There’s always something so satisfying to me about watching action films of the 00’s that didn’t even try to cover up their insanity. 80’s action was about the more is more mentality and the 90’s was all about making action plausible and serious. But something changed in the mid to late 00’s where filmmakers decided enough is enough. Let’s see how much crazy we can throw at the camera see what sticks. So today I wanted to look at some of my favorite over the top action films of the 00’s and what makes them work. Turn off your brain and get ready, this is going to be fun.
I would give anything to have a sit down with directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (aka Neveldine/Taylor) to talk with them about their filmography. The funny thing is, when Crank initially came out I had zero interest in seeing it. I looked at the trailers and thought, “Great, another film that’ll waste Jason Statham’s talent.” And after sitting through two Transporter films can you blame me? It took the recommendation of two friends with opinions I trusted to finally watch this film. What I got was a ridiculous concept that reveled in it’s ridiculousness. Chev Chelios (yes, that is the name of Statham’s character) is poisoned with “The Bejing Cocktail” and has to keep his adrenaline pumping or he dies. What follows is a series of stunts that are justified as they’re necessary to keeping Chev alive. Throw in Dwight Yoakam as a morally ambiguous doctor and Efren Ramirez as a street smart transvestite and you’ve got a pretty crazy film. But it’s still not nearly as crazy as…
-Crank: High Voltage-
It was almost as though Neveldine/Taylor saw how much they got away with in the first film and said, “Okay, now let’s make things really interesting.” After falling out of a helicopter at the end part one it turns out Chev is still alive. He’s literally scooped off the street and taken away. It turns out his heart was strong enough to survive “The Bejing Cocktail” and so it has been removed to be transplanted into a dying Triad Leader (played with no filter by David Carradine). Armed with an artificial heart requiring electricity to keep working Chev sets out to get his heart back and of course crazy shit ensues. So instead of keeping his adrenaline pumping he must find ways to charge himself. This includes getting a jump from a car, licking batteries, having sex with his girlfriend on a horse-track, and so many more. Added to the cast is Bai Ling who does and says some of the weirdest things I question how much was even scripted. I’m glad that Neveldine/Taylor decided to go even further with this one, but when part three gets made I wonder how they’ll be able to top this?
Who would’ve thought that Joe Carnahan who made the super serious Narc would have this in his bag? After dropping out of directing Mission: Impossible III at the eleventh hour Carnahan thought he had signed his death warrant in the filmmaking industry. Luckily he penned a script about coked out Vegas magician Buddy Israel (Jeremy Piven) turning state’s evidence against the mob. With that a million dollar hit is put out on his life and every single mercenary wants it. From there it’s up to a pair of FBI agents (Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta) to stop this flood of psychos from killing Buddy. And when I say psychos I mean it. The stand out of the mercs has to be the Tremor Brothers (Chris Pine, Kevin Durand, and Maury Sterling) a trio of redneck, speed freak, neo-nazis who have never understood the concept of subtly. With Carnahan’s style and cast that is packed to the gills with talent this film is bonkers in the best sense of the word.
-Shoot ‘Em Up-
Say what you will about Clive Owen, but at least he doesn’t let losing out on an iconic role keep him down. As one of the top contenders to take over the role of James Bond he ultimately lost to Daniel Craig and instead took the lead role in Smith in Shoot ‘Em Up. A loner with no real purpose Smith sees a pregnant woman chased by a gun toting madman. Taking the guy down he delivers the baby as the woman dies from a gunshot from villain Karl (Paul Giamatti). Smith now begins to unravel the mystery of why someone wants this baby dead with the help of a lactating hooker (Monica Bellucci). What follows are some of the funniest and most ludicrous action scenes. To see a gun fight going on while Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci are having sex makes me assume this is what The Exploited were singing about with “Sex and Violence”.
There are quite a few other films that could’ve made this list, but I wanted to cap it off as I couldn’t think up enough synonyms for the word crazy. As usual what are your thoughts? Do you enjoy this kind of action film? Are you waiting for Crank 3 to finally see the light of day? As always thanks for reading.