‘The Ultimate Action Movie’
You settle into your plush stadium seat, dead center, fourth row up. Arm rests down, there’s a half-cherry-half-Coke Icee with two straws in the cupholder to your left and a $6 box of Junior Mints to your right. The pre-movie featurettes rotate onscreen, your cue to start dipping those pretzel bites into their atomic-yellow cheese sauce. Nothing naturally occurring on Earth is that yellow, but hell, it’s part of the experience.
Minutes disappear—along with two thirds of your extraterrestrial snack food—and then, the lights dim. The crowd quiets as you take a long, double-barrel draw on your Cherry Coke slush.
Trailers, trailers, trailers.
Trailers, trailers. Is this the last one?
Trailers, trailers. When will this end?
Trailers, trailers, trailers. Just kidding, I like trailers.
Right as you feel the moment may never come, the room goes dark. Black curtains slowly glide apart to reveal the widescreen.
Silence falls across the audience, only interrupted by a faint crunch of popcorn and a few comical slurps of soda. You can taste the excitement in the air.
Welcome to “The Ultimate Action Movie.”
If I made “The Ultimate Action Movie,” you know it’d come out the gate with a high impact opening scene. A dozen movie trailers have hypnotized your audience into a calm steady state at this point. They’ve likely finished $13.50 worth of snacks and nestled into whatever preconceived notion of what the upcoming 126 minutes will entail. Translation: it’s the perfect time to knock’em off their block. I’m talking “Fast & Furious” (the fourth in the series). Vin Diesel stomps on the accelerator, gunning a 1987 Buick GNX beneath a flaming oil tanker as it flips through the air, preserving just inches of clearance.
I’m talking the first fight scene of “Haywire.” In a split second, friendly diner banter transforms into Gina Carano utterly dismantling Channing Tatum. Two words: arm bar. And who could forget “Mission Impossible III?” Fade in from black. Tom Cruise is strapped into a chair amidst an interrogation. Captors threaten his wife with a gun. “Where is it? Where the hell is it?!” barks Phillip Seymour Hoffman (RIP). Oh you don’t know, Tom? Say goodbye to your ladyfriend. Gun shot. “NOOoo…” [cue opening credits]
Obviously, acting in “The Ultimate Action Movie” would be top notch. Remember that scene in “Gladiator” where Russel Crowe takes off his mask in the coliseum?
[removes helmet and turns around to face Commodus]
“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”
[Commodus trembles in disbelief]
–Maximus, “Gladiator” (2000)
Bottle that sh*t up and multiply it by a thousand. We’d win numerous Academy Awards. Audience members will lose their minds over the sheer number of A-list actors sharing screen time. (Think “The Departed” not “The Expendables”). Christian Bale would deliver the highest Bale-caliber acting (minus the Batman voice). Tom Hardy would serve up a “Bronson”-level performance. Denzel would captivate moviegoers with his best showing since “Training Day.”
Actors would get Hugh Jackman jacked, lose extreme weight a la “Sixth Sense” Donnie Wahlberg, and spend months method acting characters. The audience would laugh, cry, shutter, gasp, heave, faint, twitch, implode, you name it.
If I made “The Ultimate Action Movie,” the story would be mind-bending. If “Inception” had layers, this movie would have layers on layers. It’d be an onion of Inceptions, a matryoshka doll of cinematic surprises, the turducken of plot twists.
I revisited “The Matrix” for the first time in years, and as the opening credits flashed across the screen, a feeling of concern washed over me. Would this movie hold up? Is it still the film that middle school Kevin watched 11 times on the plane during his first family trip to Asia?
“I know Kung Fu.”
–Neo, “The Matrix” (1999)
Just as fear was about to get the best of me, Trinity rose up like a marvelous, hell-bent crane in the opening sequence and all was right in the world. “The Matrix” unequivocally held up. All of it—the characters, the plot, the suspense. Who knows, “The Ultimate Action Movie” may even be adapted from an immeasurably kickass novel. Great stories are hard to come by, but if we’re making a book into a movie, you know damn well we’re going to be “The Lord Of The Rings,” not an “Ender’s Game.” Regardless, “The Ultimate Action Movie” is built on a story that has lasting power. It has longevity. It stands the test of time.
And the action in “The Ultimate Action Movie?” You’ll have to see it to believe it. We’ll trade in the Michael Bay “Transformers” explosions for good ol’ fashioned stunts. Real stunts. Close your eyes and relive that feeling when you witnessed Jackie Chan actually leap off of a building onto an adjacent fire escape in “Rumble in The Bronx.”
Parkour? No-brainer. Sprinkle in a James Bond “Casino Royale” Madagascar chase sequence with a little “Bourne Ultimatum” rooftop scamper. And, let’s not even get started with the fight scenes. Dear Lord, we all knew you were waiting for that Dwayne Johnson Vinny D. face-off in “Fast Five.” Well, picture that, then blow it out of the water after we add some impeccable martial arts wire work, paying homage to the likes of “Iron Monkey” or Jet Li’s “Once Upon a Time in China.”
If I made “The Ultimate Action Movie,” the soundtrack would light your brain on fire. I’d do what Pharrell did for “Despicable Me” but in a film that replaces all of those yellow mini monsters with ass kicking. Have you listened to the “Drive” soundtrack? The music alone is reason enough to see Ryan Gosling take names in that sweet jacket. We’d go “TRON” on this project.
Partner up with a Daft Punk equivalent (if one such band exists) to deliver an unprecedented original score. Even if we can’t throw down tracks from scratch, we can at least establish a killer movie mix. “Guardians of the Galaxy” boasts the first soundtrack at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 to only be composed of previously released songs. That’s what I call good taste.
“The Ultimate Action Movie” is hilarious, like a classic buddy-cop flick. If I could replicate 2% of the onscreen chemistry shared by Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour 2,” we’d be in good shape. Hell, “The Ultimate Action Movie” probably has Jackie Chan and Christ Tucker in it. The 1997 cult classic, “The Fifth Element,” may however be the true holy grail of action-comedy. Bruce Willis and Chris Tucker are untouchable.
What could be better than a former major in the special forces turned flying cab driver in 2263 coming out of retirement to team up with a futuristic talk show host that has a bleached fro in the shape of a microphone in order to save the world from a giant ball of evil black fire. Do we even need to mention how the costume design was done by Jean Paul Gaultier? What?!
Villains in “The Ultimate Action Movie” would be unforgettable. The late Heath Ledger as “The Joker” in The Dark Knight epitomizes movie evil. For such an outrageous character set in a comic book world, the performance was so convincing, hence even more frightening. I prefer my bad guys ruthless, surprising, and efficient. Sprinkle in a little silver fox Tom Cruise from “Collateral,” a relentlessly efficient hitman. Take a slice of the quietly haunting retired Thai cop slash killing machine played by Vitaya Pansringarm in “Only God Forgives.”
Jot down a few notes from Ben Foster’s sinister role as a kidnapper in the 2005 B. Willis flick, “Hostage.” The best villains take you on a chilling ride, holding you at the edge of your plush cinema seat until the last moment.
The ending of “The Ultimate Action Movie,” boy the ending, what can I say? The ending would be like nothing ever seen. Do you remember what it felt like to fixate your eyes on the spinning top duing the final scene of “Inception” for the first time? Did you recover all of the remaining brain shards after your mind exploded at the end of “The Prestige?”
Have you ever seen anything more satisfying than a restrained “Live Free or Die Hard” Bruce Willis killing the bad guy by shooting a gun through the bullet wound in his own shoulder? The ending of “The Ultimate Action Movie” will turn you upside down and shake you senseless, leaving you as a parched mass of brain mush thirsty for more.
Most importantly, “The Ultimate Action Movie” is unapologetically what it’s meant to be, an action movie. “The Rock” solidifies itself among the action movie elite because it has no disillusions with regards to its cinematic identity: a no frills, Bay Area based, cheesy-quote-slinging quirky duo action flick. Sean Connery delivers as a badass spy game retiree and Nicolas Cage pretty much plays himself. End of story.
Commander Anderson: Have you ever been in a combat situation?
Goodspeed: Define combat, sir.
Commander Anderson: Shep?
LT Shepherd: An incursion underwater to re-take an impregnable fortress held by an elite team of US Marines in possession of 81 hostages and 15 guided rockets armed with VX poison gas.
Goodspeed: Oh. In that case, no, sir.
–“The Rock” (1996)
It doesn’t matter that it received a 66% on Rotten Tomatoes. “The Rock” doesn’t care because “The Rock” is true to itself. Likewise, “The Ultimate Action Movie” stands tall in the face of scrutiny.
A Blockbuster beacon of action, it scoffs at the try-to-hards and the wannabes. “The Ultimate Action Movie” expands with all of the “Transporter”-car-chasing-“Pitch Black”-monster-slaying-“Book of Eli”-machete-wielding-“True Lies”-horseback-riding-“Independence Day”-alien-punching-“Equilibrium”-double-gun-toting-“Captain America”-shield-throwing-“300”-hole-kicking creamy goodness movie magic has to offer and jams it into a neatly packaged, easily digestible 126 minute hurricane presented for you–in your triple plush reclinable stadium seat, equipped with two arm rests and a XL Icee–to sit back, relax and enjoy.
[Cue post credits movie sequel teaser]
Movie mentions (in order of reference):
- “Fast & Furious” (2009)
- “Haywire” (2011)
- “Mission Impossible III” (2006)
- “Gladiator” (2000)
- “The Departed” (2006)
- “The Expendables” (2010)
- “Batman Begins” (2005)
- “Bronson” (2008)
- “Training Day” (2001)
- “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
- “The Sixth Sense” (1999)*
- “Inception” (2010)
- “The Matrix” (1999)
- “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001)
- “Ender’s Game” (2013)
- “Transformers” (2007)
- “Rumble in the Bronx” (1995)
- “Casino Royale” (2006)
- “Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)
- “Fast Five” (2011)
- “Iron Monkey” (1993)
- “Once Upon A Time In China” (1991)
- “Despicable Me” (2010)*
- “Drive” (2011)
- “TRON: Legacy” (2010)
- “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014)
- “Rush Hour 2” (2001)
- “The Fifth Element” (1997)
- “The Dark Knight” (2008)
- “Collateral” (2004)
- “Only God Forgives” (2013)
- “Hostage” (2005)
- “The Prestige” (2006)*
- “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007)
- “The Rock” (1996)
- “The Transporter” (2002)
- “Pitch Black” (2000)
- “The Book of Eli” (2010)
- “True Lies” (1994)
- “Independence Day” (1996)
- “Equilibrium” (2002)
- “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011)
- “300” (2006)
*Technically not what I would consider an action movie.