Something has changed. Either I am outgrowing action movies and/or becoming a cranky Pat Hingle character, or modern action stars just don’t get it done.
Old school actors like Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, and James Coburn could emote. When I watched them in an action movie, I could feel their aggression radiating from the screen and, as a martial artist, I know that it’s aggression that wins fights. I’m sorry Vin, but I haven’t thought “This dude could whip the snot out of me” since Pitch Black. With a few exceptions, these ‘youngsters’ just ain’t gettin it done.
Let me clarify. I know that Randy Couture could kick my ass. But when I sit down and watch him play Toll Road, I don’t believe that he could. I’m not talking about intellectual decision making, but rather the actor’s ability to evoke in the viewer the feeling of, “Damn, this guy means business.” I believe that Vince Majestyk could drag me through a knot-hole and leave me dying in the mud. Hawkeye? Not so much. It’s about the actor’s ability to suspend my disbelief for ninety minutes.
Maybe it’s the directing. Tarentino or Scorsese could transform David Spade into the scariest tough guy on two legs. Liam Neeson got it done as Bryan Mills in the first Taken. Costner got it done in The Bodyguard. Bruce Willis in the first Red. Denzel. Gary Oldman.
Is there anybody in movies right now who could make you feel the way Clint Eastwood or Gene Hackman used to? Gene Hackman. Gene Hackman. That guy made you feel like he would crunch the marrow from your pathetic little bones and then go rock your girlfriend’s world with your scalp hanging next to him on the bedpost.
Hugh Jackman? Gimme a break.