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.
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.
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.
Any number of foreign action-film stars