fast and Furious.
The Stath can move. No question about it. Still, discounting THAT chin, Jason Crank isn’t as big, fast, strong or skilled as some of the performers on this list. But he is Hollywood’s ONLY ACTION STAR for a reason.The man exudes charisma. He has buckets of it, wells of it. Figure a way to tap into it and you could power a flippin’ continent. Indefinitely!
Statham is the definitive leading man. He is physically imposing. He is a capable actor (see Safe, Hummingbird, Snatch.) And most importantly, he simmers with a sense of fun and dynamism so crucial to every action flick.
Jason Statham isn’t merely ‘wanted’ for this entirely fictitious action brand to get off the ground.
Jason Statham is a necessity.
Jason Statham is ALWAYS a necessity.