Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Action Hero World Champion: An Addendum

Last week, I published an article about who the current "action hero world champion" is, with a list of possible contenders. Since hitting "publish," I've realized - thanks to input from Facebook and Twitter - that there are a handful of actors that I had (shamefully) neglected to include in the first go-round, as well as clarify the criteria that I was using in creating my list.

I was working from a slightly different framework than writer Bill Simmons did in the piece that inspired last week's article. For one, I included franchises such as Mission: Impossible and James Bond, but tried to keep superheroes out of it for the most part. "Action heroes," by this definition, only have one superpower: being able to kick copious amounts of ass. Moreover, they had to meet to other qualifications: the actor must be best known for their work in action movies, and they must be best known for that work within roughly the past five years. For example: I chose Liam Neeson because his recent work has mostly been in action films, and today he's more well-known for those than his more serious roles. If we had done this in 2007, on the other hand, Angelina Jolie would have definitely made the cut with the Tomb Raider franchise and Mr. & Mrs. Smith; since then, even with films like Wanted and Salt, she doesn't do action movies quite as often, and she's more famous for many more, better reasons related to her humanitarian efforts.

Granted, these qualifications don't necessarily clarify every candidate that I listed. Jennifer Lawrence, for example, remains an enormously iffy choice, which I'll still defend because her most famous role of the moment is Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies. However, it's very likely that she won't be on this list any more once that series ends. But hopefully that makes my reasoning a little more understandable.

Now, here are a few more contenders for the "action hero world champion" title, after the jump.

Jason Statham

I'm really embarrassed that I didn't think of Statham the first time around, especially since his entire career is almost completely action movies. Statham has given himself over to the genre, and he makes a very believable fighting machine, just as quick with a one-liner as he is with a punch. Movies like Crank are almost postmodern deconstructions of what an action hero can be, and he's also covered major franchises such as The Expendables (where he plays a character named LEE CHRISTMAS) and Fast and Furious (he'll be in the upcoming seventh installment). The only thing really holding Statham back from outright claiming the title is that his films don't make a lot of money. They make enough for him to keep working, sure, but they fade so fast that it's easy to forget most of them ever happened at all. In many ways, Statham is the Jean-Claude Van Damme of the Aughts. He's the action hero that we deserve.

Milla Jovovich

Jovovich is essentially in the same boat as Statham. With the exception of a few dramatic/comedic roles that have largely been forgotten, she's been solely in the action business since taking the lead role of Alice in the Resident Evil franchise. That series has resulted in five films so far (with a sixth on the way), and she's appeared in other one-offs such as The Fourth Kind, A Perfect Getaway, Faces in the Crowd, and The Three Muskateers steampunk-indebted remake from 2011. Like Statham, these movies don't make a lot of money, and as a result she's not a personality that often gets mentioned when talking about major action movies. But she is worthy of consideration, especially since she's likely the best-known true female action star of the moment.

Gerard Butler

Five years ago, Butler would have been a serious contender for this title, perhaps even winning the honor of "action hero world champion." For starters, he had 300, which was perhaps the most testosterone-fueled blockbuster action movie of the entire decade. By 2009, he added RocknRolla (a Guy Richie film), Gamer, and Law Abiding Citizen to that resume, building a strong case for himself. However, the past five years haven't been quite as kind. Sure, he's had Machine Gun Preacher and Coriolanus, but he gets major strikes for awful rom-coms Playing for Keeps and The Bounty Hunter - the latter desperately trying to be an action flick as well. Last year, he scored a relatively major - and very unlikely - hit with Olympus Has Fallen, the first of the year's two "Die Hard in the White House" movies. He'll be following that up with the sequel, London Has Fallen (no joke), Gods of Egypt, video-game adaptation Kane & Lynch, and a remake of Point Break. He has potential to get back into contention.

Any number of foreign action-film stars

Iko Uwais

If this feature has taught me anything, it's that I'm not an action movie aficionado. I had trouble just coming up with American action movie stars, and I'm sure there are tons of foreign options that could make their case as "action hero world champion." I'll let you recommend some in the comments, since I have no idea, but the ones that I can think of off the top of my head are Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak), Iko Uwais (The Raid), Jackie Chan (Rush Hour), Jet Li (Hero)….who else?

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