I’m a simple girl. I see a large, sexy man beating up a bunch of bad guys for terrorising his daughter/wife/dog/country, I click like.
The best action flick heroes aren’t perfect. Seeing the heroes fumble, panic, bleed and feel makes me love them. If he’s over forty, even better. I want a man with a worldly air who’s got some angsty baggage and can take on a room of twenty-somethings like they’re nothing. You show ’em, daddy.
How many action flicks begin with the hero getting a prostate exam? Mads Mikkelsen plays an ageing assassin on the verge of retirement, but he’s not washed up just yet.
Hero style: By turns taciturn and brutal and then devastatingly soft-hearted. Do you want to see the hero pummel twenty guys into pulp in a corridor and then carry his girl bridal-style away from danger? This is the film for you.
Taken 1, 2 & 3
The original and the best. Through Liam Neeson and the Taken franchise, I discovered the pleasure of action films again. Surely everyone’s seen these films by now, or the first one at least. The first one will always be my favourite.
Hero style: Gravelly voiced, tender, relentless. He WILL find you, and he will kiss your forehead and tuck you safely into bed.
John Wick 1, 2 & (coming soon) 3
John Wick is having a lousy day, and someone’s going to pay. A lot of someones. These are solid action films with a wonderful supporting cast. Keanu Reeves himself is superb, and special props to Lance Reddick.
Hero style: WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MORE GUNS WITH YOUR GUNS?
Hamilton 1 & 2
The Hamilton movies are Swedish-made spy films. Swedes are slick. Swedes don’t go around with a silly license to kill to make them seem cool. They just ARE cool.
While Polar doesn’t take itself seriously, the Hamilton films definitely do. They remind me a lot of the Bourne films with all the handycam and terrorist plots. Mikael Persbrandt is deliciously intense as Carl Hamilton, a commander in the Swedish Secret Service. He’s also super cut-up about some things he’s done and can’t bear it when ladies get hurt. Hello Brianna-crack.
Hero style: Do you enjoy melting under an intense blue Viking gaze? DO YOU? Of course you do.
This by rights should be a James Bond-free zone. I LOATHE James Bond. He’s a cliched poser and he bores me. What’s more, he’s always leaving dead women he’s screwed in his wake. There’s a lot of fridging of female characters in action films, but usually the hero at least CARES THEY DIED. James Bond don’t care.
Casino Royale is different, and not even because of Daniel Craig in tiny blue shorts and Mads Mikkelsen playing the villain (though both these things are a big plus.) What makes this film is:
- Bond’s not perfect for a change. He fumbles his way through chase scenes and gets distracted by his own plan to distract the villain. He nearly dies in a tense way.
- He feels things for a woman. Actual things in his heart. Crazy.
Why is he allowed to have feelings for a woman? Because Casino Royale is canonically the first James Bond book that Ian Fleming wrote. After this, he closes his heart forever.
Hero style: surly, powerful, flawed, and so fucking sexy.
The Night Manager
There’s more suavity than muscle in this TV series about a former British soldier being recruited as a spy and infiltrating the inner circle of an arms dealer. Tom Hiddleston doesn’t go in for beating people up much but he’s an extremely clever spy, who finds himself embroiled deeper and deeper as he develops feelings for the arms dealer’s girlfriend.
Special shout-out to Hugh Laurie, one of my favourite Brits. Seeing him play a smiling, debonair villain took this series to a whole other level.
Fun fact: While I was editing SOFT LIMITS I went to Majorca with a friend. Lying on the beach, I texted Mr. Hale a few pictures saying, “I feel like I’m on the set of the Night Manager. You know, those bits that were filmed in Europe where Hugh Laurie’s headquarters are.” He texted back with, “You are.”
Hero style: Charmingly, devastatingly British and as refreshing as a hot cup of tea.