Kids these days, man, they don’t know what they are missing. When I was growing up I got to watch “Predator” (1987) with The Governator, “Demolition Man” (1993) with Sylvester Stallone and “Universal Soldier” (1992) with good old Jean−Claude Van Damme. These action movies shaped my childhood and made it totally awesome.
But nowadays all we get is the Jason Statham fare, the quiet professional fixer/driver/hitman who doesn’t say much and kicks a lot of butt. This January’s “The Mechanic” is the perfect example — Statham kills people and does it while looking really cool and with some fast editing. I miss the age of the action hero. I miss the big explosions with gratuitous violence. When was the last time we saw a helicopter fight that ended with a great deadpan one−liner like, “You’re fired”?
We lost something when the old breed retired. They came back for one last hurrah in last year’s “The Expendables,” which was a sort of changing of the guard — it had all the old action heroes and the new guys like Statham, Jet Li and Terry Crews. But is this really the turn we want our movies to take? A lot of seriousness and much less awesome? I don’t see much hope for a return to the days of my youth, except in one awesome place: The Rock.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is going to be the next action hero. Sure, you say, but what about guys like Vin Diesel, Statham, Li, Will Smith, John Cena or Matt Damon? FOOL! Think before you speak! These punks have nothing on Arnie or the old awesome heroes of the past. Can you really name a movie they’ve been in that matches The Governator’s “Commando” (1985) for one−liners, property damage and bullets fired? Only The Rock comes close to that, and as a part−Samoan former WWE star, he’s basically a real−life superhero. Statham has male pattern baldness.
I can name only a handful of starring roles that retain the charm of the ’80s and ’90s, and the shining example is The Rock in “The Rundown” (2003). This movie had everything you’d ever want. An evil Christopher Walken who enslaves a bunch of South Americans to mine his gold, The Rock getting in capoeira fights with spry little angry rebels and Rosario Dawson being Rosario Dawson. Explosions, gunfights and Seann William Scott (aka Stifler) getting his butt kicked for two hours — what’s not to like?
With “Faster” (2010), The Rock got to play a more sullen and vengeful role with a great amount of butt−kickery. He’s also in the upcoming “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) sequel, “Fast Five,” which is a franchise I fully support because it also follows the spirit of awesome action movies, and I’m certain he’ll get in plenty of dropkicks and eyebrow raising.
Why is it important to get these action heroes back? Because, like action movies, they are escapism. I don’t want to admire them, I want them to do things that are physically impossible: Pick up a phone booth and throw it down some stairs! Break through the roof and complete a flip kick straight into the bad guy’s throat! I want superheroes without a cape. Is that too much to ask?
An action movie without an action hero is like a chair without a cup holder — what is the point? A few weeks ago I talked about how we need action flicks back, but we also need stars and not just any will do. You wouldn’t wear a shirt without a pocket protector, would you? Or eat walnuts without a spoon? Or walk into a room without tapping the doorknob four times? Of course not! Action movies need superheroes, and I think The Rock will be our next Superman — my only question is, Who will be his Batman?