The fun action movie with a sense of self-aware humor has become a something of a lost art form following its prominence during the 1980s and through the 1990s. Today, action movies take themselves so seriously! Many action films these days try to be serious, gritty, realistic, and offer social commentary about our post-9/11 world (as I discovered with Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop). There is nothing objectively wrong with these films, for many of them are well made and feature stellar performances, but they do not easily lend themselves to a casual viewing with friends on a summer day. Whatever happened to the action movie a bunch of guys could sit around and watch, appreciating its one-liners and over-the-top fights? Even with films that aim to emulate this format, such as the Expendables series, seem to be missing the mark somehow. Do not fret though! There are actually plenty of fun action movies that quite easily lend themselves to casual viewings with friends over a summer evening looking for just something purely fun to watch. Here are 5 of such movies you might have missed.
1. Transporter 2 (2005) – The best iteration of the Transporter series, Jason Statham stars as Frank Martin, ex-shady government agent who now operates as a driver (or as some may say…. a transporter!) for hire. In this film, he is serving as chauffeur for a wealthy family. The family’s young son gets kidnapped, and Frank is now on a mission to find him before it is too late. This movie has it all: insane car chases, amazingly choreographed fights, plenty of purposely-outrageous stereotypes, a blatant disregard for the laws of physics (they’re overrated anyway if you ask me), and just an all-around fun vibe. Watching Jason Statham kick ass while quipping about how he can’t fight in his suit jacket because it just got back from the dry cleaner is priceless. You can pick the film apart for some plot holes and most of the female characters seem to have been cast based more on their physical appearance than their acting ability, but if you’re taking issue with a movie that has the main character drive his car over a ledge so it flips over a construction crane in order to dislodge the bomb that has been attached to the bottom of it, you may be missing the point. The movie is fun; all you need to do is go along for the ride.
2. True Lies (1994) – Before he was remaking Dances with Wolves in space or drowning DiCaprio in Titanic, James Cameron directed this action spy movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a counter-terrorist operative trying to balance his work with his personal life. I grew up watching this movie on TNT reruns, and it is a thing of beauty. Yes, the movie deals with terrorists from the Middle East in the pre-9/11 world, so it is all played for laughs. But that is the beauty of the film – even in situations as dire as these, we can laugh. We can cheer on the good guy and breathe a sigh of relief whenever he dispatches a villain. From a James Bond-esque party infiltration in Switzerland to a thrilling chase to Schwarzenegger fighting terrorists using a AV-8B Harrier, this movie has it all. More importantly, not once does it lose the sense of charm and lightheartedness that surrounds these events that other films would treat with absolute dread. “This is the problem with terrorists,” Schwarzenegger’s character remarks as he is chasing a suspect through a mall on horseback while on his way home for his birthday party (I am not making this up), “they are very inconsiderate when it comes to people’s schedules.”
3. Jumper (2008) – I have heard some people say this is a bad movie with little plot and wooden acting from Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson. To these people, I say that the movie is damn enjoyable and fun regardless of how much of a film elitist you are. Anakin Skywalker can teleport around the world and is being hunted by those who believe his power makes him an abomination. What is not to love about that premise? The film offers snapshots of the best locations in the world to have a dramatic conversation. Want to talk to your sort-of-girlfriend about your problems? Casually sitting on top of the Sphinx in Egypt seems like the prime location. This movie thinks it is being serious, but we all know that deep down, it really isn’t. It shows how teleporting battles should be done in film (Thor: The Dark World really should have taken notes) and is just an all-around cool movie. Also Kristen Stewart is in the movie for a little bit and isn’t annoying, so there’s that.
4. The Rock (1996) – This movie taught us all a valuable lesson about what it means to be a winner, at least according to Sean Connery: “Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen.” Wise words indeed. This Michael Bay classic stars Nicolas Cage as a chemical weapons expert for the FBI tasked with stopping rouge US marines who have taken over Alcatraz and plan to launch poison gas at San Francisco. To do so, Cage enlists the help of Sean Connery, a super spy who is the only person known to have escaped from Alcatraz. This movie has all the good elements of a Michael Bay films without any of the sexist/racist humor found in his recent efforts. Cool cars, gorgeous sights, a soaring soundtrack, and amazing chemistry between two acting legends. Watching Nicolas Cage play against type as a calm, collected weapons expert and Sean Connery play the foul-mouthed renegade is absolutely hilarious. With plenty of action, humor, and “hooray America!” to go around, this is a film that everyone can get behind and enjoy.
5. Rush Hour 2 (2001) – The poster for this film was the first poster to ever grace the walls of my bedroom, and it was because even as a young lad, I knew this movie was amazing. Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker star in the best iteration of the Rush Hour series, which puts two mismatched detectives together to solve a crime that will take them from Hong Kong to Las Vegas. The comedic timing between Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan is stunning and their chemistry is unparalleled. The two bounce jokes and witty comments off of each other during martial arts battles against the deadliest gangs of China. The film also has heart (or at least more emotion than you were expecting from a movie starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker), as Chan’s character struggles to resolve the issues surrounding his father’s death. Everyone I have shown this movie to has absolutely loved it. It is one of the funniest movies I have seen and has something everyone can enjoy, making it one of the perfect summer action movies to watch with friends.