Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back (Short Cuts (Wallflower))
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Action Movies: The Cinema of Striking Back is a short, sharp introduction to the cinema of action. Action movies aren't just full of action, they're about action: about responding to threats and traumas with extreme prejudice. Action heroes don't seek out adventure, they respond to dire necessity; frequently with panic, hysteria, and rage. Though they look like hypermasculine ubertexts, action movies reveal the fears and anxieties behind the bluster. In fact that's what most of them are actually about. Harvey O'Brien takes us through the evolution of the action movie as a distinct genre, with an eye for the ethics and aesthetics of 'action movies' not just as a description of content, but a moral argument. He revisits some familiar arguments around gender and violence, but brings a new angle to the debate by not taking first impressions for granted. Films examined in detail include Death Wish, Mad Max 2, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Last Action Hero, The Matrix, Kill Bill, and The Expendables: disreputable entertainments that nonetheless tug at the popular imagination for good reasons.
instead of breaking his limbs, tears a long gash in his right arm. The wound is significant, but not crippling – a description which also sums up the attitude towards his psychic wounds. If not quite the ‘primal scene’ of self-repair, it is a significant one. It dem- 56 Action_Movies_pages.indb 56 10/9/12 10:50:46 ACTION MOVIES onstrates that the capacity for damage represented by the consequences of his action has resulted in a ‘flesh wound’ which necessitates pause. This can be healed
A brief attempt to deepen the complexity of the ‘action babe’ seemed to come with Hanna (2011), where a pre-adolescent assassin goes rogue. Elements of Angela Carteresque adult fairy tale mystique are woven through the hard-edged action scenes, and the film evinces none of the troubling paedophilic undercurrents noted in both Léon (1994) and Kick-Ass (2010). However normal hard/sexy body service was resumed quickly in both Colombiana (2011) and Haywire (2011), the latter of which could at least
the film industry about itself, desperate to find larger and larger canvases upon which to paint spectacles that would draw audiences to them. The post-classical aesthetic also involves the much-observed acceleration of editing patterns and increased ‘spectacularism’, exemplified by the films of Michael Bay, including The Rock and Bad Boys. As Lichtenfeld observes, Bay’s experience as a commercial music video director, working in compressed timeframes of two or three minutes, produced a sense of
as she says, the point is that ‘our ideological programming as it were would have the humans as worth saving’ (2008: 32). Given that the resolution of The Matrix Revolutions involves a choice for the humans between remaining in a new benign ‘matrix’ or in the rather grimy ‘real’ world, one wonders what Neo’s sacrifice has ultimately solved. This is precisely the point – it has ‘solved’ nothing – it is merely a revelation of the nature of reality – a post-classical deconstruction of the ideologies
believe it. Eastwood as actor, director and symbol of the cinema bids goodbye to the hard-edged traditional American hero, both with affection and a sense of not undue finality. Eastwood repositions the vigilante film as an intra-social morality tale simply by genuinely surrendering his character’s act of will to a broader social process seen to operate as a consequence of but not directly through his decision to intervene – he sees ‘justice done’ but by an act of suicide: a surrender to death,