Empire Australia - 08.2019

(Brent) #1
THE MOST EXCITING films this winter are
all glorious odes to pure, unadulterated action.
Nothing encapsulates this more than the return
ofRambo, still drawing blood after nearly 40
years, or the arrival ofHobbs & Shaw, a giddily
ludicrousFast & Furiousspin-off.
In fact, the genre has been reinvigorated
byMad Max: Fury Road,The Raid,John Wick,
the aforementionedFast & Furious movies and
more. Plus, withtwomoreMission: Impossible
sequels andJohn Wick: Chapter 4on the
horizon, the renaissance isn’t slowing.
Yet these films continue to be underestimated
and misunderstood, so let’s be clear: the action
film is an art form unto itself. Action is sensory,
immersive and something of a spectacle. It can
be therapeutic and cathartic; the resurgence of
theMission: Impossiblefranchise, where we
eagerly wait to learn which limbs Tom Cruise
will endanger in his pursuit of audacious stunts,
is pure escapism.
Action distils a story into its most
fundamental parts. A fight is a battle of good
against evil (Neo versus Agent Smith inThe
Matrix); a car chase crystallises conflict and
tension (you may not recall whatBullittis
about, but its chase is indelible). And the
stakes are tangible. These movies aren’t just
about violence; rather, the action serves
the story. It reveals character and expresses
heightened emotions. John Wick’s hyper-
specific violence articulates his grief better
than any dialogue ever could.
Action films function as cultural artefacts.
They can be political, literary, even spiritual.
Mad Max is a campfire legend, a man on
a Joseph Campbellian hero’s journey. John Wick
is Orpheus, who loses his wife in the Underworld
and gets dragged back down to hell. Ethan Hunt
is Odysseus, embarking on an impossible quest.
InFirst Blood, Rambo is Philoctetes, the only
warrior courageous enough to honour Heracles’
dying wish to be burned alive on his funeral pyre,
the Salween as his River Styx.
Actioners don’t need subtext to be taken
seriously. They can be admired for the beauty
of their fight choreography alone, like the
blood-soaked ballet ofThe Raid. But their
accessibility is the very thing that makes them
ideal vehicles for loftier, even subversive ideas.
You can read into their symbolism, enjoy the
wide-shots and the clever framing, or you can
consider The Rock and Jason Statham teaming
up to take on a genetically enhanced criminal
named Brixton and think: “This might be the
most fun I will have at the cinema all month.”
You might be right.PRISCILLA PAGE


This winter, cinemas are

dominated by explosive

escapism. We’ve never

needed it more

An ode

to action




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