Now that I’m back from the tropics, let’s return to the series of lists of movies I’ve yet to see. Today, I was helped by Mike MacKenzie and, of course, Micah Pearson. Here’s a little intro from Micah himself: “Yet again, Tegan, your list of missed films never ceases to make my jaw drop. In a major way, I envy the fact that you get to see these films for the first time. As in the case of at least 6 or 7 of these, I would love to be able to experience them again for the first time.” – Micah
11. Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
“Two things: The first this movie is stupid and not very good. The second is that I love it with the passion of a thousand Cyrano de Bergeracs dry humping Cassanova’s love letters (imagine the paper cuts). Even though it was released in 1991, it perfectly encapsulates the action films of the 80’s, namely in their rampant racism and healthy dose of homoeroticsm. I mean, it has a scene where Brandon Lee compliments Dolph Lundgren‘s penis! When Tia Carrere was in the room! In case you were wondering, the producers were worried the original line was racist, so they took out some words and tripled the homoeroticism.
Only thing missing here is a mullet on one of the leads. But fortunately the stuntmen more than make up for it in that regard.” – Micah
10. Seven Samurai (1954)
“Not only is this the best of Akira Kurasawa‘s samurai pictures, the film would also go on to inspire a ton of our Westerns, from the direct remake The Magnificent Seven, to the heavily influences in The Wild Bunch. Great story, great acting, and great swordplay combine with lush cinematography to make for a memorable experience.” – Micah
9. Enter the Dragon (1973)
“THE quintessential Bruce Lee movie. Sadly, this movie was so influential it has since been routinely parodied, so a lot of its impact is lessened for someone seeing it for the first time now. That said, it’s still amazing. Just remember: When Bruce jump kicks the guy into the crowd of other martial artists, he didn’t pull the kick. That guy actually cut Bruce on an earlier take, so the actor kicked the living crap out of him, fracturing a couple of ribs and accidentally breaking the arm of one of the bystanders. Another thing to remember is Bruce did all of his own acrobatics in the film, and had to routinely slow himself down so his movements could be seen by the camera.
That said, another unfortunate aspect of the film is how much the philosophical elements were pulled out of the finished film. Bruce wanted to explore the deep culture of China as well as the philosophies of Shaolin, but they were cut out of the final script to make the film “more accessible” to western audiences.” – Micah
8. Ronin (1998)
“Car chase scenes are incredibly realistic. Espionage and action. Acted out EXTREMELY well by a strong cast.” – Mike
“Most of us were too young to remember that director John Frankenheimer, helmer of films like The Manchurian Candidate, Birdman of Alcatraz, and 52 Pick-Up was an avid fan of racing and famous for his vehicle sequences in films like Grand Prix. So when he came out with a thriller featuring Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, Natascha McElhone, Stellan Skarsgård, Sean Bean, and Jonathan Pryce few members of the modern audience were prepared for the amazing car chases through Nice and Paris that were shot at real speeds. So when the film shows a Mercedes-Benz travelling a narrow street at 120 miles per hour, that’s exactly what it was doing.
There is one bit of terrible CGI in the film that was added at the suggestion of the producers solely because audiences had been trained by Hollywood at the time to have completely incorrect expectations as to what a car would do in the situation, but it doesn’t detract from the overall picture. Did I mention the cast? Because yeah, this film is just that good every way you look at it. Seriously underrated gem.” – Micah
7. Fist of Legend (1994)
“This movie deserves to be seen for a couple of reasons. The first is Jet Li at the top of his physical game. The second is this: How often is a remake arguably better than the original film? Taking on the image of Bruce Lee’s in the classic Fist of Fury could very well be considered insanity, but Jet Li and, dare I say it, legendary fight coordinator Yeun Woo-Ping teamed up and pulled. It. Off. This film is arguably one of the more influential on the list, as many of the martial arts sequences and stylings drove the hollywood action movies of the late ’90s/early 2000s.” – Micah
6. The Bourne Identity (2002)
“Doug Liman is an underrated director, especially when it comes to action. The interesting thing he did here, aside from updating the Bourne mythos into the modern era, was have all of the emotion come from the scenes between the fights and explosions, and have Matt Damon‘s Bourne be a stone-faced machine during the action, which really defined the character. Of special note is the brief appearance of Clive Owen and the gorgeous score by John Powell.” – Micah
5. La Femme Nikita (1990)
“Speaking of character. Back when Luc Besson (who was referenced last time with The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec) was still primarily a director, he cranked out this gem. Those that think that Joss Whedon is the champion of the female action hero haven’t paid much attention to Besson. In this film, we see a street urchin transformed into a full-blown assassin who is so badass, she eventually kills all of the people who trained her. This is a movie so kick-ass that it’s already been remade 3 times since 1990. In ’93 as Point of No Return (featuring Bridget Fonda), then in ’97 as a TV series, and again in 2010 (this time featuring Maggie Q). The original performance by Anne Parillaud is, in my opinion, still by far the best.” – Micah
3. The Raid: Redemption (2011)
“Because it’s Dredd with martial arts. What’s not to love? Great fight choreography and you don’t even care about putting the subtitles on. You already know what they’re saying.” – Mike
“I had the misfortune of seeing Dredd the same week I saw this movie. The unfortunate part is that Dredd was actually pretty cool, but had the exact same plot and just couldn’t hold a candle to the outright insanity that are the fight sequences and stunts in this flick. There’s a scene in the movie where we realized that the stuntman had to be tired…because we could actually SEE his feet move, something that wasn’t actually possible the last time he kicked someone. I saw this with 4 other jaded action fans, and we routinely screamed out “OH DAAAAMN,” and winced at the events unfolding on the screen (in a good way). Calling it right now: Greatest action movie of all time.
Also? Indonesian stuntmen are crazy.” – Micah
3. Battle Royale (2000)
“Screw The Hunger Games. This is the original teenagers-killing-teenagers-for-sport film. Something I wholeheartedly endorse, by the way. A japanese film based off a horrific manga, this movie doesn’t pull any punches in terms of violence and gore (yet is still tame when compared to the source material). It also skips most of the social commentary to focus on the bloodletting, the reason being that neither the director nor the writer really thought they needed to tell you that this was a horrible thing, sticking with the whole show-not-tell rule of quality filmmaking. (warning: strong stomachs only need apply).” – Micah
2. Hard Boiled (1992)
“If we were still living in a pre-Raid world, I’d probably champion this for the greatest action movie title. This was John Woo‘s farewell letter to Hong Kong before coming to Hollywood (and long before returning after his disastrous run here), and he was at the top of his game. The doves, dual pistols, slow-motion, yin-yang symbolism, everything that would become trite tropes in his later films are here in perfect balance and execution. Additionally, the gunfight in the hospital, which took up two whole floors, was shot in a single continuous take.
1. Léon: The Professional
“Assassin takes on corrupt cop. Brilliant action, tons of tension, and even a little sweetness.” – Mike
“Luc Besson again. Another amazing female protagonist. This film would go on to make Jean Reno a household name, feature Natalie Portman‘s first feature film appearance, and be remembered for its classic operatic villain, Gary Oldman. The key is to watch Léon and not the American cut, referred to only as The Professional, which removes the some crucial scenes between Portman and Reno that really develop their relationship. Also, Eric Serra‘s musical contribution on the score cannot be overstated.
All of that is the film historian take. The action fanboy just keeps screaming that you should see this movie over and over until your eyes bleed, so I went the other route.” – Micah