in Movies

Innovation in action movies…


After seeing the piss-poor Rush Hour 3, and seeing the rather despondent face of Jackie Chan, I began to wonder whether we will ever see any genuine “innovation” in action movies…

I’m wondering, after the Die Hard 4.0’s and the Rush Hour 3’s of this world, whether action movies are destined to be teenage-friendly, or filled with cartoon violence which doesn’t amount to much.

Of course there is the odd exception to the rule, “The Bourne Identity” triology immediately springs to mind. But apart from that, I can’t think of another action movie that really breaks the boundaries of the “template action movie”.

Naturally when raising such an article, one would often point to the “Kung fu” genre. The “Hong Kong movie industry” (an umbrella term to cover movies coming as far away as Korea, Japan, Philippines and Thailand), is awash with kung fu action movies – most of which have generic plots, or action sequences that don’t push the boundaries.

Part of the problem is piracy, which is endemic of the Chinese mainland and the surrounding countries. Even as Jackie Chan himself has noted, piracy is getting worse; and is affecting movie production, resulting in studios pumping out template action movies surrounding the “John Woo” school of gun-play, which is almost 10 years out of date, or the inclusion of mafia’s, triads and gangsters.

Fortunately this doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there trying to do something different, or be innovative.

One could easily point to Tony Jaa of Thailand. His bone-crunching action really set the world talking in 2003 with “Ong Bak”; but Jaa’s movies any real plot. And the world has yet to see if Jaa can bring anything else to the world other than missing Buddha heads (Ong Bak) and missing Elephants (The Protector)…

Jet Li, who’s new upcoming film “War” should be a hoot; but will it bring anything new to the table? I think War will be a good action movie – and of course the long awaited “Jackie Chan vs Jet Li” movie, “The Forbidden Kingdom” will soon finish production – but I have a feeling this won’t be as good as everyone expects.

So, the only one left is Donnie Yen. His latest movie, “Dao huo xian” (AKA: “Flash Point” or “City Without Mercy”) is really cleaning up at the box offices in the east – and it has already been picked up by International studios. Billed as a “sort-of” sequel to Yen’s massive “SPL”, Flash point is almost all about innovation – especially with the inclusion of MMA (or mixed martial arts) which Yen last used in the movie “SPL”.

I do like Yen’s ability to innovate, and I think MMA could be one of the missing ingredients; that said – any movie, be it action or otherwise, needs a good story, good characterisations and that quintessential “X-factor”.

That said, I think action movies do need to change. If anything “The Bourne Identity”, “SPL”, “Die Hard” and “Flash Point” styles of movies should the reason to believe that change is not only inevitable, its happening.

Links and resources;