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Archive for August 15th, 2010

When deciding on a theme for this months Groovers and Mobsters Present, Heather had the fantastic idea of “Action” not least because our publishing date coincides with the release of The Expendables. An unashamed throwback to the movies of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s before CGI and 3D were more important than a good explosion. Unfortunately no Sylvester Stallone movies made the list (First Blood was my number two choice) but what we have is an interesting mix of movies that span less than ten years. We have two with the same star (Arnold Schwarzenegger), two with the same director (John McTiernan) but they are all very different movies that have one important thing in common they are great movies not just great action movies.

Die Hard (1988)

“Yippee kai yay, motherfucker”

New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) arrives in LA on Christmas eve hoping to patch things up with his estranged wife (Bonnie Bedelia) and spend Christmas with his kids. Arriving mid way through an office party on the thirtieth floor of a nearly completed skyscraper, he manages to avoid the other unwelcome guests a group of European “terrorists” who take over the building. Before long McClane becomes the last line of defence against Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), possibly the greatest movie villain in history.

In 1988 Bruce Willis was best known for the TV show Moonlighting and Alan Rickman was relatively unknown. After the success of their previous movie Predator (1987), it would have been easy for director John McTiernan and producer Joel Silver to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone like him in the role, they very nearly did. Without Willis’ comic delivery the everyman vulnerability the movie just wouldn’t have worked and would have been just another dumb action movie. One of the great advantages of a quality villain is the way the film doesn’t rely on having the star in every scene, something that you won’t see in most action films (count the time Tom Cruise isn’t in the mission impossible movies if you don’t believe me). The direction is taught and lean knowing when to be serious and when to ramp up the tension or the action but most importantly perfectly handling the comic relief. The photography from cinematographer Jan de Bont (who went on to direct Speed (1994)) is equally as impressive capturing the action perfectly without the use of overly fast editing and shaky cameras that has become the norm. The symbolism of crooks who dress like bankers and the part the shedding of a gold Rolex plays in their final downfall may have been lost over time but somehow seems more relevant than ever now. The smaller victories the supporting characters enjoy at the expense of the less appealing characters (not always the villains) are important to the dynamic and appeal of the movie.

Whilst Die Hard didn’t completely reinvent the action movie, it certainly came close, giving new life to the genre steering it in a new direction and has been imitated ever since its release.

You can see the other chosen movies here

 

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