[This list may initially seem premature, but with the possible exceptions of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
, there’s nothing left in the wings, folks!]
I won’t lie. 2011 has been relatively meagre on the action front. Hollywood seems to have forgotten the value of the Set-Piece. Yet it’s important to give the viewer a presentation which engages the eyes, the ears, and most importantly the excitement glands.
How else is one to get pumped?!
Admittedly, in certain cases, vast action sequences were present i.e. Transformers 3
. Unfortunately, sometime during the arduous development cycle, the task of making these at all entertaining was ignored.
But there were glimmers throughout the year, little rays of hope, tiny shards of violent genius. And if forced to name the very finest, difficult as it was to wade through shaky cameras, bland choreography and choppy editing, these five are the veritable Counts of Monte Fisto!
And yes, for obvious reasons, I’m purposely ignoring Asian Cinema. If you’d appreciate an alternate list, comprised of a dozen films most of you have never heard of, let alone seen, let me know...
5. Hanna – Eric Heller Vs Miscellaneous Agents
Seriously, would you pick a fight with this man?
The epitome of quality over quantity, this tense one shot culminates in a very brief, very arresting encounter that puts anything the Bourne Trilogy offers to shame. Nobody would accuse Hanna’s action scenes of being lengthy affairs, but this merely amplifies their impact.
Gritty, brutal, direct, Eric Bana
doesn’t walk into that subway looking like much, but with six dead agents in his wake, he strolls out the definitive badass.
With realistic, stripped down combat from Jeff Imada
, and solid camerawork from Director Joe Wright
, this is but one of many scenes in Hanna which teach the importance of clarity and storytelling throughout a sequence.
So why does no-body ever listen?!
4. Fast Five – Dom Toretto and Co. Vs the Brazilian Banking Sector
With Paul Walker and Vin Diesel on the case, Gravity can go f*** itself!
knows what you like, specifically, fast cars, big guns, unsafe stunts and The Rock
. And it delivers. Yet for the finale, it decides to chain on a bank safe for good measure. Ingenious.
Intent on putting a literal twist on the tired Bank Heist formula, Fast Five
finishes with a legitimately unprecedented sight. And I’m not strictly referring to the scene wherein the Rock’s Agent Hobbes guns down what appears to be an otherwise legitimate police station.
Questionable morals aside (it IS an action movie...) the protagonists’ decision to drag an enormous steel cube through the comparatively fragile streets of Rio at several hundred kilometres an hour was a wise one. Chased by assorted police and mobsters, Vin Diesel
still, somehow, find the time to perform the world’s least likely switcheroo.
The driving, for the most part, is well shot and implausibly dynamic while the sight of speeding vehicles sledgehammered off the road by a skidding bank vault is a truly unique Set-Piece Fast Five
can be proud to have pioneered.
3. I Am Number Four – Four and Six Vs the Mogadorians
Despite the obvious energy in this promotional still, it still undersells the finale
Mogadorians... you read that right. Nine months on and I’m still shaken by this absurd term.
That said, quirky science fiction has its benefits; case in point, the fifteen minute finale of I Am Number Four
. This project was billed as an actionflick, but nonetheless this sequence blew moviegoers away! Brawling monsters chewing on each others faces, colourful laser battles disintegrating foes, teleporting knife fights, superhuman acrobatics, telekinetically propelled projectile lockers and general carnage galore, this overlooked treat likely blew 90% of its budget on the grand finale.
And I couldn’t be more grateful for this decision.
A lesson to filmmakers the world over: if you need to improve a decidedly mediocre flick, be sure to have the entire cast belt one another across a football field and fire neon particle beams wildly at the audience.
2. Immortals – Gods Vs Titans
Trust me, they fight a lot harder than they look...
You know it’s been a rough year when one of the best scenes features Aramis (Luke Evans
), the Medusa-bot from Transformers 2 (Isabel Lucas
) and that big fella from Twilight (Kellan Lutz
). However credit where credit is due, this stylised, supremely gory depiction of immensely powerful combatants tearing each other new ones was the highlight in a film full of them.
I’d imagine the Montreal stunt crew probably helped a bit though...
Though by no stretch a comic-book film, Immortals bizarrely raises the herculanean bar for any future meta-human rumbles. Both Marvel and DC studios have an Olympian an amount of work to do, but honestly, do any of you really think the Avengers
of The Dark Knight Rises
will have anything on this?!
Dripping with severed limbs, exploding heads and the most inventive use of a Trident in film history, Immortals
literally brings the house down. If the house was a gigantic mountain!
Few action films have the decency to finish strong. Immortals
finishes with a bang and a squelch.
Kung Fu Panda 2 – Po Vs Cannonballs
Arguably the meanest Peacock in film history
I know! An animation in the hotspot? Surely not!?
Well initially, I ranked this under the Immortals
finale. However I was forced to reconsider, given the level of detail and choreography put into the Dragon Warrior’s ultimate sequence.
Though sadly lacking traditional one on one fight scenes, Kung Fu Panda 2
’s delirious finale was a festival of colour, imagination and assorted kung fu awesomeness!
Seamlessly weaving giddy comedy (Po struggling to outmanoeuvre a three tonne cannon) frantic martial arts (the Five kick showcasing a half dozen animal styles while crunching their way through an armada of wolves, stacking ships and breaking bones) and an appropriately epic final epiphany (Po discovers inner peace and, somehow, starts redirecting flaming cannonballs) Dreamworks cements Kung Fu Panda not only as their premier franchise, but the year’s best animation.
And though the second and third acts unfold as one interconnected Set Piece, it is the finale’s mixture of acrobatic swordplay, Chinese mysticism, imaginative brawling, unusual techniques and wry humour that seals it as the year’s finest.
A Panda kicking a Wolf into a Signpost atop a Rickshaw is one of the tamer sequences in KFP2
I know Expendables 2, Transformers 4 and James Bond 137 are on the way. But Kung Fu Panda 3
is what real action junkies await!
So, have I left anything significant off the list of are these truly 2011’s diamonds in the rough? Let us know in the comments below.