Best action movies ever made

Gladiator (2000)

Director: Ching Siu-tung

Cast: Norman Chu, Damian Lau, Eddy Ko

Best quote: “You can’t kill us all!”

The killer scene: Shaolin monk versus giant ninja

Tripping tigers, hidden ninja
The directorial debut as fever dream: Action choreographer Ching Siu-tung (Shaolin Soccer, Hero) spent 11 years working on other people’s action movies so this is the explosive release of all his ideas that were too crazy for those films. Once every decade, China’s best martial artists take on Japan’s to see which country will rule the martial-arts world. This year, two of the challengers discover a conspiracy to rig the competition and also…ninjas!

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen

Gladiator brought out the best in everyone. Star Russell Crowe pounded hard on the screenwriters for revisions; his vengeful performance as Maximus, the officer turned slave turned inspiration to hoi polloi, cemented his stardom as a thinking man’s action hero, long before any phones were flung. Across the moral divide, Joaquin Phoenix offered up the first real hint of his mastery as the vicious Commodus, power-mad and cackling his way to an imperious thumbs-up. But most of all, director Ridley Scott rose to the occasion, reminding us of the grandeur he hadn’t attained since Blade Runner.

 

Lone Wolf and Cub 2: Baby Cart at the River Styx (1972)

Director: Kenji Misumi

Cast: Tomisaburo Wakayama, Akihiro Tomikawa, Kayo Matsuo

When I was little, my father was famous. He was the greatest samurai in the empire, and he was the shogun’s decapitator.

When Daigoro is a year old, his father, Ogami Itto, gives him a choice: the ball or the sword. Framed for treason, Ogami must flee—and if Daigoro goes for the ball, his parent will murder him. If the boy goes for the sword, though, he’ll be taken along on a mission of vengeance. Daigoro chooses the sword and so Ogami pushes him around Japan in a heavily armed baby carriage, trying to clear the family name. Foreheads are sliced open, breasts are sliced open, faces are sliced open, walls gush blood, stomachs gush blood, and chests spray blood with the force of a fire hose. But that’s the point: The world is a nightmare of violence and all we can do is try to protect our children from it. We usually fail.

Shiri (1999)

Director: Kang Je-Gyu

Cast: Han Suk-Kyu, Choi Min-sik, Kim Yun-Jin

Best quote: “Ever seen parents eating the flesh of their own children? With your Coke and hamburgers, you wouldn’t know!”

Korean tensions get the Bruckheimer treatment
The movie that kicked off Korea’s current cinematic renaissance, Shiri smashed box-office records, becoming a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Two South Korean special agents are seriously out-classed when a team of do-or-die North Korean commandos (led by Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik) hops the border, planning to blow up a North–South Korean soccer game designed to better international relations.

Miami Vice (2006)

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li

Best quote: “I take you to the best place for mojitos.”

The killer scene: Sonny and Isabella ride the speedboat to Cuba.

Undercover brothers

“I’ll never doubt you,” says Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) to his partner, Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell), in Michael Mann’s moody and mesmerizing police procedural, a true love letter to men of action. It’s an adaptation of the iconic 1980s series on which Mann served as executive producer, and strikes off in boldly different ways from the Armani blazers and eye-searing pastels of its predecessor. Photographed on pore-enhancing digital cameras that lend a strikingly antiseptic sheen to daylight scenes and a gorgeously pixelated humidity to night shots, the film follows Crockett and Tubbs as they attempt to infiltrate the empire of South American drug lord Montoya (Luis Tosar). Crockett seduces the bad guy’s moll, Isabella (a shrewd and sensuous Gong Li), and both cops draw the ire of Montoya’s second-in-command (John Ortiz).

Duel to the Death (1983)

Director: Ching Siu-tung

Cast: Norman Chu, Damian Lau, Eddy Ko

Best quote: “You can’t kill us all!”

The killer scene: Shaolin monk versus giant ninja

Tripping tigers, hidden ninja
The directorial debut as fever dream: Action choreographer Ching Siu-tung (Shaolin Soccer, Hero) spent 11 years working on other people’s action movies so this is the explosive release of all his ideas that were too crazy for those films. Once every decade, China’s best martial artists take on Japan’s to see which country will rule the martial-arts world. This year, two of the challengers discover a conspiracy to rig the competition and also…ninjas!

 

War (2007)

Director: Philip G. Atwell

Cast: Jet Li, Jason Statham, John Lone FBI agent John Crawford (Jason Statham) is out for revenge against the infamous assassin known only as Rogue (Jet Li), who killed his partner many years before. But all is not as it seems, and the narrative surprises keep coming with the same fast-and-furious momentum with which Lee and Statham take down anyone in their way. It’s always a pleasure to watch the granite-faced Statham plow through a series of interchangeable henchmen, though he slowly becomes second fiddle to the ever-limber Li, for reasons we wouldn’t dream of spoiling.

 

My gun’s bigger than yours.

Advertisements